(MoneyWatch) Black Friday is looming and millions of people will be storming through stores -- often starting on Thanksgiving night. For some, going to stores before dawn on Friday has become a social event. Others trudge on simply in an attempt to stretch the budget. No matter what your motivation, if you're planning an outing on the busiest shopping day of the year, you might as well save some additional green. Here's how.
1. Plan carefully
Door busters -- those seemingly amazing deals that retailers trumpet -- are loss leaders. The stores want to get you inside and then sell you more than they advertised because they want to make money, not give it away. That means most door busters are in severely limited quantities. A given location might only have a few. Look at the ads, identify the top items you want, and plan your shopping around showing up early enough at those stores to get them.
If you want to get to more than one store, note their Black Friday hours and plan a route so you go from earlier to later openings. For your top stops, consider dropping by the location in advance, if possible, so you can be sure where to head when you get through the door.
2. Check the specs
Black Friday is big for consumer electronics, particularly big purchases such as television sets, computers and tablets. Before you line up for your chance at a purchase, carefully check the specifications on the ads. You may be getting a great price, but giving up a lot in the process.
For example, a lot of laptops being advertised will have slower processors, much less memory and smaller hard drives. Saving a couple of hundred dollars may not make sense if you pay with frustration and slow performance.
3. Avoid filler deals
Retailers are using many merchandising tactics to make up for money they might lose on some big sale items. DealNews.com calls these filler deals. The non-door buster products in the ads don't get the same level of discount. In fact, they may not have a price cut at all to preserve margins and the possibility of profits for the retailers.
Once you're in a store, such products will be out for impulse purchases and include private label merchandise, bundled sets and holiday products. Your job is to resist so you can focus your budget on what you really want to get.
Retailers play on emotions to manipulate and direct consumers into putting their money on relatively expensive items that boost profits. The counter is using your intellect. Do comparative shopping in advance because many products may be priced at relative highs. If they are, pass on them for now.
Also, bring a smartphone with shopping apps. You're bound to come across items you didn't anticipate seeing in a store. So do some price vetting on the move.
5. Think shopping week, not day
In an attempt to capture more attention from shoppers, many stores have expanded their sales throughout the week. Don't assume that you have to make all your purchases on Thursday and Friday. You may find what you really want on another day entirely.