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5 great holiday deals before Black Friday

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The holiday season has kicked into high gear, based on the promotions from retailers ranging from Walmart (WMT) to Toys 'R' Us.

A few years ago, the start of the holiday shopping season was Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, when retailers opened their doors early and lured shoppers with extra-low prices on a few items. But with more pressure on retailers to ramp up sales and make the most of the year-end shopping season, many are rolling out deals earlier, turning the entire month into what's now considered "Black November."

That means shoppers can find some good deals earlier in the month and don't have to brace themselves for dealing with crowded stores on Black Friday. There are a few keys to knowing how to find low prices this month, according to Kristin Cook, managing editor of Ben's Bargains. First, some product categories are more likely to offer good prices than others, based on Ben's Bargains analysis of past holiday shopping seasons.

Second, consider buying an item now if it's anywhere from 35 percent to 40 percent below the regular retail price, she added. It's unlikely shoppers will find discounts that will dip much lower, and if they wait, they risk that stores will run out of stock, especially when it comes to hot toys this year, such as Star Wars-themed items.

"You can find good deals starting now," Cook said. "Maybe you'll be able to find it for $2 to $3 less if you wait until Black Friday, but you'll have to deal with hordes of people."

One category where it may pay to wait until Black Friday is TV sets, given that some retailers use flat-screen TVs as a lure to get consumers inside their doors, Cook added.

Consumers should also consider using retailers' apps to track sales and gain coupons, such as Target's (TGT) Cartwheel app, which provides coupons on shoppers' smartphones, which they can then use in stores.

Read on to learn about 5 great holiday deals that are available before Black Friday.

Tablet computers

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Retailers usually offer great deals on tablet computers starting in early November. This year, expect sales on tablets including the Google (GOOG) Nexus, Amazon's (AMZN) Kindle Fire HDX and Samsung's Galaxy Tab, Ben's Bargains said.

Already, a great deal is available for Apple's (AAPL) iPad mini 2, which is unusual given Apple items typically don't get discounted much. On Sunday, Walmart started selling the iPad mini 2 with 16 gigabytes for $199 as one of its holiday rollback promotions. "That's a fairly good deal," Cook noted.

The iPad mini 2 retails for $269 at the Apple Store, which means Walmart is offering a 26 percent discount.

Xbox One / PS4 Bundles

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Retailers are bundling games with the Microsoft (MSFT) Xbox One and Sony (SNE) Playstation 4 this year, providing extra value for consumers. Those discounts will likely last through Cyber Monday, while deals might even get cheaper through early December, Ben's Bargains said.

Games that are included in this year's bundles include top sellers such as Fallout 4, Star Wars: Battlefront, Halo 5, Call of Duty: Black Ops III and Assassin's Creed: Syndicate.

One typical deal is the Xbox One 500 GB console with Kinect, which comes with three games, including Dance Central Spotlight. That bundle is selling for $399 on Amazon, or about $101 less than its normal retail price.

Smartwatches, other than the Apple Watch

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If you want a good deal on a pricey Apple Watch, you may be out of luck this holiday season. But other smartwatch makers and retailers are responding to Apple's entry into the category by providing good deals this year.

Best Buy (BBY), for one, is selling the Pebble Time 38mm Smartwatch for $150 and free shipping, down from its regular price of $199.99.

Toys

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Both Amazon and Walmart have offered aggressive sales on toys during the past two years, and Ben's Bargains said it expects to see similar deals this year. The hottest category for 2015 is likely to be Star Wars-related merchandise. Given that retailers may sell out this year, some consumers might want to snap up deals when they find them.

One offer on Star Wars toys can be found through Toys 'R' Us, which is selling theStar Wars Command Galactic Battlefield Set on eBay for $51.98, compared with the regular retail price of $99.99. The catch is that consumers must pick up the toy at a Toys 'R' Us store.

Laptops

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The past few years have brought great deals on laptops, and this year is shaping up to provide more of the same, Ben's Bargains said.

Lenovo, for one, is selling its Ideapad 500 for $799, down from its regular retail price of $1,150, or a 30 percent discount. Other deals can be found on lower-price laptops, such as Walmart's $279 price on an Acer Midnight Black Aspire laptop, which is about 24 percent below its regular price.