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Planning For Black Friday And All Your Holiday Season Shopping Trips

Black Friday — the biggest shopping day of the year — can be intimidating to novice and pro shoppers alike. The stores are packed, and everyone is looking for deals. People show up early and shop with a purpose. But preparation and smart shopping can make all the difference when it comes to saving and scoring some great finds.

We've reached out to shopping experts to help you prepare the ultimate Black Friday shopping plan...

Black Friday Twitter
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Be Proactive on Social Media

Planning for Black Friday should start early. For starters, you can sign up for email newsletters, according to Michelle Madhok, founder of SheFinds Media. You can also follow your favorite retailers on Twitter or Facebook — many brands give subscribers early access to sales and additional discounts. "Buy discounted gift cards for the stores you plan to shop at," adds Madhok.

Be Smart, Sign Up

Madhok also advises the shrewd shopper to sign up for price alerts. "Sites exist where you can sign-up to be notified when an item is marked down. Use the PricePinx bookmarklet on your browser's toolbar — it's a great way to track prices," she says. "Whenever you're shopping online and see something you like, you highlight the price and then click on the PricePinx bookmarklet. Then, when the price drops for that item, PricePinx notifies you via email."

Shop Early If You Can

In some cases, you can start your Black Friday shopping on Thursday, or even earlier, according to Madhok. "The 'big-box' stores will have most of their Black Friday sales online on Thursday," she explains. "In fact, in years past, we've seen some deals sell out before Black Friday. Some retailers jump the gun and start their online sales as early as midday Thanksgiving." Go to retailers' sites early to find out if they offer pre-Black Friday shopping deals. The shopping guru also has another trick. Pick out everything you want and add it to your online shopping cart in advance. When the sales start, just refresh the browser to see if any of the prices drop. Then, check out and voila!

"Black Friday" Marks Launch Of Holiday Shopping Season
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Create a Shopping Strategy

"Review store circulars and make a shopping strategy," says consumer savings expert Andrea Woroch. "The best bet is to shop at a mall or shopping center where you will have multiple choices to take advantage of on Black Friday. Shopping at a stand-alone store limits your product choices, prices and inventory."

Develop a Schedule

Know where you want to shop and about how long you want to be there, and then create a loose schedule. It doesn't have to be exact. With all the crowds and sales, following an hour-by-hour schedule is unreasonable. Keep it loose. Henry Kim, co-founder of social shopping destination Sneakpeeq, tells us, "Personally, I'm planning to hit the major retailers at the wee hours of the morning for a few big ticket items, then spend the afternoon checking out some of the deals in-store, then I'll check online a few days later on Cyber Monday for example, particularly on the deal sites to round out my holiday shopping."

Get Your Act Together the Day Before

Fill up your gas tank the night before, says Sallie Felton, life coach, transition specialist and international talk show host. And if rain is expected, pack an umbrella and a few large garbage bags for transferring purchases in the rain.

Go to the Bank

Research finds people will spend 23 percent more than they expect to. If you want to stay within your budget, leave the credit card at home, suggests Felton. Take cash instead. Withdrawing it from your bank ahead of time will also save you from those pesky ATM fees tacked on by other banks.

Christmas Shopping Season Gets Underway On "Black Friday"
Photo Credit: Dave Einsel/Getty Images

Shop Alone

"I know this might kill you, but you will get twice as much done if you go alone," says Felton. Shopping solo means you will be more decisive, more focused and less likely to make impulse purchases. You'll also be on your own schedule, so no waiting on anyone else. Just go, go, go!

Fun Up the Experience

"Remember that shopping is fun," Kim points out. "Make a shopping soundtrack!" If you're not particularly fond of big crowds and anxious about the shopping frenzy, listen to your iPod. The music will de-stress you as you go from aisle to aisle and store to store. Just remember to stay alert.

Stay Focused

All the crazy shoppers crowding and pushing can get a little distracting. But Woroch says to stand strong. "Stick to your intended gift list otherwise, you could end up with a cart full of unnecessary purchases that will quickly add up."

Black Friday - Online
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When All Else Fails, Shop Online

Don't worry if you come home empty-handed. There are other opportunities to get in on the discount action. "With the rise of online and mobile shopping, retailers target e-shoppers with Black Friday deals on the Web these days. You can shop from the convenience of home, avoid rowdy crowds and spend more time with your loved ones while scoring some of the best deals of the season online," reminds Woroch. "What's more, since brick-and-mortars have limited inventory, you'll have to wait in line as early as 2 a.m. to be one of the first to get to the goods. Online stores, on the other hand, offer a larger inventory where you are more likely to score the deal."

Ysolt Usigan is a lifestyle editor and shopping guru. She has made it her mission to bring readers fabulous finds and practical advice to make their lives easier.

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