Black Friday shopping can be intimidating. It can also bump into your holiday, because these days, sales start at 5 or 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day at Target, Walmart, Best Buy, Macy’s and Kohl’s. (And 2 p.m. at JCPenney — let's not even talk about that.)
Some shoppers, like Rachael Bauman, refuse to fight the Thursday crowds.
“I am not a fan of it," Bauman said. "I would much rather spend the time with my kids and family. So I’m all for Black Friday, but I don’t like them on Thursday.”
But for other shoppers, like Amanda Clemons, the thrill is in the hunt. For them, Black Friday shopping is a tradition.
“For us, we’re looking for Barbie, Paw Patrol, Peppa Pig items, because I’ve got a 10-year-old and a 5-year-old, and those are the popular toys for them.”
Here are nine ways to find the deals and not go home frustrated:
1. Find a shopping buddy
For starters, shop with a friend or family member, so you can each head for a different department once you get inside the store. Plan where you are going and what each person is looking for. Random browsing? Save that for next week.
2. Know what you need before you go
If you want a doorbuster deal, such as a big screen 4KTV at a ridiculous price, or a half-price deal on a laptop, know the quantity before you head out shopping. If the store has only 10 of those 65 inch TVs, you may have to get there by noon on Thanksgiving Day and wait.
3. Shop later Thursday to skip crowds
If you don’t need a limited-quantity doorbuster, shop after 8 p.m. Thursday to avoid crowds.
The biggest crowds (and longest lines) will be from store opening time (5 or 6 p.m.) until about 8 p.m. Believe it or not, the crowd at Best Buy thins out around 9 p.m.
4. Check online first
You may not have to go out at all Thursday night. Check to see if the items you want are available online.
These days, many of the items in the Black Friday advertisement will go live on the store's website hours earlier. At Walmart, many of the in-store deals will be on Walmart.com Wednesday evening — a good 18 hours before the store sales start.
“We have several TVs, computers, gaming systems, that will all be online starting 10 p.m. Wednesday night,” store manager Scott Valentine said.
Why wait in line an hour for an Xbox One bundle, when you can buy it on your couch for the same price?
5. Look for rebates
With Apple products, the key is rebates. Stores are not allowed to mark down new iPhones. So look for rebates in the $100 to $400 range on iPads, Apple Watches and iPhones. The Apple store typically does NOT have these discounts and can cost you more this week.
Kohl's has some of the best rebates, in the form of Kohl's Cash. Their XBox One deal, for instance, may look the same as other stores, but when you add in extra Kohl's Cash it may be a much better deal on Black Friday.
6. Be skeptical of super low prices
Beware the cheapest TV or tablet, as you may end up disappointed. A no-name Android tablet for $39 will probably work like a $39 tablet, and if it still works in a year, consider yourself very lucky.
7. Many TVs are stripped-down Black Friday models
For instance, Samsung 4KTVs will be some of the most sought-after items Thursday night. But Consumer Reports Magazine says these are special models that don’t have all the bells and whistles of the same size TV you saw a month ago. It is often impossible to look up reviews of Black Friday doorbuster TVs, because that model was never offered before, according to Consumer Reports.
8. Don't sweat about The Instant Pot this year
The pressure cooker will be on sale everywhere all month. No need to wait in line Thursday afternoon for it this year. (Unlike last year, when it was hard to find.)
9. Finally, don’t get frustrated
Except for doorbuster TVs, laptops and iPhones, you’ll probably find the same prices later in December. XBoxes and PlayStations will be on sale all month, and toy prices actually drop as Christmas gets closer.
And many of the same items will be at the same price Cyber Monday. (But don't try to find Cyber Monday ads yet, as they don't go public until after Black Friday.)
And that way you don’t waste your money.
Click here for Brad's Deals list of the best deals at each major store on Black Friday.
Click here for Consumer Reports guide to the best Black Friday TV deals.