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Black Friday Shopping Guide 2012 – Best Deals & Sales

By David Bakke

black friday shopperBlack Friday is the best day of the year to get all the holiday gifts on your list at the lowest cost. If you want to make the most of the day, you shouldn’t head into the retail holiday without a shopping strategy and a schedule.

Plenty of people will face the frenzy, so to help you minimize the madness, I have compiled a list of stores that offer the best deals on specific products, as well as the time they’ll open their doors on November 23rd.

These tips apply to both brick-and-mortar stores and online retailers alike, so remember that you can often get a better price – with less hassle – by doing holiday shopping online.

Small Electronics

This popular category includes digital cameras, GPS devices, iPods, smartphones, tablet PCs, and video game systems.

Staples (5AM)
Staples has awesome prices throughout the year, and on Black Friday their price tags will be even lower. Each store’s staff is well-versed in their entire inventory. Staples offers rebates on many products, and you can submit most of these rebates online. I have purchased several digital cameras that came with a $50 discount, as well as a $20 Staples gift card. Lastly, if you shop online, you’ll get free shipping on any order over $50.

Hot Deal: Kindle Fire HD $199 plus a $20 Staples gift card

Fry’s (12AM)
If you’re fortunate enough to live in their territory, check out Fry’s. Their huge stores can truly be a one-stop destination for all of your electronic needs. Their staff is among the best, so you can rely on them if you have questions, and their prices are very competitive.

Fry’s is the perfect place for any electronics aficionado, with everything from laptops, netbooks, tablets, and desktop computers to cameras, camcorders, music, movies, and iPods. They also have a convenient and free ship-to-store option, and their Black Friday doorbuster deals are not limited to just Black Friday – I recently purchased a Blu-ray player for only $69.

If you don’t have a Fry’s store nearby, visit the Fry’s website.

Walmart (8PM, Thanksgiving)
There is no question that Walmart will have some of the best Black Friday deals. I don’t shop there much, since checkout takes forever, but they’re always on my Black Friday itinerary. I have a hard time, however, finding employees when I need them on normal days, so I would not expect that to improve on Black Friday.

Because of the crowds, I’ll prepare a very specific shopping list so I can go in, pick up my items, check out, and leave as quickly as possible. They’ll also let you order online and have items shipped to your local store for free. I have frequently utilized this feature.

Even with some drawbacks, Walmart is typically number one across the board when it comes to price, particularly with their new price match guarantee. Purchase anything in their store between November 1st and December 25th, and if you find it at a cheaper price during this time, Walmart will issue you a gift card for the difference. Save your receipts!

Hot Deal: iPad 2 16 GB $399 plus a $75 Walmart gift card

Best Buy (12AM)
Best Buy stores are very shopper-friendly. They use kiosks for their digital cameras, and most of their laptop inventory is on display as well, so you can test out the products you like the most.

Best Buy also has a helpful, knowledgeable staff on hand to answer your questions, which is great when you’re looking for a gift that you don’t know much about. Helpful staff will make sure you – and the person receiving the gift – get the right item. Like Walmart, they offer a free ship-to-store option for many of their products.

Hot Deal: Toshiba WiFi ready Blu Ray Player $39.99

small electronics

Televisions

The best place to shop for televisions depends on whether you already know what you want. This list includes stores that offer great assistance in choosing the right TV, as well as retailers to use if you want to go about it completely on your own.

BrandsMart (10PM Thanksgiving)
Like Fry’s, this is a retailer that doesn’t have too many locations, but the BrandsMart website is easy to navigate. What I like most about shopping online with BrandsMart is that they tell you if an item listed on their website would be cheaper if you bought it in-store. Their shipping fees can be an issue for larger items, but they also have an option for free in-store pick-up.

There is a Brandsmart location near me that I frequent. They have the largest selection of flat screen TVs that I have ever seen, and their overall selection is vast. However, their prices, while competitive, are not the lowest.

Sam’s Club (7AM)
Although you need to pay for membership to get in, Sam’s Club is a great place to shop for televisions. When I was in the market for one, I ended up buying it at Sam’s Club because they offered the lowest price for the model I wanted.

Hot Deal: Vizio 65″ Razor LED TV $998

Best Buy (12AM)
Best Buy is the leader in electronic sales, and they rival BrandsMart in their selection of flat screen TVs. Additionally, if you prefer to shop online, you’ll find that they also offer the free ship-to-store option on some inventory.

Consider Best Buy if you need to buy a flat panel display TV for someone on your list, but are not exactly sure which model to buy. Best Buy’s knowledgeable staff can break down all the features and benefits of any particular model. You’ll end up with what you want, though it may cost more than it would at another store.

Hot Deal: Toshiba 40″ LCD HDTV $179.99

Walmart (8PM, Thanksgiving)
Walmart is similar to Sam’s Club in that you can find rock-bottom prices, but not always a great selection. The advantage of Walmart is that you don’t need to be a member. They typically have a flat screen TV with a great price as their doorbuster, and they also offer their holiday price match guarantee, which means you’ll get the difference back in a Walmart gift card if you purchase something from them and later find it at a cheaper price (until December 25th).

Though Walmart is a top pick for discounts on Black Friday, remember that just because an item is marked as 50% off does not necessarily make it a great deal.

Hot Deal: Emerson 32″ LCD HDTV $148

Costco (9AM)
Like Sam’s Club, Costco requires a membership, but if you are in the market for a simple, bare-bones flat screen, it’s the place to go. You can find a TV at Costco that’s similar to the models you’ve found elsewhere, but without some added features and benefits – and therefore a little cheaper. If you don’t need things like a VGA port, an input for your iPod, or other smaller benefits, then Costco may be a good option.

flat screen tv

Laptop Computers

As you might expect, you’ll find most of the top deals for computers on the computer – at online stores. In addition to the best prices on laptops, you’ll also find that shopping online gives you the great tools for comparison shopping. You can compare specs, item details, prices, colors, and everything else – all from the comfort of your own home.

If a laptop is on your gift-giving list, first do all your research online. Find the exact model you want, and then start your price research. Best of all, websites are open 24/7, so you can shop anytime!

eBay
Amid all of the attention given to retail store discounts on Black Friday, don’t ignore eBay as an option for a laptop computer. You’ll always find competitive prices on eBay, and Black Friday will be no exception. Like retailers, individual sellers on eBay know the importance of Black Friday, and they are sure to reduce their prices. A key benefit to eBay shopping is that you don’t have to pay sales tax on most purchases, so there’s essentially a built-in discount.

While you might be willing to take a chance on a used or refurbished item, you’ll also find plenty of brand new computers for sale on eBay. Just make sure you purchase from a reputable seller with a strong feedback rating.

Amazon
Amazon is another website that will have lots of great Black Friday prices. Their listings include all specifications, features, and benefits, which makes comparison shopping very easy. They have their Gold Box and Lightning Deals, in which they feature drastic discounts daily. Once again, there is no sales tax with Amazon if you live in certain states, and their Black Friday deals section is already open. Plus, you can get free expedited shipping, among other benefits, if you’re a member of Amazon Prime.

Hot Deal: Toshiba Satellite, 4GB RAM, 640GB Hard Drive for $459.99

Newegg
This store is still not as well-known as the major players, but don’t miss it. As with other sites, purchases on Newegg are exempt from sales tax for certain states, and you’ll quickly learn that Newegg’s checkout process is about as streamlined as it gets. They sell much more than just laptops, but this category is one of their strongest for competitive prices. Their biggest weakness, however, is a very strict return policy, so review their rules if you’re not sure about a particular purchase.

Hot Deal: Toshiba 17″, 4GB RAM, 640GB Hard Drive, Intel Core I-5 processor for $599.99

Walmart (8PM, Thanksgiving)
Price is the biggest reason to get a laptop at Walmart; helpful service is not. You’ll need to do your own research, and you can’t rely on their customer service representatives for answers to your questions.

Walmart’s price match guarantee promises to honor any competitor’s listed price for any item that you purchase at Walmart from November 1st through December 25th. If you find a better deal, you’ll get a gift card to make up the difference. Finally, the ship-to-store option applies to laptop purchases as well if you want to shop online.

Hot Deal: Hewlett Packard (specs unavailable)  $279

Best Buy (12AM)
Prices are competitive at Best Buy, and of all the brick-and-mortar retailers, Best Buy has the largest selection of laptop computers. Don’t underestimate the value of their knowledgeable sales staff. I consider myself pretty well-versed in laptops, and they have been able to answer every question I’ve had, no matter how technical.

If a laptop computer is on your shopping list, but you don’t know the exact one you want, consider Best Buy. With their help, you can purchase a laptop with the features and benefits that you need without paying for perks that you don’t want.

Hot Deal: Samsung, 4GB RAM, 500GB Hard Drive for $349.95

laptop computer

Toys

Toys “R” Us (8PM, Thanksgiving)
Because of their hours, Toys “R” Us should be one of the first retailers you visit for your Black Friday shopping needs. Purchase all of your children’s toys following Thanksgiving dinner, and you can cross one retailer and plenty of items off your list.

However, be sure to do your research. If a toy sells elsewhere for $20, but Toys “R” Us marks it up and then knocks it down for a day, it’s not a deal at all. Don’t fall prey to this all-too-common tactic.

Hot Deal: $30 off two video games priced $59.99 and up

Target (9PM Thanksgiving)
Of all the toy stores that I visit with my son, Target is his favorite. They have a great selection, second only to Toys “R” Us, and their Black Friday pricing is very competitive. Plus, if you sign up for a Target REDcard, you’ll get an additional 5% off all purchases, even on Black Friday.

Hot Deal: Mega Bloks First Builders Set $13.49

Walmart (8PM, Thanksgiving)
Walmart’s variety of toys isn’t as impressive as the selection you’ll find at Toys “R” Us and Target, but they almost always have the lowest prices. If you’re planning to visit Walmart, get there early and know beforehand what you want to buy. If they sell out of one of the deals in their amazing advertisements, don’t get lazy and settle for a cheaper replacement. Save your receipts to take advantage of their price match guarantee, available until December 25th, just in case you find a lower price elsewhere.

Hot Deal: Power Wheels Barbie Jeep $89

toys

Home Improvement Items

Home Depot (5AM)
Though its name may not capture the holiday spirit, don’t forget about Home Depot on Black Friday. Their discounts are significant, and you can get a lot of shopping done for the DIY types on your list. Their selection of tools and paint is among the best, and anyone with home improvement and remodeling ideas coming up will be happy with their construction materials. Though many Home Depot locations don’t keep many staff members on the floor, once you locate a salesperson, you’ll find that they are helpful and knowledgeable.

Hot Deal: Hampton Bay 54″ Ceiling Fan $189

Lowe’s (5AM)
At most Lowe’s stores, you’ll notice that the staff is easy to find, and they’re just as knowledgeable as the team at Home Depot. Lowe’s also has the edge on home decor items, such as ceiling fans, rugs, mirrors, and cabinets. Lowe’s offers free delivery on qualifying purchases over $50.

Hot Deal: Brushed Nickel Shower Rod Set $29.98

Ace Hardware (TBA)
You’re very likely to find what you’re looking for at Ace Hardware, so you can avoid all the large warehouse-type retailers. I can get in and out of an Ace in the time it takes me to park at Home Depot. They typically carry those smaller, harder-to-find items that Home Depot just may not have. Their Black Friday specials are pretty good, too.

Hot Deal: 25′ Self Centering Tape Measure Free (after mail in rebate)

home improvement

Clothing

Old Navy (12AM – select locations)
Old Navy is a great place to shop for bargains on clothes on any day of the year, and their Black Friday discounts are impressive. If you want to increase your savings, you can “stack” the coupon codes on their website, but you can’t apply multiple coupons to purchases made in store.

Hot Deal: Fleece Half Zips $5

Kohl’s (12AM)
Kohl’s is another favorite of mine for shopping both in-person and online. Signing up for a Kohl’s charge card will only boost your savings on Black Friday, as they offer an excellent rewards program.

Hot Deal: Women’s Yoga Sets $16.99

Macy’s (12AM)
Although Macy’s has a great selection of clothes, I tend to gravitate toward their clearance sections, where I always find high-quality designer brands at significant discounts. Check online for Macy’s Black Friday coupons before you go, and sign up for a Macy’s charge card for an additional 10% off.

Hot Deal: 50% Men’s designer dress shirts

Walmart (8PM, Thanksgiving)
Walmart gets the edge in pricing in nearly every category, but if you’re in the market for durable, quality clothing, you’ll have a hard time finding it in here. Recently, however, bargain clothing manufacturers have improved their ability to keep up with styles and trends, which means Walmart shopping might be perfect if you tend to replace your wardrobe on an annual basis.

Hot Deal: Women’s Pullovers $6

Be aware that Walmart’s clothing sizes for women tend to run large. Clothes, like most items, are also eligible for Walmart’s price match guarantee, which provides gift cards to customers who find better deals before December 25th.

Target (9PM Thanksgiving)
Target bridges the gap between quality, style, and price. They offer a range of attractive styles and accessories, especially for women and children. Just like at Walmart, clothes at Target run a little large for women, so if you’re an extra small, you could be out of luck. Their range of children’s clothing is impressive; you’ll find trendy and durable options throughout the store.

Hot Deal: Men’s Merona Sweaters $15

clothing

Appliances

Sears (8PM Thanksgiving)
Though they have struggled a bit in the recent past, Sears is still a viable option if you need to purchase appliances on Black Friday. They offer a wide variety of manufacturers and models for larger appliances like washers, dryers, and refrigerators. Their website is not the easiest to navigate, so you may want to opt for a store visit.

Hot Deal: Kenmore Washer/Dryer Combo $1298

Remember that Black Friday is one of the best times of the year to buy large appliances.

Lowe’s (5AM)
Lowe’s is another option if you need any appliance, big or small. Their staff is easy to find and well-informed, so they can help you make sense of Energy Star ratings and other topics. With their help, you’re sure to find an appliance that fits your budget and needs.

Hot Deal: Whirlpool Washer/Dryer Combo for $998

Home Depot (5AM)
If you’re shopping for a large home appliance, such as a dishwasher or refrigerator, you’ll find great deals in Home Depot’s Black Friday pricing. In-store personnel are often difficult to find, though, so research your purchases beforehand to save time and money. If you shop online, you can get free delivery and haul-away service for all purchases over $297.

Hot Deal: Stainless Steel Blender with Glass Jar $19.88

Walmart (8PM, Thanksgiving)
Once again, Walmart is on the list with low prices that are sure to be even lower on Black Friday. Their selection is limited to small appliances, which are also eligible for their price match guarantee.

Hot Deal: Six Quart Slow Cooker Crock Pot $9.44

row appliances store

A Note Regarding Price Match Guarantees

I mentioned Walmart’s recently announced price match guarantee: If you purchase anything in their store between November 1st and December 25th and then find it at a lower price during that time period, Walmart will issue you a gift card for the difference. In short, save your receipts! Keep this program in mind, especially if you’re trying to consolidate some of your Black Friday shopping by getting most of your items from just one store.

Most of the retailers on this list have some form of a price match guarantee. With many programs, however, you have a shorter period of time in which to find the cheaper price – usually between 7 and 14 days. With Walmart’s program, you have up to seven weeks to find a better deal.

Be aware of these policies in general, because they’re usually rife with exclusions and other rules. Typically, only print ads – not online offers – will qualify. And no, printing out an online ad doesn’t count. Next, the item in the ad has to be exactly the same as the item you bought: same model, same specs, same size. Lastly, price matching typically does not apply to clearance items.

Research your retailer’s policy in detail before trying to take advantage of it; you’ll usually find a host of fine-print exclusions. Some retailers are somewhat lenient, but others will use (or invent) any excuse to avoid honoring a competitor’s ad.

Final Word

Anyone who’s willing to brave the crowds on Black Friday gets the same basic reward: great deals on just about everything. If you want to beat out the average shopper and get the best products at the lowest prices with the least hassle, create a detailed list of what you want to buy and plan out where and when to shop. Factor in a little Internet shopping, and you’ll save even more time.

Armed with these tips and opening times, and with a little help from youf own homework, you’ll be happy with your Black Friday bounty, and your recipients will be pleased with their presents!

What retailers or websites do you plan on visiting this Black Friday?

Also, be sure to check out some awesome Black Friday shopping tips from our very own, Andrew Schrage, who was recently featured on NBC News as their Black Friday expert.

(photo credit: Shutterstock)

David Bakke
David started his own personal finance blog, YourFinances101, in June of 2009 and published his first book on ways to save more and spend less called "Don't Be A Mule..." Since then he has been a regular contributor for Money Crashers. He lives just outside Atlanta, GA and most all of his free time is taken up by his amazing three year old son, Nicholas.

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Comments

  • Karen@MSEnthusiast

    You must have majored in Black Friday! WOW! It’s tempting. . . .

    • Davidbakke

      Karen:

      Yeah, I guess I am sort of an expert on the subject.

      Thanks for commenting.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Shawn-Fath/100000692015968 Shawn Fath

    So if I bought a game at Walmart 5 days ago and its in there black Friday ad will they give me the difference back

    • Davidbakke

      Shawn

      You are correct!

    • Davidbakke

      Shawn

      You are correct!

  • Jcitsog

    Wal-Mart is actually opening at 8pm on Thanksgiving Day…

  • The Money Saver

    Black Friday deals always makes me shiver…seriously..:)

    • Davidbakke

      Get ready for the madness!!

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