5 Secrets to Finding Black Friday Deals

PHOTO: Here are five secrets to finding Black Friday deals.
Britt Erlanson/Getty Images

With all the hoopla over Black Friday deals, how does anyone shift through the noise and get to the real deals? Having your shopping list at the ready and access to the best resources is key to getting the most out of Black Friday. Here are 5 tips to navigate the holiday mayhem.

Make a List and Plan Ahead

Have a game plan. You don't want to go into this experience cold, especially since the rules are constantly evolving. Make a concrete list and know exactly what you want before heading out into the long lines. Browse online resources to help you evaluate the best deals alongside your shopping list. Check your favorite store's website and print ads for coupons, as well as online coupon sites. Print and clip your coupons, organize them according to store and make sure you know which credit/debit cards to use before you walk out the door.

Read More: Black Friday: Who Has the Upper Hand?

Don't Forget Pre-Black Friday Sales and Thanksgiving

This year is gearing up to be a record battle among retailers opening on Thanksgiving Day and offering deals before the official Black Friday sales. Walmart even announced that it would match Black Friday prices with Best Buy and Target prices the whole week before Thanksgiving starting Nov 22. Sears, Macy's and others are opening Thanksgiving evening. Online ad leaks are partly responsible for this reaction. Expect to see retailers continue to undercut one another throughout the Christmas season.

Read More: Best Black Friday Deals: Where and When to Get Them

Stay Alert With Online Announcements and Social Media

Target the retailers where you plan on shopping and stay informed by frequently checking for social media updates --Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and more. Also, don't forget to sign up for email updates from your favorite stores. Another fantastic way to keep up with Black Friday specials is to sign up for a Google Alert for the latest news. Lastly, don't forget to check for mobile apps and get alerts on your smartphone as you're waiting at the register.

Online Prices Don't Always Beat In-Store Prices

The past trend of online prices, like on Amazon, outdoing brick-and-mortar store pricing has begun to turn around. Whereas customers used to "showroom" (browsing physical stores' prices and then purchasing online), now consumers are doing the opposite -- "webrooming" (browsing online, then purchasing in-store). As a result, be sure to compare in-store and print ads with online prices. There are many items that can be found at cheaper prices than online, and many stores have announced they will price match Amazon and other online prices.

Check Your Credit Cards for Special Promotions

A great way to double your deals is to research your credit cards to take advantage of any special promotions or coupons for shopping at particular stores. Take advantage of accumulated rewards points and discounts on gift cards offered by companies like Capital One and American Express. You will want to browse the websites of any stores you plan to shop and check if they have offers with your credit card company.

Read More: Retailers Reject 'Gray Thursday' to Stay Closed on Thanksgiving

One Final Note

Preparation is the key to getting the most of this year's upcoming Black Friday deals. Arm yourself with online updates, store websites and print ads, download those mobile ads for flash sales and stay plugged in to social media sites. And don't forget to keep a healthy balance of turkey, family and shopping!

This work is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.

Matthew Ong is a senior retail analyst for NerdWallet, a financial literacy website based out of San Francisco. He is currently working on reviewing all the Black Friday ad leaks from 2013 and analyzing the best and the worst of the upcoming shopping holiday.

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