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Don't Go Broke on Black Friday

Here's your game plan for the busiest shopping day of the year.

The busiest shopping day of the year is this Friday, and while we might still be shaking off our food comas at that point, a few of us–OK, a few thousand of us–will take on the crowds in order to get our hands on a good deal. But how do you come away from Black Friday without completely depleting your bank account? We’ve got some tips to help you really save money as you, ironically, try to save money.

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1. Go in with a strategy

It's easy to get carried away when you hear the word sale, but how many pairs of $4 jeans are you actually going to wear? You're still spending hard-earned cash, even if it's not much. Instead of wandering the mall, make a list of the stuff you really need and then go from there. If you're shopping for presents, have at least somewhat of an idea what you're going to buy before going in. For example, if your brother loves clothes from Express, don't waste time battling crowds in other stores; make that your first stop.

2. Decide if the sale is one you can't pass up

Believe it or not, Black Friday deals might not be the best around. As we get further into the holiday season, prices will continue to drop, especially on things like toys or winter gear. Do your research: If a coat you really want (but don't exactly need) is only 20% off, it'll probably be further discounted soon. Of course, you then risk it being sold out, but it's up to you to decide if those extra dollars are worth it.

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3. Start early (as in, Thursday)

You don't have to wait on a mile-long line at midnight to score some great savings--a few stores will actually open on Thanksgiving. While some people have an issue with this (since that means the store employees are working instead of celebrating with their families) and some states have banned it altogether, it's not stopping Kmart from opening at 6 a.m., Old Navy at 9 a.m., and Toys "R" Us at 5 p.m. Other stores like Target plan on getting things started at 8 p.m. Use your best judgment on this one and decide if it's worth it to leave mid-meal.

4. Look for free stuff 

In addition to slashing prices, some retail chains are trying to draw in shoppers by giving away freebies. Gift cards, coupons—and of course, stuff you probably wouldn't have bought in the first place but now need because it's free--are among the prizes you'll receive for venturing out of your house and into the mall at an ungodly hour. One place you'll probably want to stop: Kohl's, which will be rewarding a few lucky shoppers by paying for their entire purchase.

5. Go online

Why leave your warm bed if you don't have to? Online deals have been happening all week long, thanks to this new thing called "Cyber Week." Stores like H&M have been posting new deals online each day, and many websites will be honoring in-store deals on their websites, too. Sounds a lot more appealing than taking an elbow to the neck while pushing through a mob of crazy moms. 

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6. Know that you don't need to go shopping

Here's where we tell you that just because everyone else is doing it doesn't mean you have to, too. You still have plenty of time to buy gifts, and holiday shopping is not a competition. You don't need to get all your shopping done in one day. Enjoy your time off and do something you've probably been wanting to do for a while now—sleep in. 

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