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Countdown to Black Friday: D-day tips for serious shoppers
Published:   |   Updated: March 21, 2013 at 08:45 AM

Shopping on Black Friday isn't for amateurs.

Those people who brave the cold and the dark and the crowds are serious about their bargain gifts.

Still, just because you're new to the scene doesn't mean you have to leave empty-handed or (gasp!) pay regular retail. Just make a plan, stick with it and enjoy the madness.

Tomorrow is D-day for serious shoppers, so as we continue our Countdown to Black Friday, here are some tried and true tips to help you compete with the pros.

1. Do research before ads hit.

Say you want to find who's blowing out HD TVs starting at 5 a.m. Black Friday. You see a price advertised on top the electronics megastore's insert in today's newspaper. If you've done your homework on what the item sells for usually, you'll be prepared to judge whether the offer is really a deal.

2. Draw up a timeline.

Knowing when the stores open and, more importantly, when the deals begin and end is critical to adding treasure to your chest. Just because you noticed the toy megastore is giving away free board games with every $10 purchase doesn't mean the offer is still be on the table when you stumble in at the end of a long day. A timeline will help you stay organized and rank priority items.

3. Make it a team effort.

You can increase your chances of success at grabbing limited-quantity items if you shop with a buddy or a team. Like-minded shoppers can divide and conquer a store. One can hit the toy department with a list while others fan out into electronics or sporting goods. Some shopping teams even wear matching t-shirts or other garments to quickly spot one other in crowds.

4. Be hands-free.

It's hard to snatch up the last Lalaloopsy doll while you're balancing your cell phone and latte. A cross-body bag, messenger bag or fanny pack with just the necessities will free your hands. Any coupons you're carrying should be organized, with ads marked, and pocketed. Many stores will allow combining a manufacturer's coupon with any store coupons they issue. Check websites for individual retailer policies and to see if you can download coupons to your smartphone.

5. It need not be "today."

Don't stress out if you don't get everything on your list on Black Friday. The super deals are far from over. Approach Black Friday shopping like a fun experience where you will score a few great bargains, not as the be-all, end-all of your holiday shopping strategy.

Janine Dorsey

Check back on for our final "Countdown to Black Friday" feature. Tomorrow: Five ways to relieve Black Friday stress.