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A game plan to brave holiday shopping

People stand in line to make purchases inside Macy's department store November 25, 2011 in New York after the midnight opening to begin the 'Black Friday' shopping weekend.

For some of us, holidays are about gluttony and sleeping in, not waking up early and camping out in front of a Best Buy. 

For once, procrastination and laziness are paying off. 

First, many of the deals on Black Friday are “filler deals” – artificially designed to look like drastic cuts.

“When the event became popular ten or fifteen years ago, the offers were very special, with incredible values that were passed onto consumers”, says Mark Cohen, professor at Columbia’s Graduate School of Business. “Today, there is some of that mixed into the pot but a substantial amount of what’s being offered at deep discounted has been artificially created for the optic of value.”

The trick, for those of you heading out tonight or this weekend, is sifting through what’s a good deal and what’s not. There really are some good deals out there, according to Lindsay Sakraida of Dealnews.com, you just have to be savvy. Low end electronics will have particularly good deals, and Target is offering significant gift cards with Apple products (as you'll see below).

Second, for some products, the best deals are yet to come. Here is a list to help you, from Dealnews.com

TOYS: Mid-December is the sweet spot. But don’t wait 'till the very very last minute, because retailers know you’re desperate and start to hike up the prices again.
NAME BRAND/HIGH-END TV’S & ELECTRONICS: January and February, since new models come out around then, and the previous season’s stuff needs to sell to make way.
LOWER END ELECTRONICS: Black Friday is the day to scope out sales.
CLOTHES: There are some good coupons available for clothes shopping during Black Friday. But ultimately, the cheapest prices will be found after the holiday. The rock bottom prices will be at the end of the season when they go on clearance.
APPLE IPAD: Black Friday. Sakraida says Target has a very rare offer of a substantial gift card with a new iPad. The iPad is full price, but the gift card is $100.

Of course, the longer you wait, the more you sacrifice availability. But according to Cohen, consumers are holding back a bit this year which means retailers may have a bit of extra inventory.

One last pro tip: as you shop, Google model and serial numbers to compare prices elsewhere and online. Dealnews.com also has price comparisons.

Alright there’s your game plan! Good luck!

About the author

Sabri Ben-Achour is a reporter for Marketplace, based in the New York City bureau. He covers Wall Street, finance, and anything New York and money related.
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