Black Friday is almost here. Are you ready for the biggest shopping event of the year? If you're a light shopper with a small list, there's probably not a whole lot of preparation you need to do. Maybe you've checked some ads or heard of some cool sales, and you're all set to log on or go visit the store. Done and done.

Power shoppers, on the other hand, may need more of a strategy. After all, if there's a major purchase involved or a long list of folks to buy for, then efficiency may be key. And that will take some preparation.

Decide on a budget: It happens to all of us. At the very moment we're about to pull the trigger on a purchase, we hesitate, wondering if we can really afford this great, but still pricey deal. So we hem and haw, or go talk to our spouse or parent, and by the time we come back, it's all sold out. Better to know straight off the bat, so decide on your budget beforehand.

Think about when to hit the stores and when to buy online: The display's specs aren't as high as that other device's, but is it really all that noticeable in person? The processor on this phone is awesome, but is the performance as good as the price suggests? No matter what the reviewers say, these questions and more are really only resolvable by seeing it in person. One person's egregious fail is another's reasonable compromise.

(Note: If you have a specific product in mind, and battling crowds just isn't your thing, then consider checking out the device ahead of time in the store. You can still buy it online when Black Friday arrives, but at least you've had a chance to eyeball it first.)

Put your shopping list or deals list in one spot: Evernote is great for this, since it syncs the same content to your phone, tablet and laptop. But whatever your choice of notetaking application, just make sure it's all in one place. You don't want to go searching around for bits of paper or snippets from multiple sites and emails. (Bonus tip: Make sure the links are clickable. If you're shopping online, just being able to tap and go straight to the sites will be sooooo much easier.)

Research deals: There are huge deals to be found within Slickdeals.net. The site scans in every Black Friday article it can find, so it's a great spot for pinpointing the hottest savings around. Don't forget perennial favorites like DealNews.com and Fatwallet.com either. Not only do they have great listings during this time (and all year round), but they also have mobile apps, to make shopping easier. (Black Friday App by DealNews available on iOS and Android, Black Friday by Fat Wallet iOS app.) For more info on Black Friday–specific sites and apps, check out this post here.


Trade in old gadgets: If you have an older device or other product collecting dust, now's the time to trade it in. While you might be able to get more money if you sell it, the ease and immediacy of getting funds or store credits are tough to beat — especially if you need the money to partially or fully fund your Black Friday purchase. Last thing you want is to drool over an awesome deal, only to find you don't have enough funds. Some brick-and-mortar retailers have on-location services (like Best Buy and Radio Shack), so get your old gear together and head on in there — preferably before the swarms of shoppers descend. (To figure out roughly how much you could get, see if the website has online estimation tools.)

Other notes: 

If you're braving the streets and going out to brick-and-mortar stores:

  • Eat ahead of time: No sense making expensive buying decisions while you're light-headed from hunger. And even if you settle on a purchase, you might be waiting a while in line. So eat before you leave the house, or at least bring a power bar with you.
  • Hit the loo: This is strange advice to give on a tech site, I know, but nothing's worse than getting derailed on a shopping trip by a bathroom visit or even worse — having to exit the premises and find one on the fly.
  • Wear sneakers: Heading home early because your shoes are pinching you? There are only two words to describe this: Beyond. Lame. Put on some comfy footwear.

If you're shopping online:

  • Get any promo or coupon codes together: You don't want to search around your emails or files, looking for this thing at the last minute. Not only is it a pain in the neck, but if you take too long, some sites will wipe out your shopping cart.
  • Pull out your credit card(s) and have them at the ready: Ditto
  • If your shopping list is long, consider sharing/splitting them with a buddy: They say two heads are better than one. When it comes to online shopping, so are two sets of hands. If you and a friend/family member have the same or similar lists, considering splitting up the shopping. You can buy two units, they can buy two, etc., so neither of you have to duplicate your visits. Just keep a tally, to make the bill reconciliation easier.
  • Set up your "command center": If you think you'll be at this for a while, then be sure to sit in a comfortable chair, clear the crumbs off your keyboard, and wipe down your trackpad (or mobile device). Oh, and do a full reboot, whether you're on a tablet, phone or computer… unless you enjoy potential freeze-ups or crashes while you're going after a high-demand item.

What are you going after this weekend? Got your eyeball on a particular mobile gadget, software or other device? Tell us what you're hoping to snag.

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