Black Friday, i.e., the Friday after Thanksgiving, is widely considered the biggest shopping day of the year. While some of us sequester ourselves, nursing our turkey hangovers, countless others bang down the doors at real and virtual stores to buy gifts (or take advantage of the numerous sales to hook a long-desired product for themselves). But trying to navigate this heaping lot of purveyors amid the stampede can be a daunting task.

How do you navigate all that chaos and get the best deals without wasting time, hopping from one retailer to another? With surgical precision, nerves of steel… and the best sites on the web for culling those deals. In other words, you need a shopping strategy. And this list of resources is a great start for formulating one.

Top 5 Black Friday Websites

Is there really a difference from one aggregate deals site to the next? I mean, most have ad scans, as well as RSS, Twitter and Facebook features, right? Yeah, but there are so many out there, it’s easy to get mired in an unreliable site that either doesn’t update often or is a nightmare to actually navigate. Don’t waste your time with those. Start with one of these instead.

  • Compiles deals from about 50 or so major retailers, including day-of sale listings. It has a buying guide, Black Friday shopping tips, coupon codes, store hours and mobile updates. It also features a blog that explains where to get the deals and how long they’re available. Other features: Ad scans, social media, message board, shopping list
  • TGIBlackFriday: This blog-style site posts sales in order, according to date, but it also has filtering tools (stores, categories, price), downloadable ad scans, and links to save or share particular deals. Searches come up in an image-based grid, perfect for visual shoppers, and it offers mobile apps for both iPhone and Android. Plus, it can compare print circular ads’ sale prices to PriceGrabber’s everyday prices. Other features: Coupons, shopping list, social media, email alerts
  • GottaDeal: GottaDeal offers Black Friday shoppers most of the standard features — including shopping tips, store hours, and filtering by store or category — as well as a few other cool tricks: This blog-style site has an Item Tracker that shows the products you can order immediately at Black Friday ad prices or less. Sale Tracker lists dates, times, discounts, and any additional info for big box retailers. Not only is its FAQ section possibly the best in its class, but this site is updated at least a few times per day, for all the latest deals. Other features: Ad scans, social media, message board, shopping list, email alerts
  • DealNews: This one’s among my permanent bookmarks (along with I don’t buy any gear without checking this site first, especially since I love the fact that they confirm deals and label expired ones. It has a special Black Friday area, but there’s a caveat: Their typical editorial guarantee doesn’t apply here. Usually they promise that the discounts listed are the lowest prices they can find from reputable stores. For Black Friday, however, they’re not just posting confirmed sales — the coverage includes gossip and predictions for what the big retailers will offer. You know what that means — leaks and rumors will abound. Other features: Sorting by category, product, store or “hotness” of the deal; social media; email newsletter; special Black Friday iPhone and Android apps
  • DealTaker: Speaking of leaks, here’s another source for the early scoops, as well as verified deals. In fact, this site’s Black Friday section has already leaked a half dozen pre-release ads from some big retailers already. And the spinning carousel of ad scans on the homepage is pretty nifty, to boot. Other features: Category sorting, email alerts, shopping advice, social media, shop by coupons/sales/related stores and brands

Honorable mentions:

  • It dubs itself “the official site for all Black Friday ads”… whatever that means. Regardless, they have a load of ads in an easy-to-parse grid, so you can cherry pick what you want to see without a lot of fuss, then create your wish/shopping list, so you can see what you want while you’re out shopping — which is exactly when you’ll need it.
  • Ad scans, yes. Also breaks down the best deals on key products likes TVs, in case you don’t like hunting through stuff manually. It’s easy on the eyes, and its top 5 deals in each category is mucho helpful.

Adriana’s Bonus Picks (Just Because)

  • Forget Black Friday or Cyber Monday — Amazon is having a whole week of Black Friday deals! I could wax poetic about Amazon, but I won’t — simply because if you’re on Planet Earth, you’re likely already using the site. It’s the only individual retailer I’ve included here, partly due to what I’m about to explain next. If you’re a student with a “.edu” email address, you’ll want to pay attention.
  • Great site for advertised as well as under-the-radar coupon codes and promotions. The best part is that users vote, so a high percentage listed means that the deal is successful. RetailMeNot was the site that tipped me off to an Amazon promotion offering 6 months of free Prime membership to students. (After that, it reverts to auto-renewals… for $39 annually for four years! There’s no streaming during the 6 months, but it kicks in when the paid membership does. Hmmm, $39 vs. $79 per year. That’s a no-brainer, and all you need is a “.edu” email address.) Okay, maybe it’s not a Black Friday deal, but it sure will help college kids give those shipping costs a smack down — without sacrificing fast turnaround. That’s key for the holiday season. As for Black Friday, the site does offer a sub-section for that here.
  • They should call this “SickDeals,” because I’ve scored some obscene savings all year long, thanks to this site — everything from furniture and fashion to car rentals and, yes, technology. The website itself may not be all that pretty, but boy, this is a shopaholic’s danger zone. And the very active community in the forums seems to love tipping each other off to the latest deals. There’s a special Black Friday section on the site, complete with Black Friday predictions and editors’ picks, as well as the requisite ad scans, message board, store specific deals, to help guide you in the right direction.
  • FatWallet is one of the top deals sites on the webs. The main page is clean and easy to navigate, but the Black Friday section is also a stunner. You want easy navigation and sorting/filtering? Saved searches? A mobile app (iPhone) to track deals? A shopping list? Forums? Fuhgeddaboutit. You can even sign up for its cash-back program (and if you hit this site, you’ll definitely want to do that. Some retailers are expected to increase their cash-backs for the holidays). Its database is big, and its deals, spectacular.

This list only scratches the surface — there’s a motherload of websites out there, ready to help out savvy holiday shoppers. Have you got any favorites that belong on this list? Or maybe some “intel” on specific retailers or products? Weigh in below with your finds!

Make sure to check out all of our Black Friday 2011 tips and deals!

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