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Black Friday shoppers didn’t seem to mind a wait in line to purchase deals at Best Buy in Chico, Calif. Friday, Nov. 27, 2015. (Bill Husa — Enterprise-Record)
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Listen, my friends. I know some of you love to rise, get dressed and hit the mall on Friday morning while the rest of us are sound asleep. But you no longer need to do this. It’s easy to shop in your pajamas, like I do. Here are my best tips for doing it both ways – and without entering a store on Thanksgiving, which makes me very, very sad when I think of all those employees who can’t be home with their families.

1 Start looking for deals right now. You don’t need to wait until Friday. Amazon.com is one of the sites most notorious for posting deals all week long, but it’s not alone. Many stores are realizing they can beat the crowd by spreading their deals over the entire week. At this writing, Lowes, Kohl’s, ToysRUs, Walmart and JCPenney already had deals underway. And I just got an offer for a $99 airfare to Europe from WOW Air, though you should follow my travel advice about flying cheap bargain airlines if you grab it. I don’t love Walmart, but I just noticed its site is offering 40-inch 4K flat-screen TVs for $329, at least at this writing. Um, yeah.

2. Go to TheBlackFriday.com.  This site will show you scans of the Black Friday ads and generally provide you tons of up-to-the-minute information for all your deals.

3. Going to the store before dawn to grab a doorbuster? Many companies are now posting maps of their stores online, so you can head directly to your doorbuster location without being distracted. For example, here’s how to get the Walmart store map in advance.

4. Case the joint. If it’s a good enough deal, maybe you want to case the store on Wednesday and talk to the sales clerks. Several years ago, my kids regularly patronized a particular Radio Shack to buy their phone minutes, so they knew the clerk. They went in and talked to him about a smartphone deal that was a 4 a.m. doorbuster. He told them the store only had four phones available for the doorbuster, and he even stuck a pair under the counter for them. They were first in line for the 4 a.m. deal (Thank you, Mom, for getting us up and out the door in the dark) and saved themselves a total of $500.

5. If you like the thrill of Black Friday, but don’t want to go out at midnight, go shopping at 8 a.m. You might be surprised to find the mall parking lots have emptied out, because the obsessed, crazed earlybirds have gone home to get some shut-eye with their new battery-operated life-size toy Jeeps, but the people who insist on rising late are still eating breakfast. One year, I was covering Black Friday and entered a Walmart in San Clemente at 8 a.m. The store was nearly empty, but they were still selling Brother sewing machines for $50 and bicycles for $60. I bought both for my kids. Don’t wait until 10 a.m. though, that’s when all the sleepyheads start rolling in.

6. If you do head out to the malls, I hope you’re wearing comfortable shoes and bringing water and sustenance. Maybe you want to wear a suit of armor. No, just kidding, don’t do that. Just bring a cattle prod. Take a look at the mall website before you go, because shopping centers are offering incentives to get folks into the stores, facing competition from online shopping. For example, the Irvine Spectrum offers free ice skating from midnight until 8 a.m.

7. Assume that everything you want to do or buy will be on sale this week. Seriously. You can’t believe the press releases I’m getting for everything from dishwashers to vacation hotels in the Caribbean. You can even adopt a new pet at Black Friday prices. Set yourself a Google alert or just search online to find your best offers.

8. If you’re shopping online, note that a doorbuster deal offered by a national chain at 6 a.m. is likely to go on sale at 3 a.m. Pacific time, due to the time difference. I went online at 3 a.m. and found a 50-inch flatscreen for $500, including shipping. It was sold out in an hour. Note that occasionally deals will be available before their scheduled time. Try to buy early and see what happens.

9. Don’t get sucked into the hype. Really, if you don’t need it, you don’t need it. I know it’s tempting to buy 37 miniature billiard games because they’re cheap and already pre-wrapped, but do you even have 37 friends who play games? Oh, wait. That was me. Well, don’t make the same mistake I did.

Shoppers look over televisions at Walmart in Rosemead, Calif., Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014.(Photo by Keith Birmingham/ Pasadena Star-News)
Shoppers look over televisions at Walmart in Rosemead, Calif., Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014.<br />(Photo by Keith Birmingham/ Pasadena Star-News)

10. Don’t shop in store on Thanksgiving. Sorry but I have to say it, but I’m morally opposed to making people work on Thanksgiving. I don’t buy the “they all volunteered to work” line. Look at the faces of the sales clerks if you do insist on shopping on family turkey day. They don’t want to be there. Don’t make them. If you must buy, shop online. In fact, two years ago, I bought my first Instant Pot on a Black Friday sale while lying by the pool at our hotel in Costa Rica. No one there cared that it was Thanksgiving

11. Ditch the whole darn thing. Don’t feel guilty if you have better things to do. We’ve seen in recent years a whole preponderance of deals leading all the way up to the holidays, some of them as good or even better than Black Friday. So if you want to go hiking with your family (as REI recommends in its Opt Outside campaign), head on out. The Save the Redwoods League will even give you a free pass to hike among redwoods in a state park (https://www.savetheredwoods.org/). Go for it!

12. Don’t forget about Cyber Monday. Yes, it’s really a thing. More and more deals are hitting on the Monday after Thanksgiving this year, when you can buy online in your underwear and save. For example, a Cyber Monday offer just hit my inbox from Xanterra, which runs concessions at many national parks and scenic wonders you want to visit, offering 50 percent off and up to 90 percent off resorts if you book Monday. That’s worth putting on your calendar, right?

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