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How to Shop Smart on Black Friday and Cyber Monday

This year, there has been an increasing controversy with stores opening on Thursday in an attempt to attract customers with sales. Some have gone as far as offering “previews” on Wednesday. Nonetheless, many retailers have decided to keep their doors shut and uphold the tradition of family above marketing and selling.

I can’t help wondering who will win. Will you be joining in on Thanksgiving Day doorbuster deals? Or will you boycott this commercial initiative to prioritize family time? I am all about shopping, especially on a budget. But the thought of having people work on a day where we are meant to say graces and take time for loved ones bothers me a bit. Not everyone can afford to stay home. But wouldn’t it make more sense for companies to appreciate their employees, who in return will work with a better attitude? I seriously doubt we will be seeing any smiles on stores opened Thanksgiving Day.

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For those who will refuse to step outside the home and battle eager crowds, the best thing is to purchase everything with a single click. Cyber Monday has become my favorite day. Not only do I get to shop ahead of time for Christmas gifts, but I do not have to worry about making long lines and dealing with price checks or inventory. There are also great deals online during Black Friday, but those can result in some serious over-shopping stimulated by over-eating from the day before.

When I hit the malls, whether in real life or online, here are my favorite time- and money-saving tips:

1. Make a list.

We tend to get tempted by all the Holiday ads and commercials showing happy families next to a fireplace. Keeping perspective when it comes to buying is important. This is a fun time to upgrade your TV or change the living room set. But do not forget that unless it fits your budget, you might have to wait. That is why you must divide the list into what you need and what you want. If you know your fridge is about to be gone for good, you'll be better off thinking Samsung instead of Apple.

The sooner you download apps or register online, the more time you will have before Black Friday and Cyber Monday to get discounts and compare ahead of the big day.

2. Talk to the li'l bosses

We know the holidays are all about the kiddies, so ask them to give you an idea of what they would like to ask Santa. Then select from there what they would enjoy and love the most. Too many times I have ended up returning gifts because they loved them on TV or were circled on the mail catalog, but were not as functional or cute in person. Remember that most family members will give them fun gifts, which gives you the chance to buy them something educational or practical. I mean, who wouldn’t love waking up to a new Cinderella or Batmobile bed?

Gather intel from your kids and make a list of what they want and what they need. This way you will save yourself time and avoid items going out of stock.

3. Compare prices.

Use online sites to research the best prices and features. This will be your best tool for choosing the right items that will fit your needs and not burn a hole in your pocket. The easiest way is to download apps and keep track of prices when they go up or down. You can also stay updated on those items that were out of stock or on back-order, and keep them as a priority when you’re ready to shop. Most retailers have their own apps with online-only promos, or send you text messages with coupon codes. My fave are those apps that give back to charities like Benefit, merge online and in-store deals like BuyVia, track consumer trends like ShopAdvisor and use social media to find the best deals like SnapUp.

RELATED: 5 Alternatives to Black Friday Shopping

4. Update info.

How many times have we tried to snatch those awesome shoes on flash sales only to lose them because we couldn’t input our payment info quickly enough? I have learned from this and started checking my apps and online purchase sites to make sure my info is always the most current one. The sooner you download apps or register online, the more time you will have before Black Friday and Cyber Monday to get discounts and compare ahead of the big day.

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