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Ways to avoid Black Friday crowds and save

While the outside of Best Buy stores around the Valley already look like the line to buy *NSYNC concert tickets, some of us will either shop online or wait until the crowds subside to try to get our hands on some great deals.

Here are a few ways you can score some great deals without dealing with crowds, and the chance you might walk out of the store empty-handed.

1. Shop small business.

There are a lot of small shops that offer unique, one-of-a kind gifts at comparable or lower prices than those at big retailers. You’ll also be more likely to get better customer service from the shop owner than some tired, cranky employee at the big-box store. You might also be able to negotiate the price down. Last but not least, you’ll help your local economy by shopping small businesses.

2. Dust off that bargaining hat.

Whenever possible, bargain. Small business owners will likely be more receptive to it, since they may not be able to afford overstock. Retailers like furniture and specialty stores might participate as well. If you’d rather name your own price online, a good site is greentoe.com. While big retailers like Walmart and Target probably won’t bargain, they price-match. Be armed with bar-code scanning and price matching apps to hunt for that lower price.

3. Investigate shopping trends.

Just because it’s Black Friday doesn’t mean you’ll get the best deal. Some stores offer Black Friday prices at other times of the year. And many of those prices aren’t really the lowest ever. Before heading to the store, price-compare and check the trends over the last few years. Sites like camelcamelcamel.com will help you compare whether that laptop has ever been cheaper on Amazon, for example. There are many blogs online where people dedicate their time specifically to keeping track of whether a Black Friday item on the stores’ ad is worth it.

4. Browse, shop and ship all at once.

Convenience can be considered savings. By staying home and shopping online, you save valuable time you can instead spend with your family. You also save on gas and parking hassles. You can also ship your order directly to the intended receiver of that special gift. Just like that, you maximized your time and walked away relaxed. Couple your online purchase with some great coupon codes and free shipping at some retailers, and you’re golden!

5. The best deal of all is keeping your sanity.

The holidays are supposed to be the happiest time of the year. Maybe shopping around Thanksgiving isn’t the best time for you. If it prevents you from spending quality time with those you love, it could be costing you. There is roughly a month between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Put all the tips above to the test and do your shopping after the holidays.

Happy holidays everyone!