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Retailers have been busy putting together some of their biggest sales this year. But buyer beware: There are plenty of duds out there. Stay wary of offers that look too good to be true, and bear in mind that in certain categories, such as winter clothing, next month will surely usher in more substantial discounts.
Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at NPD, said many categories will be discounted on Black Friday — but not necessarily on that exact day — so be open to finding deals on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.
Benjamin Glaser, an editor at DealNews, suggests shopping in the apparel category specifically on Cyber Monday.
"Cyber Monday actually leads Black Friday and Thanksgiving in [the apparel] category," said Glaser. "Look for over 50 percent off at your favorite stores and brands."
Glaser also says that while there are some enticing deals around toys during the Black Friday retail event, the hottest items in this category won't be seeing much savings action.
Wait 'til December
"Avoid buying toys over Black Friday week," he said. "We do see some good deals, but they are rare. Unfortunately, there's never really a good time to buy the season's hottest toys (like merchandise from Star Wars, Frozen, or PAW Patrol). But you might have better luck in the second week of December, when we see the best toy deals."
Glaser also recommends that shoppers wait until after the holidays to buy heavy winter parkas and cold weather accessories.
"These items could be exempt from the best Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals, but discounts will top 50 percent as they go on clearance later in the winter."
Don't fall for ploys
Shoppers should be wary of retailers slashing prices on their own brands.
"Stores like Kohl's, Kmart, Sears, Walmart, and Macy's all have their own store brands and they can set the retail price on these items to whatever they want," said Kristin Cook, senior editor at Ben's Bargains. "So while 80 percent off sounds amazing, chances are high that the item was never actually sold for the listed retail price and so this may not actually be all that great of a price."
Also, be leery of BOGO deals. They're somewhat designed to trick you into spending money you don't want to spend, all for the glory of a "free" item.
"If you come across 'buy 2 get 1 free' deals and only planned on buying one of the items to begin with, don't opt to buy a second item in order to receive the third," said Kerry Sherin, savings expert at Offers.com. "You just doubled your budget by doing this. Don't spend just to save, [as in spending] $100 on stuff just to get $20 off."
Make a budget and stick to it
Because there are so many deals, shoppers could easily be tempted to break their budget. But stick to your guns, and don't be swayed to make a purchase you weren't planning on.
"If you're on a budget, stick to a list and don't sway from it," said Sherin. "Creating a list that breaks down how much you're willing to spend on specific products is a great way to set an even more strict budget."
Shoppers should also avoid unneccessary add-ons to buys like warranties. While of course you want to ensure that the expensive TV you just got is protected over time, there are other ways to get this that don't entail tacking on that pricey brand warranty.
"Don't buy the extended warranty on electronics; instead, make your purchase with a credit card that offers extended warranty coverage in its terms, like American Express," said Sherin.