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Tips for buying a TV on Black Friday

Best Buy Black Friday

For retailers, Black Friday has attained almost the same status as a holiday. Stores ranging from Best Buy to local mom and pop shops trot out huge sales on the day afterThanksgiving, and many offer the best deals to people who are willing to be out and shopping before daybreak.

Because the sales are often quite good, Black Friday is a decent day to make a TV purchase, but only if you head to the stores with a plan. So, if you're thinking about buying a set on Black Friday, consider these five shopping tips.

1) Don't buy if it's not on sale: Black Friday is a great day to pick up outstanding deals, but shopping can become maddening. Every time I go out I'm surprised by how hard it is to find parking and how busy most stores get. For retailers, that's great. For shoppers, not so much. Because it's busy, it's harder to find a sales person to answer questions, the checkout lines are longer, and the whole process can be a nightmare. So, if the item you're interested in isn't on sale - or in imminent danger of selling out - I'd make the purchase on another, calmer day.

2) Scour newspaper and internet ads on Thanksgiving day: Most retailers want you to know about their deals, so they spend a lot of money placing inserts in newspapers. Most also make their sales sheets available online. So, take a little time during Thanksgiving (maybe when that great meal is digesting) and familiarize yourself with what's available. This step is key to making the most of tip No. 3 (below).

3) Do your research online, not at the store: Often, the best Black Friday deals go quickly. So, it helps to know exactly what you want when you head to the store. If - when browsing ads - you see what seems to be a good deal on a television, do your research ahead of time. With the Internet it's easy to find the specs on most televisions, so you can know ahead of time if it will meet your needs. Among other things, you should make sure the set has a resolution that you'll be happy with. If, for instance, your heart is set on a TV that can handle 1080p, you don't want to show up at the store only to discover that the TV in the ad only handles 720p. Also, you won't want to wait in line to buy a plasma if you really want an LCD. Other key things to consider are the refresh rate, the number and type of inputs and the onboard sound system. Finally, try to read a few reviews of the TV, and always check the sale price against online retailers. After all, it's not a great deal if you can buy the same TV for less without fighting the Black Friday crowds.

4) Get up early: If you've combed the ads, done your research and are convinced you've found a great bargain on the right TV, don't leave anything to chance. I'm always amazed at how many people are willing to get up at 4 a.m. and wait in line (even when the weather is freezing) to score a great deal on electronics. So, if you REALLY want a particular item, force yourself to roll out of bed early, and be there when the store opens. When the doors do part, head right for the TV you want, and grab one.

5) Consider shopping with a partner: If you find items you want at multiple stores, it's a problem because you can only be one place at a time. I've seen some clever shoppers defeat this glitch by shopping in pairs. For instance, a husband can be in line waiting for a great buy at Sears while his wife is across town waiting on a deal at Fry's Electronics. This technique works great if you find two TVs you like but are afraid one is going to sell out. With cellular phones, you and your partner can be in constant contact and keep all of your options open.

- Forrest Hartman, About.com guest blogger

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