How to get the best Black Friday deals

The biggest shopping day of the year is gearing up to be a madhouse at the stores. Use these tips to save cash.

For better or worse, the biggest shopping day of the year is finally upon us. Whether you're the type that's planning to brave the long lines or just want to get the best deals online, Black Friday is the day to do it.

If you're one of many shoppers heading out to stores this Black Friday (or even on Thanksgiving), you'll need backup to find the best deals. Fortunately, with a little research, your phone in hand and the right apps, you have all the tools you need for planning what you're going to buy and finding the best possible deals -- even while waiting in line at the stores.

Before you hit the stores, peruse CNET's buying advice for all of your tech needs with the CNET app (iOS, Android, Windows Phone). Also take a look at the best Black Friday deals we've rounded up, and our full Black Friday coverage too.


Shopular shows you weekly ads, including Black Friday.

Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

Scope out the ads

Do you research before you hit the stores to see what's on sale and make a list of what you'll buy. Two of our favorite apps for this are Shopular (free, iOS and Android) and Black Friday Shopping from BlackFriday.com (free, iOS and Android).

Shopular shows weekly ads for dozens of stores, including Target, Best Buy, GameStop, Toys 'R Us and Staples. You can browse all the stores' Black Friday ads, save pages you want to revisit and check out when the sales start. Best of all, the app is easy to browse and doesn't require you to create an account to use it. It's one of the best ways to skim store sales flyers and take advantage of in-store coupons and promotions, during the holidays and beyond.

The Black Friday app is a bit simpler, with ad scans from all the big stores and a list of every deal.

One of our favorite features is that on nearly every circular, there is a plus sign over each item that you can tap to add it to your shopping list that you can reference at the store.

RetailMeNot helps you find coupons.

Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

Check for coupons

Now that you know what you'll buy, you might be able to snag extra discounts on the fly with a coupon from RetailMeNot (free, iOS and Android). Use the app while you're out shopping, and it will use your phone's GPS to search for nearby stores that offer in-store coupons. You can also browse coupons at a particular store before you head out or go online to shop.

Many of the coupons are same ones that you can find on a retailer's site or that stores give out when you make a purchase, but the app gives you a central place to find them all. Deals range from 20 percent off at Bed, Bath and Beyond to buy one, get one free at Starbucks. To redeem a coupon, all you have to do is pull it up on your phone and show it to the cashier.

Use a barcode scanner like Shopsavvy to comparision shop in stores.

Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

Scan while you shop

Use a barcode scanner to check if the deal you see in the store is cheaper online. The best app for this job is Shop Savvy (free, iOS and Android), which is fast, simple and easy enough to use even when someone is shoving you aside to get the last Xbox.

It uses your phone's camera to scan any item barcode and search the prices from various stores, either online or nearby (determined by GPS). When you scan something, you'll see the full product specs, photos and related products. You can also add prices if you found for cheaper than the app shows. It's a great tool for quick comparison shopping while you're away from home.

Shopkick helps you earn gift cards and other perks from shopping.

Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

Get rewards

While you're fighting the crowds, going from store to store, why not earn something from your hard work? Shopkick (free, iOS and Android) gives you rewards for shopping -- even if you don't actually buy anything. The app is a way for stores and brands to advertise their products, but you get perks for for interacting with those ads.

It works like this: Shopkick gives you points, called "kicks," when you walk into a store, scan an item or make a purchase at a participating retailer. You can then redeem those kicks for instant gift cards, magazine subscriptions, and even an iPad Air. Shopkick also shows you popular items that are on sale and you can add those items to shopping lists.

The app has already partnered with many stores to install beacons that communicate with the app, so that you earn kicks from just walking through the doors. Fire up the app this Black Friday while you're out shopping and you might just come home with a Target gift card.

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