The Best Things to Buy on Black Friday

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  • On your mark, get set, shop! Some consumers dream of Black Friday all year long, relishing the predawn moment when they can run the door-buster gauntlet.

    But what products are likely to be discounted, making the early morning quest worthwhile?

    At Dealnews.com, staffers call the seven-day period around Thanksgiving "National Deal Week," says Dan de Grandpre, the site's editor in chief and CEO. After all, stores open at midnight or even Thanksgiving Day, and many discounts continue through the weekend.

    Shoppers should beware of lowball pricing, says Tod Marks, a senior editor at Consumer Reports. Find out "is it the latest or the greatest, or is it some sort of leftover from past seasons?" he says.

    Electronics bargains will include Blu-ray players as cheap as $40, de Grandpre says. But he says Black Friday sales circulars will be filled with off-brand merchandise. "Black Friday is about cheap stuff at cheap prices," he says.

    Retailers might sell a 46-inch LCD television for $350 but not a top-of-the-line 3-D model. Stores dictate price points to manufacturers with Black Friday sales in mind. Manufacturers hit those low targets with cheaper components -- a lower-quality screen or fewer HDMI ports.

    While not the highest quality, these sets could be fine for a children's room, he says. "If you don't need something that's very high-end, it's the perfect time to buy," de Grandpre says.

  • What to buy: tablets There are a lot of inexpensive tablet computers on the market now, with some Android versions priced less than $100, de Grandpre says.

    The cheaper versions will have less memory -- only around 4 gigabytes -- so they won't hold a ton of music and movies. And the processors won't be as fast. But they still have 7-inch screens, the same size as more expensive competitors such as some Samsung Galaxy Tab models.

    If you're not sure that a tablet will fit your lifestyle, consider starting off with a lower-priced version. "It's a good thing to buy before you buy an iPad," de Grandpre says, which can cost hundreds of dollars more.

    E-reader pricing was difficult for Dealnews experts to pin down last year, but the site predicts discounts on the Kindle 3 Wi-Fi reader and the Nook Color. The devices will likely come with a credit toward future book purchases.

    Those shopping for a GPS will find prices are plummeting. More consumers are relying on cell phones or even tablets to get around town, so stand-alone devices cost less, de Grandpre says.

    A cheaper alternative is a windshield mount for your smartphone and an app that offers turn-by-turn directions, he says.

  • Televisions and laptops: Check your list twice Like televisions, laptops marked down on Black Friday tend to be really inexpensive because they have inferior processors and far less memory, de Grandpre says. "You are getting kind of a trade-off," he says. But they will handle basic computer functions such as email just fine, he says.

    Prices for high-end televisions tend to drop in January, leading up to the Super Bowl, de Grandpre says. Historically, Dealnews research shows there have also been excellent sales on high-end models during mid-December. But that did not happen last year -- the best deals did not appear until January, he says.

    If you're looking for the centerpiece for your home theater, "I think you want to shop both times," he says.

    Part of the reason television prices fall in January stems from the seasonality of some products, says Marks. Traditionally, that's when new products are introduced and older models are being discontinued. But there's another reason why you might not find great deals during the holiday shopping season, he says: People tend to buy TVs for themselves, not as gifts.

  • Stuff stockings with DVDs, video games Retailers often mark down video games and movies on Blu-ray to around $10 or as low as $5. And the quality of the film or game remains the same, whether you pay full price or get a discount.

    Black Friday can be the best time of the year to purchase boxed sets or complete seasons of television shows, de Grandpre says. "They'll hit a price low that you may not see again for months or even a year," he says.

    He expects to see deals on the "Harry Potter" series, now that all the movies are available on Blu-ray, as well as the extended "Lord of the Rings" series.

    Prices fall so low for movies on Black Friday that it may be cheaper to purchase the disc outright rather than buying it through streaming services or pay-per-view options, de Grandpre says. Consumers regularly weigh whether purchasing a disc is worth the additional cost. "Will you really watch it enough to get your value out of it?" he says.

    "That's a decision people make all year long," de Grandpre says. "That decision gets a little harder around Black Friday" when the price of ownership is competitive with one-time use.

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