Forget the turkey recipes. Now is the time to plot your Black Friday holiday shopping strategy.
Whether you plan to bundle up outside your favorite store in the wee hours, waiting for doorbuster deals, or stay cozy in your pajamas in front of your computer as Black Friday sales hit the Internet, now is the time to see what's out there and figure out how to get it.
Most major retailers have released their Black Friday ads, said Michael Brim, founder of bfads.net, which publishes them before they appear on retailer websites or in newspapers.
The deal that has gotten everyone's attention is a 40-inch Westinghouse high-definition TV for $298 at Target, Brim said.
"That's around $150 off of its regular price," he said. "That's the deal I would point people to."
You can find Black Friday deals that are just as sweet if you peruse the ads carefully, said Jon Vincent, founder of blackfriday.info, another ad publisher.
"We are really excited about this year, especially some of the deals hidden deeper in the ads," Vincent said. "We get attracted to the eye candy on the first pages of the ads, but if you dig a little deeper, you'll find even better deals."
That's where Vincent said he saw three Target appliances -- a toaster, mixer and sandwich maker -- that will be $3 apiece on Black Friday. He also spotted a five-piece luggage set that normally costs $180 at J.C. Penney for $38.88.
Brim said retailers are pushing big deals on major appliances this Black Friday, something not normally so widespread.
"If you're in the market for a home appliance, this is the time to get it," he said.
For example, Best Buy will sell an LG front-loading washer and dryer for $999.98, a 50 percent discount. The Home Depot is having a major appliance sale through Nov. 30 with deals like a Maytag stainless steel dishwasher for $398.
Vincent said his No. 1 piece of advice to consumers is to check online for sales on Thanksgiving -- before the turkey comes out.
"Almost all the deals are available on Thanksgiving," he said. "If you shop at the stores on Black Friday, you might get the deals at one store, but by the time you go to the second store, all the good stuff is sold out. The same deals are pretty much unlimited online."
And if your deal isn't available on your retailer's website, check out Amazon.com, which plans to match Black Friday prices again, Vincent said. Amazon will have its own set of sales, he added.
Price-matching among retailers is an important part of a Black Friday strategy, said Daniel DeGrandpre, founder of DealNews.com, which finds discounted items from more than 2,000 retailers.
Next week, DealNews will print a list of retailers that offer price-matching on Black Friday. In addition to Amazon, last year's list included brick-and-mortar stores Walmart, Office Depot, Office Max, Lowe's and The Home Depot.
All you need to do is bring a copy of the competitor's Black Friday ad. The DealNews list is worth printing out before you hit the streets.
Earlier in the week, retailers will publish "secret" deals on social media sites like Facebook or elsewhere online, DeGrandpre said. Walmart and Best Buy, for example, have advertised last-minute deals only online, even if they are available in stores, he said.
An important part of your Black Friday strategy is finding your favorite deals now and listing them by item, cost and retailer.
Now is also the time to get on retailers' e-mail lists for deals offered only that way, said Edgar Dworsky, founder of consumerworld.org. Also look for deals and coupons on retailers' Facebook pages.
If you shop online, remember to consider shipping costs. Those are becoming a retail war of their own after Walmart made a big splash last week by announcing free shipping on 60,000 items with no minimum. This week, Best Buy announced it too will ship online purchases for free, although some expensive items are excluded.
Target offers free shipping of selected items on purchases over $50, and J.C. Penney offers it on purchases of $69 or more.
If your online item doesn't qualify for free shipping, considering signing up for Amazon's Prime service, which offers free, two-day shipping on many items for an annual fee of $79. A similar service called Shoprunner serves 30 retailers, including Barnes and Noble, Borders, Toys R Us and Sports Authority.
Both services have a 30-day free trial period that could take you through the holidays. Just don't forget to cancel if you don't want the service later.
Finally, DeGrandpre says, not all Black Friday prices are the lowest of the year. Many are matched or beaten later in the holiday shopping season. Retailers also often mix in everyday prices with discounted ones in their Black Friday ads, hoping that a shopper will bite on a high-profit item, he said.
Bottom line: "If you don't see a deal on Black Friday, skip it. There'll be a deal later in the season," DeGrandpre said.
Teresa McUsic's column appears Fridays.