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This year, Black Friday starts earlier than ever, with some retailers, including Wal-Mart, opening early on Thanksgiving evening. About 140 million people were expected to shop over the four-day weekend, according to the National Retail Federation.

Try these 3 tips to keep you ahead of the fray!

Research the Right Product: A low price on a lousy product is no bargain. Check websites where professionals evaluate products, such as Consumer Reports, (for cameras), (computers), best/worst toy lists, etc.

Be an Early Bird: On Thanksgiving, Kmart opens at 6 am, Toys “R” Us at 5 pm, Walmart and Best Buy at 6 pm, and Macy’s, Sears, Target, Staples, and Kohl’s at 8 pm. Plot your route from store to store to arrive before opening, since quantities of the hottest deals are very limited, with some items as few as two per store. Walmart is offering rain checks if certain doorbusters sell out in the first hour.

Beat the Early Birds: Watch for pre-Black Friday sales. To plan for the real Black Friday, scope-out key retailers on Wednesday before Thanksgiving to learn each store’s floor plan in advance. Avoid the crowds by ordering online since some Black Friday deals may be available on Thanksgiving Day right after midnight.

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