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5 tips to avoid bad deals and overspending on Black Friday

Black Friday and Cyber Monday can be overwhelming - but they don't have to be. Getty Images

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are coming up at the end of this week, and a huge number of Canadians are counting on them to do a considerable amount of their holiday shopping, according to recent consumer surveys.

READ MORE: Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals for 2017

Nearly 80 per cent of Canadians plan to shop on Black Friday (Nov. 24) this year, up 22 per cent from 2016, according to deals site RedFlagDeals. And around 40 per cent of Canadians intend to bargain-hunt online on Cyber Monday (Nov.27), according to eBay Canada.

But making the most of North America’s biggest spending weekend isn’t easy. The number of deals is overwhelming, the discounts aren’t always as good as they appear, and the risk of overspending and giving in to impulse buys is high.

READ MORE: Canadians expected to overspend on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, survey finds

Navigating the shopping madness like a pro requires discipline, planning and speed:

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1. Set up a budget and a shopping plan

Before you get tempted by all those discounts, sit down and figure out how much you can realistically afford to spend.

“Shopping with a pre-determined budget and from a well-thought-out shopping plan is the best way to stretch your holiday shopping dollar,” writes personal finance expert Lauren Greutman.

Once you have an overall spending figure in mind, make a list of gift recipients and allocate a dollar amount for each of them, continues Greutman. Then come up with a few ideas for each of them that would keep you within budget.

READ MORE: How much should you spend on Christmas gifts given your income?

But the list doesn’t have to be just about Christmas gifts. Lots of people count on Black Friday to purchase big-ticket items like flat-screen TVs or items they would have bought anyways, according to RedFlagDeals brand director Jeff Novak.

However, while you have to work through your gift list before Christmas, keep in mind that you can also take advantage of Boxing Day discounts for other shopping needs, noted Novak.

In general, having a budget and a plan will make it much easier to avoid impulse buys and end up with a holiday debt hangover in the new year.

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WATCH: How much you should spend on Christmas gifts 

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2. Research

Step two is doing your research, said Novak. Look up the items on your list and compare deals.

You can generally look up Black Friday flyers on retailers’ website days in advance, or you can turn to sites like RedFlagDeals and Save.ca, which aggregate flyers from across the web. Shopbot also allows you to search products and compare prices.

Comparison is the best way to avoid bad deals. That’s because there’s little to prevent retailers from raising prices just before a big sale in order to inflate the size of their discounts, as Global News has reported. Researching deals in advance is the best way to guarantee that you’ll get the best available prices – or close to it.

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READ MORE: No deals at Sears? Here’s why prices can be higher during liquidation sales

Generally, Black Friday will likely feature deep discounts on a larger array of products compared to Cyber Monday, even for Canadians who are planning to shop exclusively online, said Novak.

READ MORE: Not just Black Friday and Cyber Monday: The best days to save on gifts this holiday season

While Cyber Monday is huge in the U.S., many Canadians are still far more familiar with Black Friday, which makes it likely that Canadian retailers will offer their best deals on the latter.

Still, Cyber Monday remains a great opportunity to buy electronics and smaller items, said Novak.

WATCH: Beyond Black Friday and Cyber Monday, other dates when you’ll find big discounts

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When to shop to save on gifts this Christmas season – Nov 19, 2017

3. Prioritize

Once you have your list and you’ve done your research, prioritize, said Novak.

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This means deciding which purchases you’re going to focus on first. You might want to focus on the best available offers or on popular items that will likely run out of stock first.

For clothing and shoes, keep in mind that if you’re a popular size, you might have to rush, noted Novak.

4. Set up shopping accounts

Speaking of speed, something that will considerably boost your chance of scoring top deals is have shopping accounts already set up at the retailers you intend to target, said Novak.

You don’t want to be fiddling around with address and credit card details while others snatch your coveted discount.

5. Consider staying up late or waking up early to seize a door-crasher item

A lot of the Black Friday deals will start just after midnight, said Novak, so it might be worth staying up late to secure a few of the top deals.

Still, while you do your research, make a careful note of times and time zones.

When you’re staying up on a weeknight, there’s a big difference between midnight Eastern time and midnight Pacific time.

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