Black Friday prep guide from consumer expert Amy Davis

HOUSTON – With some stores starting sales as early as Monday of Thanksgiving week, Black Friday is becoming Black Week.

No matter when you plan to shop, there are five things you can do now to make sure you get the best deals available. Consumer expert Amy Davis has your Black Friday prep guide.

Black Friday deals start online Nov. 23 at JCPenney, which is advertising that customers can get all the deals in store a day early. However, not all retailers let you know that you can find Black Friday doorbusters in stores several days ahead of Black Friday.

Kyle James of the blog Rather Be Shopping says stores like Walmart, Target, Michaels, Office Depot, Best Buy and Toys R Us put Black Friday teasers in aisles near the front of the stores in the days leading up to Black Friday.

"I had a reader email me saying she does this every year at Home Depot," James told Davis. "Starting on Monday, they always put out these Black Friday teasers. She's been able to go in there, avoid the crowd and get the same deal that she'd be able to get on Black Friday."

You can sign up for James' coupon alerts now instead of searching on your phone while you're waiting in line. Just choose stores where you shop, brands or categories like "toys," and James will send coupons to your email.

Then visit a few of your favorite retailers online. Add some items to your virtual cart and log out without buying them. Many retailers, including Williams-Sonoma, Kate Spade and Dick's Sporting Goods, will soon send you an email offering free shipping or up to 20 percent off to get you to come back and complete the deal.
Operators working online this time of year in live chats can be very giving. If you don't have a coupon, hit the live chat feature and politely ask the operator for a discount or free shipping.

"This time of year, these operators know, OK, you have items in your cart, you're about to make the purchase.,' James said. "They're more than willing to throw you a little bone to complete that order."

Last, if you are not an early worm but you had your eye on a Black Friday deal, particularly a tech item, log on to eBay the day after Black Friday. A lot of professional Black Friday shoppers resell their items to make a few bucks. You won't save as much as if you had camped out, but you'll still pay less than retail.