Black Friday 2012 is predicted to be bigger than ever, with stores opening doors hours before midnight and "leaking" their sales ads weeks in advance.
The best way to miss out on great deals, however, is if you only mark Nov. 23 on your calendar. The next 30 days will be packed with crucial opportunities to save on holiday essentials.
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Here are the dates you should keep in mind:
Nov. 21: Look for early deals online.
Amazon.com: Get a head start with Amazon's Black Friday Deal Week, which kicked off Monday and features a new deal each day. Subscribe to their daily email for updates.
Nov. 22: Plan your Thanksgiving dinner early if you want to take advantage of early Black Friday sales. Retailers are opening their doors as early as 4 p.m. (Michael's) and 8 p.m. (Toys 'R Us, Kmart, Walmart).
Nov. 23: Black Friday: Fatwallet.com or Dealnews.com are great sites if you're looking for a comprehensive list of store openings. Look for hot deals on electronics and apparel, and don't forget about online doorbusters. Pro tip: Bring your smartphone –– it's one of the best ways to track deals on the ground.
Nov. 24: If the chaos of Black Friday isn't your scene, opt for Small Business Saturday instead. It's an excellent way to boost your local economy and save on unique gifts without battling your way through crowds. You might surprised how many deals you'll find.
Nov. 25: Just a day away from Cyber Monday, Amazon.com will open its "doors" early, kicking off a week's worth of new deals today.
Nov. 26: Cyber Monday is giving Black Friday a run for its money. Hop online for massive savings, especially on apparel. Just be sure to protect yourself while you're at it. Scammers will be scrambling to take advantage of unwitting consumers searching for deals online. A good rule of thumb is to look for "https" at the beginning of any URL, which means the site is secure and your financial information won't be visible to anyone else.
Nov. 27 to Dec. 7: Save your toy shopping until today. Retailers will be rolling out the best deals the week after Black Friday.
Dec. 17: Free Shipping Day is huge for online shoppers scrambling to get gifts in the mail before Christmas. The best way to track free shipping offers is to search Freeshipping.org.
Dec. 20-25: This is the sweet spot for deals on holiday foods and wines, according to Savings.com.
Dec. 26 - ?: Resist the urge to spend cash on yourself before the holidays. The absolute sweetest deals will hit the racks after Christmas, when retailers do whatever it takes to shed their surplus inventory.
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