Black Friday is on Nov. 29, and already here is the annual holiday shopping season expansion. Black Friday has morphed into Black November. This year the calendar dictates that there are the shortest number of days possible between Thanksgiving and Christmas – 27. Retailers know that means less shopping days, and they are responding with earlier-than-ever holiday deals. As consumers head for the bargains, your Better Business Bureau (BBB) offers its annual advice on navigating the stores in search of bargains.

Get started now

Retailers’ early start means consumers who are planning to holiday shop should do likewise. Tracking prices on sought-after items should already be in process. It’s easier to see if a “reduced” price is much of a reduction that way.

These days, it is not simply a matter of waiting for the Thanksgiving Day paper to see the advertising inserts for Black Friday. In the weeks leading up to the annual shopping extravaganza, smart consumers are watching online sites for previews of the prices. Search for Black Friday websites and you will be overwhelmed by the number of them. Many monitor several retailers and give you price comparisons. Regarding this, Consumer Reports’ website can be especially helpful.

A lot of the Black Friday websites have shopping apps that you can download for free, as do most big retailers. Stores that have loyalty programs can let you in on sales and promotions earlier if you are a member. Their shopping alerts will inform you about promotions, discounts and coupons. Additionally, they may be able to tell you whether you can purchase online and just pick up the item at the store, saving you shipping costs.

Check also for your favorite retailers’ Facebook pages, Instagram and Twitter posts where you may find exclusive deals. If you “like” or follow them on social media, you can sometimes get advantageous alerts of bargains.

Avoid “Black Friday Trance”

The crowds and the excitement of Black Friday shopping can overpower your basic common sense. “Doorbuster” specials and “limited” quantities, in combination with all those other anxious customers competing with you, can put you in a “Black Friday trance.” The result can be harmful to your budget. Over-enthusiasm can make you fall for retailers’ plans to sell you on items you were not intending to buy. Overspending may be the result. The effects of that can be felt long after Black Friday’s mayhem is past. Eventually, those bills come due.

Budget, budget, budget

The most important part of your planning for Black Friday holiday shopping mania is knowing what you can spend. It sounds so simple: you just figure out what you can afford, and you stay within that budget. But most of us know how easy it is to get caught up in a moment’s enthusiasm and forget our limitations.

There are good reasons to shop with a credit card. Many double a manufacturer’s warranty. A new card can offer an interest-free period as a promotion. (Then you should be sure to pay it off before the interest starts accruing.) A credit card purchase can be easier to dispute if there is a problem with the merchandise later. But beware. Credit cards feel like free money yet are far from it. If you are among the many who fall into the trap of overusing credit cards, consider only bringing cash to pay for your Black Friday purchases. Your budget will benefit.

Try to keep your finances in the black by shopping smartly through this holiday season. For answers to other questions about this shopping time of year contact your BBB at (800) 856-2417 or visit our website at bbb.org.