Black Friday shopping guide: Best places to buy

Seasoned Black Friday shoppers know that the best way to save during this all-important shopping day is to plot out a course of action ahead of time. That means knowing what you want and where to get it -- at the lowest possible price, of course.

Such planning entails scouring the Black Friday ads and comparing prices and selection. To help ease the load, WalletPop has done some of the legwork for you. We've combed through the ads that have been released so far and dug up the best deals on everything from high-definition TVs and Blu-ray players to tools and sweaters.

While doing so, we noticed one very favorable trend for shoppers: The deals this year will be better than last year's Black Friday, especially on hot items like the Nintendo Wii and iPod Touch. Shoppers looking for laptops or HDTVs won't be disappointed either. Not only are these items cheaper this year, but many come with bigger screens and better specs.

As usual, Black Friday ads will be rolled out all week. So if you don't find the deal you're looking for below, you can always go looking for great Black Friday deals yourself at sites like BlackFriday.info and Dealnews.com where you can view scanned ads and sort them by item category to find the best. You can even find Black Friday deals on your iPhone.

Here are some of the hot deals WalletPop found in ten different categories:

Video games and consoles
Expect to see heavily-discounted prices on both consoles and games this year. Stores that normally stock video game consoles will be offering bundle deals that come with two to seven games; but the best deals will be for single consoles.

For the Nintendo Wii, shoppers should head to Meijer, which offers one of the best deals we've seen. You can buy a Wii for $150 after you use a $50 in-store coupon on your next purchase. Meijer is also throwing in Grand Theft Auto IV and Halo 3 with the purchase of an Xbox 360, as well as two Blu-ray movies and two games with a PlayStation 3 purchase.

If you're in the market for games, stop by Best Buy where you can find many games released in the last two months, like Left 4 Dead 2 or Need for Speed Shift, for just $35; a savings of almost 50%.

If gaming on the go is on your holiday shopping list, then check out Walmart where you can pick up a Nintendo DS Lite for just $98.

Tools
The best store to go to for the handy helper in your life is Sears. Expect to see numerous specials with too many tool discounts to list -- not only on Black Friday, but continuing through early December.

Sears is getting aggressive in their pricing of Craftsman tools. Big discounts are already hitting the store and many 50% off deals are being offered for everything from a 10" Compound miter saw to complete tool kits, such as the 204-piece Mechanic's set, which is available as a doorbuster. Once you factor in the quality and warranty that comes standard on most Craftsman items these are some of the best deals around.

Blu-Ray players
Now that Blu-ray has handily won in its battle against HD DVD, it may be time to buy yourself a high-def video player.

Prices on Blu-ray players were already dropping all year long. Tack on the Black Friday deals and its one purchase that's become hard to resist. On Black Friday, you'll be able to get a Magnavox Blu-ray player for just $78 at Walmart. Just keep in mind that this particular model is an older player and doesn't support BD-Live and other new features. If you want a better Blu-ray player from a bigger name in home entertainment, Walmart is also selling a Samsung and a Sony Blu-ray player for $148, which is the going rate for a big brand player this holiday season. All of these players will also play your regular DVDs and convert them for a better picture on your HDTV.

In addition to selling some of the cheapest Blu-Ray players on Black Friday, Walmart is also offering seriously cheap Blu-ray movies. You can get older titles like Gladiator and The Boondock Saints, as well as new releases like Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs on Blu-Ray for just $10.

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HDTVs
Perhaps the most prolific doorbuster of the season will be HDTVs. In fact, so many stores are offering discounts on HDTVs of various sizes it's hard to figure out where to go for the best deal.

If you are content with a 720p HDTV than you have several options including a 32" Westinghouse unit available from Target for just $246. For a bigger screen and better picture you'll want to shop around at Walmart or Best Buy where you can get a 40" to 42" 1080p HDTV for around $600. Spending a little more to pick up a 1080P set now is a wise decision if you plan to keep your TV around for the long term and a necessity if you plan to pick up a Blu-ray player.

For a large high-end HDTV, the kind you want to show off in your family room and enjoy Blu-Ray movies and HD sports on (47" and up, 1080p and at least 120Hz), the best deals will arrive in early December; most likely from Amazon.com.

Want great deals on movies to watch on your new HDTV? Check out the Black Friday specials on our sister site, Cinematical.

Laptops
Finding the store that is offering the best Black Friday laptop deal all depends on what kind of laptop you want.

If a netbook is what you are looking for, then Best Buy is the place to go. The store will be selling an Compaq Mini 110 for just $179, a savings of around $150 off retail and a great Black Friday netbook deal. If you'd rather shop online Amazon is expected to be selling an HP MIni 110 for $199 on Black Friday.

For a mid-range laptop you'll find comparable deals at most of the major retailers. Every $300 HP laptop being sold on Black Friday, for example, is a variation of the same HP model so whether you shop at Walmart, Staples or Best Buy you will end up an almost identical laptop.

Black Friday isn't the best time to purchase a high-end laptop since the shopping day is all about unloading cheaper inventory. The one exception to this rule is if you have your sights set on an Apple computer. Best Buy is giving away a $150 gift card with the purchase of a new Macbook and MacMall is offering discounts on both the Macbook and the Macbook Pro.

GPS devices
With the introduction of more powerful GPS capabilities in mobile phones you might expect to see insanely low prices on GPS units. But this year, the best deals on GPS units will be confined to rebates and refurbished units. The reason? Many new GPS devices will be offering a feature that will read street names aloud and retailers are hesitant to cut prices on units with this premium feature.

The cheapest GPS deal so far for Black Friday is a new Tom Tom ONE fro $59.99 at Walmart refurbished Tom Tom at Pep Boys for $59 after a $20 mail-in rebate. If you're looking for a new device, then Kohl's has an unknown brand GPS unit for $69 after a $20 mail-in rebate.

If you want to step up to something a bit more well known, Office Depot has the widest range of Black Friday deals on GPS devices among the brick and mortar retailers. The selection, spanning from Garmin to Tom Tom, offers a choice of units that run the gamut from low to high end and start at $77.

Sweaters
If you love to give the gift of warmth then the sales on sweaters at Kohl's will make it easy to get all of your shopping done in one trip. Kohl's has over 30 types and brands of sweaters on sale. From Candies cardigans for juniors to cashmere turtlenecks for ladies and Croft & Barrow crew neck sweaters for men. With sweaters starting at $9.99, you'll still have plenty of cash left over to treat yourself to a Simply Vera ribbed turtleneck sweater or pick up a sweater vest for your better half.

Old Navy also has a varied selection that won't break the bank, with sweaters for the whole family for just $15 on Black Friday when the doors open at 3 AM.

Toys

Opening at midnight on Black Friday, Toys R Us isn't kidding around when it comes to asserting itself as the go-to place for toys this holiday season. The store is offering discounts on items for kids of all ages and interests. Many items, including all V-Motion software, You and Me Little Twins, Wii Fit accessories and the Bakugan BakuBowl are discounted by 50%.

Another top stop for toys this year is Kmart where you can find buy-two-get-one free deals on all Lego sets. They also have many premium Barbie dolls, like the Mariposa Magic Wings Doll, for just $9.99; a savings of $10.

And finally, if you're a board game-loving family, you should check out Walmart where they have a large selection of board games for $5, $9 and $15 dollars.

Appliances
For the absolute cheapest prices on small kitchen appliances, including sandwich makers, toasters, coffeemakers and slow cookers, Target is the place to go. The store will be offering all of these small appliances at an unheard of $3 (seriously). Not to let Target steal all the space in your kitchen, Walmart has countered with $4 small kitchen appliances and $13 name-brand appliances from manufacturers like Mr. Coffee, Hamilton Beach and Crock-Pot.

For bigger appliances like a washer and dryer or a refrigerator you can expect big discounts at several locations, including Best Buy and Sears where high-efficiency Washer/Dryer pairs will be on sale for as much as half off. Other items, like refrigerators and ranges, will be on sale as well.

Don't forget to check the prices at local appliance stores for Black Friday specials. Many of these mom-and-pop or small chain shops will offer similar savings. You may even be able to get a price match and avoid the crowds at the big box stores.

Digital camera
With Christmas and New Year's parties coming up, now's a great time to give a new digital camera as a present or just to replace your aging one. When it comes to overall selection, Best Buy and Sears offer a great combination of selection and pricing. Best Buy, in particular, has the Canon Rebel T1i, Canon SD1200 IS and an Insignia 720P HD Digital Camcorder at great prices in addition to a large number of other brands, including Sony, Fuji and Kodak.

Sears has a few kid-friendly cameras and many brand name pocket cameras in the $80-$100 price range that would make your favorite little shutterbug happy this holiday season.

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