(Update includes new HDTV prices, Barnes and Noble discount information)
) -- Take all of last year's Black Friday wisdom about procrastinating for better prices and endangering your physical safety for deals and shove it up the nearest chimney.
This isn't 2008, and retailers aren't piling up inventory while knocking down prices.
already held Black Friday sales in
, and the discounts they'll be offering on a limited supply of Black Friday products won't offset the time and aggravation saved by avoiding overnight lines, letting others push through plate glass doors and getting all your holiday shopping done through deals being offered right now.
Besides, according to the
, those starting their holiday shopping now are just lollygagging. The NRF estimates that 18.8% of holiday shoppers began attacking their holiday lists last month, while another nearly 19% got a head start in September or before. Retailers, meanwhile, began their big push last month as Toys R Us put its entire 80-page holiday toy book on sale,
slashed prices on electronics and Sears began a series of "Black Friday Now" sales.
The November weeks before Black Friday are going to be an even bigger celebration of consumerism, with the NRF predicting that more than 40% of holiday shoppers will hit stores for the first time this month. They have a very specific shopping agenda, too, as the
Spending and Saving Tracker found that 51% of consumers want to wrap up their holiday shopping a week before Christmas or sooner, with 84% of shoppers looking for deals along the way. Retailers are all too eager to help, as Target is planning a four-day sale starting the Sunday before Thanksgiving featuring toys, electronics and entertainment products discounted nearly 50%. Meanwhile, JCPenney has three large sales planned between now and Black Friday and Target's and
websites are already offering daily holiday specials.
That said, some deals are definitely better than others. While it'll be difficult to beat the $3 appliances Target's rumored to be offering Black Friday, prices on some toys, electronics and other wish-list staples are worth checking out now.
did some bargain hunting and found seven categories on which savvy shoppers can save without sacrificing their sanity or tryptophan-induced post-Thanksgiving sleep:
As we mentioned, Toys R Us put its holiday toy book on sale back in October, so that's roughly how long toys have been a bargain. Target, though, became the toy store du jour earlier this month when a Wall Street Journal price comparison found that Wal-Mart's toy prices were significantly higher than Target's in several instances. That didn't sit well in Arkansas, where folks at Wal-Mart headquarters went on toy box damage control by slashing toy prices to within a dollar of Target's total. So who wins? You do.
With Sears and Wal-Mart originally offering
wisecracking sanitation vehicle Stinky the Garbage truck for $60 and $56 apiece, Target chopped its price to $50, encouraging Wal-Mart and Amazon to follow suit. Meanwhile, a Barbie Video Girl -- a doll with a not-creepy-at-all digital camera lodged in its sternum -- sells for as much as $60 at Kohls and $50 at Target, but fell to $40 at Wal-Mart and Amazon after a bloody round of price cuts. You could totally make all your G.I. Joes fight all your Transformers and still not have a toy war of this magnitude.
The picture's been looking pretty dark for HDTV prices for much of the year, with research firm DisplaySearch predicting an 8% drop in average LCD television prices and iSuppli forecasting prices as low as $200 for a 32-inch 720p HDTV and $500 for a 42-inch 1080p model. They're a bit off on the low end, as $189 will most likely get you a 22-inch Haier 1080p set at Wal Mart or a Viore or Sylvania 720p set at Wal-Mart or Target. The best price we could find for a 32-inch 720p set is the TCL L32HDF11TA 32-Inch 720p 60 Hz LCD HDTV with two-year warranty being offered by Amazon for $280. On the larger end,
is offering a Dynex 40-inch 1080p LCD television for $429 all this week both in stores and online.
With Amazon and
Barnes and Noble
already slashing prices on their Kindle and Nook e-readers about as far as they'll go, there's just about no hope for a Black Friday miracle. That said, e-readers are as inexpensive as they've ever been. Amazon cut the Kindle to $140, which is less than the $190 3G model but still not the best bargain out there. The Nook comes in at $150, which is considerably less than the $250 Nook Color, but still more costly than the Kindle. It becomes a better value for PayPal customers who get a 15% discount from Dec. 7 to Dec. 13, knocking the price down to a sub-Kindle $127.50 and making this a more appropriate post-Black Friday purchase. If you're a bookworm concerned more with price than Wi-Fi, however, the USB-dependent Kobo from
( BGP) is your best bet at a svelte $120.
4. Xbox Kinect and PlayStation Move
Unlike the prices for console bundles, which are going to vary wildly between now and Black Friday, the prices of starter bundles for
motion devices aren't going to budge an inch. Why? First off, they're terribly popular -- with the Move fueling a more than $20 million surge in video game accessory sales after its September release and early sales of the Kinect forcing Microsoft to revise the device's holiday sales estimate to 5 million from 3 million. You're going to pay the full $100 for the Move bundle and $150 for the Kinect bundle. Just suck it up and get it over with already, you big whiner.
little tablet toy has sold more than 8 million units without the benefit of Christmas songs and doorbuster sales. Do you think Steve Jobs and company are going to start messing with the bottom line now? As a general rule, Apple doesn't
sales (though Wal-Mart's $185 price on an 8 gigabyte iPod Touch bundle seems to be an exception). In fact, Apple did you a favor by making the iPad available in such places as Best Buy, Target, Wal-Mart and the Verizon Wireless store. How do you repay them? By fruitlessly getting in someone's way on Black Friday just to find out that the Wi-Fi-only iPad is the same $499 it was when it was released? Save everyone some time and aggravation by just picking one up now if you're hell-bent on getting one by the holidays.
6. Kitchen and dining
Admittedly, it's hard to beat $3 appliances, but a deep discount is still hard to pass up. Wal-Mart is offering
Roomba 440 robotic vacuum for $150, or for $50 less than Target or Kmart.
, meanwhile, lopped the price of its store-exclusive Hamilton Beach 18-quart Roaster to $50 from $60. Sears is one of the few retailers capitalizing on the Veterans Day/Black Friday tandem by offering 50% off a $180 Kenmore cookware set and up to 60% off other items through tomorrow.
There's usually a simple answer for how much a smartphone costs: $199. Every so often, however, you get some leeway. Best Buy, for example, is offering Samsung's Fascinate Galaxy S phone for $149 -- a $50 discount from the Verizon Wireless version and similarly less expensive than the new Samsung Continuum. It's also hacked the price of HTC's Droid Incredible to $100 from $149 this week, just because they feel like it. Be careful, however, as the
Research In Motion
( RIMM) BlackBerry Curve they're offering for $1 with contract during their two-day sale today and tomorrow has been free all week long.
Jason Notte is a reporter for TheStreet.com. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Esquire.com, Time Out New York, the Boston Herald, The Boston Phoenix, Metro newspaper and the Colorado Springs Independent.