Holiday shoppers preparing game plan

November 18, 2012 (CHICAGO)

But now, holiday shopping is moving up on the calendar and taking up time on Turkey Day.

With sales skyrocketing and pressure on retailers for deep discounts, many shoppers in the Chicago area preparing a holiday shopping game plan and hitting the stores earlier than ever.

In Merrionette Park, Katie Doherty is prepping her Black Friday game plan with the precision of an athlete headed for the gridiron.

"They totally think I'm nuts because all Thanksgiving dinner, that's all I'll be talking about," she said. "They think I'm crazy but i drag my sister out with me every year and it's a lot of fun."

This year Doherty is turning to technology to get a leg up on other shoppers. She's using a Black Friday app to track store fliers and using online maps to find exactly where the products she wants are located in local stores.

"It's probably over the top, but i think it's great," she said. "I love it. I would rather have them tell me where everything is so I can just get there versus trying to navigate through the store that I don't know."

Chicago online deals expert Brad Wilson designed the website to guide holiday deal seekers.

He says your game plan should include research, especially now that sites like his have the flyers you'd normally see Thursday morning in the newspaper and only have a short time to digest.

"It turns the tables and gives you all the information now in a way the retailers aren't really used to," Wilson said.

The key to getting deals is knowing what you want and being strategic about when and where to get it, whether on the Magnificent Mile or somewhere closer to home.

When preparing your holiday shopping game plan, a little research goes a long way.

Check online to see if the stores you plan to hit will match competitor's prices. That way you can cut down the number of places you have to stand in line.

Follow the Facebook and Twitter pages of your favorite stores. Sometimes companies share advance information about big deals with their social media followers before the regular public.

And set a benchmark. Check normal prices and compare deals – to make sure you're really getting a big percentage off.

"Don't just say, "oh I want that thing.' If it's 50 percent or better, then it may be worth hitting the streets and getting out there," she said.

At a coupon seminar last week suburban Chicago super-couponing expert Jill Cataldo urged shoppers to beware of getting caught up in holiday hype and make sure their deals are really worth it.

So make sure your plan is ready, some shoppers are even turning Thanksgiving dinner into a late lunch.

"We normally start dinner at about 6:30 but because some of the stores are opening at 8 and 9 we're actually going to have it at 3:30," said Chicago shopper Monica Dixon. "I think we just love a deal."

Experts say serious shoppers should even plan their wardrobes. Wear layers so you don't end up racing around a hot store sweating in a thick winter coat.

Black Friday deal tracker:

Katie Doherty's Shopping Tips:

Jill Cataldo's Super-Couponing tips:

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