Black Friday

If you are headed out shopping Friday, you won't be alone. In fact, you will likely have more company than you need -- or want.

"Black Friday" marks the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season and has been labeled the busiest shopping day of the year.

Many retailers offer sales on popular gift items, like electronics, jewelry, and clothes.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, check out these tips before you go store hopping:

-- Read the fine print - There may be quantity limits or other conditions that apply to the sales. Report misleading ads to your state consumer protection office.

-- Compare before you shop - Compare prices for the same item between competing stores. Don’t forget to check for differences in a product’s features and accessories.

-- Research upsells - Ask if multi-year contracts, warranties, or subscriptions must be purchased in order to get the advertised offer. Don’t feel pressured to buy services that you don’t need or want.”

The Federal Trade Commission also has holiday shopping tips:

-- Make a list and a budget. Include incidentals, like cards, wrapping paper and eating out.

-- Check out websites that compare prices for items sold online, and at stores in your area.

-- Look for rebates. Some can be redeemed at checkout, but most require you to send documentation to the manufacturer to get your rebate.

-- Make sure the scanned price is right. Overcharges cost you money and time, especially if you don’t notice them right away.

-- Consider customer reviews carefully. The law says reviewers should disclose their connection to a company, but not all of them do. Before you buy anything based on a review, search online for information from sources you trust. Compare reviews from a variety of websites.

-- Giving jewelry? Take some time to learn the terms used in the industry so you can get the best quality and value.

-- If you use a mobile device or computer to shop for deals, be aware that some unexpected emails, texts or posts may lead to fraudulent sites claiming bargains on brand name products.

-- Save receipts. When you’re shopping online, keep copies of your order number, the refund and return policies, shipping costs and warranties.

-- If money’s tight, consider layaway. You typically make a deposit and pay over time; the retailer holds the merchandise until you’ve paid for the item in full.

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