Black Friday and Cyber Monday are almost upon us as shoppers are poised with credit cards and ready to bag a bargain.
The US shopping tradition has gained a strong foothold in the UK, and this year experts predict around £5 billion will be spent on Black Friday.
What is Black Friday?
Black Friday always falls the day after the American holiday of Thanksgiving (the fourth Thursday in November). It's regarded as the beginning of the Christmas shopping season in the United States, because US retailers traditionally experienced a big surge in people starting their Christmas shopping then.
What is Cyber Monday?
Cyber Monday has emerged out of the Black Friday phenomenon as a day which shows a big surge in people shopping online.
So if you prefer to buy online in the comfort of your own home and want to give busy shopping centres and crowded pavements a miss, Cyber Monday is the perfect alternative .
Do you know your rights? Read our guide to the new consumer protection rules.
What discounts can shoppers expect on Black Friday and Cyber Monday?
Discounts can be generous at around 40% off some items. There is no telling exactly who will discount what until they release details. But you can expect to see big price cuts on household names, from technology brands to fashion and beauty.
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What you need to know about Black Friday and Cyber Monday...
1. Which items are discounted?
The most popular items sold on both Black Friday and Cyber Monday are electronics and gadgets from iPads and tablets to laptops, TVs and video games.
Check out Amazon, Currys, John Lewis and Halfords for starters. Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury's are also worth a look.
Retailers keen to get people shopping earlier for Christmas are extending the discounts to fashion and beauty.
Discounts are expected from the likes of Kurt Geiger and Dorothy Perkins.
2. Sign up to receive emails from your favourite shops and brands
Email is the best way to hear about offers, so you don't miss out on bargains. Sign up for emails from all of your favourite brands in advance and you could find yourself in their VIP list.
Did you know that you get protection on purchases over £100 if you pay with a credit card?
3. Shop during unsociable hours online to get the best deals
Not only can you shop 24/7 online: retailers often release their deals at very unsociable hours.
In some cases it's part of their marketing strategy, in others they're bridging time zones and simply want to put all of their offers up at one time.
Since you can shop in your pyjamas from the comfort of your sofa, shopping "out of hours" isn't so bad after all.
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4. Don't take retailers' word for it that you are getting a bargain
Do your research and check what other retailers are charging elsewhere for the same item.
A 25% discount on a product that's being sold at a higher price still doesn't make it a bargain.
Make your shopping list in advance and use a shopping search engine such as PriceRunner to help find the cheapest price for the item you're looking for before the sales start.
Read our guide to paying safely online.
Compare the prices to any relevant discounts to decide whether it's worth buying while the promotion is running.
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