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7 Ways to Ensure You're Getting the Best Black Friday Bargains

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If you’re going to be one of the more than 75 million shoppers braving the crowds on Black Friday, then we suggest you come armed with a plan. If you don't, your desired item may be gone before you’ve even left the house—after all, the National Retail Federation reports that in 2015, half of those who hit the shops were there by midnight on Thanksgiving Day. Use these tips and tricks as your roadmap to scoring the best deals on the biggest shopping day of the year.

1. DO YOUR HOMEWORK.

To snag the best deals on Black Friday, you need to do your homework, says Sarah Berger, columnist for Bankrate’s money-saving blog The Cashlorette. “Before you start shopping, check out ad fliers and price comparison sites,” Berger says. “Just because something is advertised as being heavily discounted, doesn’t mean it’s a good deal.”

Price tracking sites like CamelCamelCamel, which tracks Amazon, will help you find the lowest price for the item you're after. Also, be sure to check out BlackFriday.GottaDeal.com, BlackFriday.com, and TheBlackFriday.com for more sale alerts and store-specific Black Friday news.

2. BRING THE BLACK FRIDAY AD TO THE STORE.

Either a physical or digital copy will do. “That way, you can guarantee you get the advertised price in case there’s any discrepancy,” says Courtney Jespersen, retail and shopping expert at NerdWallet. And be sure to read the fine print: The advertised price also may only be for a few hours on Black Friday morning, for example.

3. PRICE MATCH.

Many stores will be willing to match a competitor's lower price, so ask. Just make sure you read their rules and understand what qualifies, says Andrew Schrage, co-owner of the personal finance blog Money Crashers. “Usually, it has to be an exact match by model number in order for it to be valid, and some retailers do not accept Internet ads, only those of the paper variety,” Schrage says. “Doing this research can save you a lot of time.”

4. MAKE A LIST.

Black Friday deals for the most part tend to be product-specific, whereas the sales on Cyber Monday (the Monday after Thanksgiving) are generally storewide, Jespersen says. “For example, a select number of items may be deeply discounted on Black Friday, but everything on a store’s website may be 15 percent off on Cyber Monday,” Jespersen says.

So make a list of the items you're after and plan your attack accordingly. If you know you want a specific size and model of a tablet and you know exactly where to buy it, then you’re probably better off shopping for it on Black Friday. If you’re generally in the market for a tablet but don’t really care about the brand, then Cyber Monday might be the day for you to shop, Jespersen says.

5. SHOP ON THANKSGIVING.

For several years, Thanksgiving day has beaten Black Friday in terms of the quality of the deals, says Benjamin Glaser, features editor at DealNews. “And you don’t have to sacrifice family time—just log online when you’re done with dinner,” Glaser says.

And just because some stores are closed on Thanksgiving doesn’t mean their deals are. Places like Sam’s Club, Staples, and Office Depot have had online sales beginning on Thanksgiving in past years.

6. SIGN UP FOR A MEMBERSHIP.

Some stores, including CVS and other drug stores, only offer Black Friday deals to their reward members, Jespersen says. Black Friday ads, which are released before the sale starts, often indicate whether a membership card is required for the lower prices. This will help you decide if joining the program is worth it for you.

7. FOLLOW YOUR BRANDS.

Connect with your favorite stores and brands by signing up for their email newsletters, following them on social media, and downloading their apps, Glaser says. Doing this can get you exclusive deals and discounts as well as give you immediate notice when sales go live—and being the first person to know about a deal can mean the difference between getting that TV and watching it sell out. “Also, we’ve seen stores like Amazon and Twitter offer app-only deals in recent years, so download the mobile apps of your favorite stores,” Glaser says.

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Big Questions
What Happened to the Physical Copy of the 'I Have a Dream' Speech?
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On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and gave a speech for the ages, delivering the oratorical masterpiece "I Have a Dream" to nearly 250,000 people.

When he was done, King stepped away from the podium, folded his speech, and found himself standing in front of George Raveling, a former Villanova basketball player who, along with his friend Warren Wilson, had been asked to provide extra security around Dr. King while he was speaking. "We were both tall, gangly guys," Raveling told TIME in 2003. "We didn't know what we were doing but we certainly made for a good appearance."

Moved by the speech, Raveling saw the folded papers in King’s hands and asked if he could have them. King gave the young volunteer the speech without hesitation, and that was that.

“At no time do I remember thinking, ‘Wow, we got this historic document,’” Raveling told Sports Illustrated in 2015. Not realizing he was holding what would become an important piece of history in his hands, Raveling went home and stuck the three sheets of paper into a Harry Truman biography for safekeeping. They sat there for nearly two decades while Raveling developed an impressive career coaching NCAA men’s basketball.

In 1984, he had recently taken over as the head coach at the University of Iowa and was chatting with Bob Denney of the Cedar Rapids Gazette when Denney brought up the March on Washington. That's when Raveling dropped the bomb: “You know, I’ve got a copy of that speech," he said, and dug it out of the Truman book. After writing an article about Raveling's connection, the reporter had the speech professionally framed for the coach.

Though he displayed the framed speech in his house for a few years, Raveling began to realize the value of the piece and moved it to a bank vault in Los Angeles. Though he has received offers for King’s speech—one collector wanted to purchase the speech for $3 million in 2014—Raveling has turned them all down. He has been in talks with various museums and universities and hopes to put the speech on display in the future, but for now, he cherishes having it in his possession.

“That to me is something I’ll always be able to look back and say I was there,” Raveling said in the original Cedar Rapids Gazette article. “And not only out there in that arena of people, but to be within touching distance of him. That’s like when you’re 80 or 90 years old you can look back and say ‘I was in touching distance of Abraham Lincoln when he made the Gettysburg Address.’"

“I have no idea why I even asked him for the speech,” Raveling, now CEO of Coaching for Success, has said. “But I’m sure glad that I did.”

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Live Smarter
3 Reasons Why Your New Year's Resolutions Fail—and How to Fix Them
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You don’t need a special day to come up with goals, but New Year’s Day is as good a time as any to build better habits. The problem is, by the time February rolls around, our best laid plans have often gone awry. Don’t let it happen this year: Heed these three simple tips for fail-proof resolutions.

PROBLEM 1: THEY’RE TOO OVERWHELMING

Let’s say your goal is to pay off $5000 worth of credit card debt this year. Since you're giving yourself a long timeframe (all year) to pay it down, you end up procrastinating or splurging, telling yourself you’ll make up for it later. But the longer you push it off, the bigger and more overwhelming your once-reasonable goal can feel.

Solution: Set Smaller Milestones

The big picture is important, but connecting your goal to the present makes it more digestible and easier to stick with. Instead of vowing to pay off $5000 by the end of next December, make it your resolution to put $96 toward your credit card debt every week, for example.

In a study from the University of Wollongong, researchers asked subjects to save using one of two methods: a linear model and a cyclical model. In the linear model, the researchers told subjects that saving for the future was important and asked them to set aside money accordingly. In contrast, they told the cyclical group:

This approach acknowledges that one’s life consists of many small and large cycles, that is, events that repeat themselves. We want you to think of the personal savings task as one part of such a cyclical life. Make your savings task a routinized one: just focus on saving the amount that you want to save now, not next month, not next year. Think about whether you saved enough money during your last paycheck cycle. If you saved as much as you wanted, continue with your persistence. If you did not save enough, make it up this time, with the current paycheck cycle.

When subjects used this cyclical model, focusing on the present, they saved more than subjects who focused on their long-term goal.

PROBLEM 2: THEY'RE TOO VAGUE

“Find a better job” is a worthy goal, but it's a bit amorphous. It's unclear what "better" means to you, and it’s difficult to plot the right course of action when you’re not sure what your desired outcome is. Many resolutions are vague in this way: get in shape, worry less, spend more time with loved ones.

Solution: Make Your Goal a SMART One

To make your goal actionable, it should be SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound. When you set specific parameters and guidelines for your goal, it makes it easier to come up with an action plan. Under a bit more scrutiny, "spend more time with loved ones" might become "invite my best friends over for dinner every other Sunday night." This new goal is specific, measurable, time-bound—it ticks all the boxes and tells you exactly what you want and how to get there.

PROBLEM 3: YOU FELL FOR THE “FALSE FIRST STEP”

“A false first step is when we try to buy a better version of ourselves instead of doing the actual work to accomplish it,” Anthony Ongaro of Break the Twitch tells Mental Floss. “The general idea is that purchasing something like a heart rate monitor can feel a lot like we're taking a step towards our fitness goals,” Ongaro says. “The purchase itself can give us a dopamine release and a feeling of satisfaction, but it hasn't actually accomplished anything other than spending some money on a new gadget.”

Even worse, sometimes that dopamine is enough to lure you away from your goal altogether, Ongaro says. “That feeling of satisfaction that comes with the purchase often is good enough that we don't feel the need to actually go out for a run and use it.”

Solution: Start With What You Already Have

You can avoid this trap by forcing yourself to start your goal with the resources you already have on hand. “Whether the goal is to learn a new language or improve physical fitness, the best way to get started and avoid the false first step is to do the best you can with what you already have,” Ongaro says. “Start really small, even learning one new word per day for 30 days straight, or just taking a quick walk around the block every day.”

This isn’t to say you should never buy anything related to your goal, though. As Ongaro points out, you just want to make sure you’ve already developed the habit a bit first. “Establish a habit and regular practice that will be enhanced by a product you may buy,” he says. “It's likely that you won't even need that gadget or that fancy language learning software once you actually get started ... Basically, don't let buying something be the first step you take towards meaningful change in your life.”

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