Get ready for shopping overload. Starting with this week's Black Friday, which for some energetic customers begins at midnight on Thursday, stores will try to lure people in with holiday music, discounts, and charity events.
The fun will continue on Monday, dubbed "Cyber Monday" because everyone who should be working away at his desk will actually be picking out presents and ordering them online. (Not that I am personally familiar with this. Right.)
So, to help you survive the chaos, here's a quick list of places you can go to find the best online deals and even get unconventional gifts, such as donations in other people's names. Because, really, who needs another pair of holiday-themed socks?
Cyber Monday. The National Retail Federation's site offers deals, including free shipping and discounts, at over 500 stores including Lands' End and Target. Added bonus: Between 2 and 7 percent of the final sale price, depending on the retailer, will go to a scholarship fund.
RetailMeNot.com. This user-friendly site lists free-shipping coupons and discounts on products including clothes, electronics, and food. Founder Guy King says merchants are putting even more coupon codes out over the next week, so don't buy without checking out your options first. Added bonus: If your online retailer's checkout page includes a space for a "coupon code," chances are one is out there. If it's not on RetailMeNot, try doing a Web search (for example, "Target" and " free shipping ") to find it.
ChangingThePresent.org. For a gift of $25, you can train a midwife. A $10 donation will provide a new suit to a disadvantaged woman through the nonprofit Dress for Success. Or spend $150 to conserve 500 gallons of water in Tanzania. Gifts are tax deductible, and the organization will send a personalized card to the recipient with a description of the gift. Added bonus: feeling good about yourself.
Black Friday sites. For shoppers who prefer to get a head start before the week is over, sites such as BlackFriday.info, Black Friday 2007, and Black Friday.GottaDeal.com can direct you to the post-Thanksgiving deals. Year-round favorites such as Fat Wallet also feature plenty of Black Friday steals. Added bonus: With your shopping behind you, you can relax at work on Monday.