Black Friday Guide to the Best Deals and Steals

Where to go for this year’s hottest items, from electronics to clothes to toys.

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This year, you can start Black Friday shopping almost before the turkey is out of the oven: Toys "R" Us is among the retailers opening up shop early, starting at 10 p.m. Thanksgiving night. In fact, many discounts have been available since October, since retailers have been competing with each other so fiercely to nab shoppers.

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Despite the multi-week long lead-up to Black Friday, the day itself still packs a spending punch, with retailers pulling out even more freebies and price cuts. Are the deals strong enough to lure you out of bed before the sun comes up? That's for you to decide. Here are the best spots to buy the hottest items this year, including electronics, toys, and clothes.

For electronics:

Best Buy is offering the Nintendo Wii for $169.99 and the Nook (Barnes & Noble's E-reader) for $99.99 to a limited number of customers. Stores open at 5 a.m. Friday, but employees will start passing out tickets as early as 3 a.m. The store is also offering competitive prices on 3D and LCD televisions, expected to be two of the most popular purchases this holiday season as shoppers look to splurge more than they did last year.

Best Buy is also offering discounts on smartphones, but shoppers should focus more on monthly costs rather than the cost of the phone itself—which can be free after rebates, in some cases. The real expense is the pricey data plans. Virgin Mobile is now offering the most competitive offer, starting at a $25 per month on the Samsung Intercept.

Some shoppers looking for the normally priced $499 iPad will be able to buy the tablet for $399 at certain TJMaxx and Marshalls locations, although the stores will not reveal the exact locations in advance. So only a lucky few will be able to get the much-coveted iPad for that price; everyone else might as well buy it from Apple.

Video streaming devices such as Apple TV will be another hot family purchase. TheApple TV goes for $99 from Apple, with competitors following closely behind. Wal-Mart, which will open to shoppers for Black Friday shopping from 5 a.m. to 11 a.m., is offering multiple discounts on a variety of merchandize but they vary by location, so check online (and enter your zip code) before planning your visit.

For household appliances:

Sears has been offering its Black Friday deals on Fridays and Saturdays since the end of October, and they're still going strong. Cyber Monday deals are also already available, with appliances and tools marked well below their normal prices. A $500 refrigerator is marked down to $400, for example, and a Samsung stainless platinum washer-dryer pair is almost half off at $750 each.

[Visit the U.S. News Personal Finance site for more insight and money management tips.]

For clothes:

More than 200 Gap and Banana Republic outlet stores will open at midnight on Thursday. Specials include 60 percent off all items through Sunday at Gap Factory Stores, $10 zip fleeces for early customers, and a $25 women's jacket. At Banana Republic, the first customers can score a $20 puffer vest and up to 50 percent off most items through Sunday.

For toys:

Whether you're looking for a singing Justin Bieber doll or limited edition Santa-ma-jig, Toys "R" Us is fully embracing Black Friday with discounts as well as giveaways. The toy retailer will give away hundreds of thousands of 64-packs of Crayola crayons and coloring books with any purchase while supplies last. Some 150 "super-deals" will begin when stores open at 10 p.m. Thursday and last through 1 p.m. Friday. Chief executive Jerry Storch calls it "the biggest Black Friday ever" for the store.

If you end up sleeping in Friday but still want the deals, Toys "R" Us will keep the party going through Cyber Monday, with up to 25 percent off on thousands of items starting just after midnight. The store will also throw in a 120-count box of crayons with purchases of $25 worth of Crayola products.

Early risers will get the biggest discounts at Disney Stores, which are offering 20 percent off almost all items before 10 a.m. If night shopping sounds better than getting out of bed when it's still dark, consider taking advantage of the 130-plus Disney stores that are opening at midnight on Thanksgiving. Singing dolls are also among the hottest items, with an array of Disney Princess characters, from Ariel to Cinderella, belting out fairy tale favorites.