Don't miss out on the savings! Claudia Lombana, PayPal Shopping Specialist, shares her expert advice on how to get the best deals on Black Friday.

By Caren Oppenheim

Turkey, pumpkin pie, football, family. Thanksgiving might include any of those things, but for many people, a vital part of the holiday weekend is the shopping. And while there are countless bargains to be found, not all promotions may be worthy of an early wake-up call or being jostled by crowds. We put Claudia Lombana, PayPal Shopping Specialist, to the test for her best Black Friday advice.

Q. What's a smart tactic for snagging great discounts?

A. Do your homework. For one of the most popular shopping days of the year you need a plan of attack or you're bound to miss out on the top deals. Check online or in the newspaper for promotional ads, but read the fine print extremely carefully. You should also have a specific budget and a shopping list to keep you on track. Next, compare prices and see what other stores are offering.

Q. Is lining up the night before worth it?

A. Probably not. Many companies offer hyper-discounted items at opening, but generally there are only a handful of these products available. So unless you're in position to grab one of the five TVs at a cut-rate price, you're better off sleeping.

Q. Should you wait for Cyber Monday or head to a store?

A. That's personal preference, but more people are avoiding the frenzy by shopping on their computers, tablets or mobile devices. And many deals are available online before Cyber Monday. Web surfing offers convenience and flexibility, but you can't actually examine an item the way you can at a store.

Q. What's most important for safely purchasing online?

A. Never enter your credit card information on a website's checkout page if the URL doesn't have an s after http. An https at the beginning of the link means it's a secure site. You also shouldn't click on a link in an e-mail if you don't know the sender. Instead, copy and paste the URL into a new page.

Q. Can you score major savings during the holidays outside of Black Friday?

A. Thanksgiving is becoming an increasingly popular day for deals. They're being posted earlier, sending people straight from the dinner table to the Web. Some retailers will lower prices after Black Friday, but it's never a sure thing and there could be less inventory. Bottom line: Watch for sales throughout the entire season rather than assuming stellar discounts are offered only on one specific day.

Apps to Help You Shop

Stay abreast of the best deals with these four apps, perfect for buying on the go.

Browse by product category or view ads from major stores. Save your favorites and share with friends on Facebook and Twitter. Free; available on iPhone and Android.

Scan the barcode to find out if a nearby retailer or online outlet is selling an item for less. Then purchase directly from your phone. Free; available on iPhone, Android and Windows Phone.

Search thousands of Black Friday deals at major stores, or sign up for real-time updates. Free; available on iPhone and Android.

Create a shopping list that syncs with, then purchase from your computer or phone—or set a price alert. Free; available on iPhone and Android.

Originally published in the November 2012 issue of Family Circle magazine.

This piece was accurate at publication time, but all prices, offerings and styles are subject to change.