Written by Spotloan

The period beginning with Thanksgiving and going until after New Year’s is prime time for finding great deals from retailers. Here’s how to shop wisely for consumer electronics and other merchandise as the 2017 holiday shopping season kicks into high gear.

1. Treat shopping like a research project

Hunting for the best deals is, in essence, a research project. And as with any research project, you should start with a clear idea of what you’re looking for and what your resources are.

Before you shop, ask yourself: Who’s on your gift list this holiday? How much can you afford to spend on gifts in total, and on each person on your list? Do you know what the people on your list want? The answers to these questions will help you stay focused.

2. Know how you’ll pay for the gifts

Where will the money for gifts come from? A credit card? If you have more than one card, which one has the lower interest rate or would otherwise be best to use? Do you have a plan to pay off the new debt as quickly as possible?

Paying with cash, as with a debit card tied to your checking account, keeps you from adding to debt. But some credit cards offer purchase protections that debit cards lack. Also, when paying with a debit card, you probably won’t earn points, or other perks typical of credit cards.

3. Research reviews and prices

Go online to research the gifts you have in mind. Check out reviews from consumers on sites like Amazon as well as professional reviews. Don’t know where to look for reviews? Try a Google search using the product name plus the word ‘review.’ If you’re seriously considering a 10.5-inch iPad Pro, for instance, your Google search phrase would be something like 10.5 ipad pro review.

You’ll also want to search for promo codes or deals available for the product. Using the iPad example again, your search phrases would be 10.5 ipad pro promo code, 10.5 ipad pro black Friday deal, or 10.5 ipad pro cyber Monday deal.

4. Download these apps and visit these websites

Among the most useful websites and apps for Black Friday shopping (and beyond):

* Brad’s Deals Black Friday website and iOS and Android apps offer Black Friday news year-round.

* ShopSavvy’s apps offer deal news and a barcode scanner for comparing prices in stores. (You scan a product’s barcode to see pricing from a variety of retailers.)

* Flipp compiles weekly circulars and coupons on its website and apps.

* Shopkick’s apps earn you points just by walking into stores, as well as by scanning and buying products. You can redeem the points for gift cards or products.

* DealNews’ website includes helpful articles, such as one about what not to buy on Black Friday. The DealNews apps will send timely deal alerts to your smartphone.

* Have a favorite retailer? Download their app to get deal alerts, make purchases, navigate a particular store, and more.

5. Don’t see your gift item on sale? Ask for a discount

Most shoppers never think to ask for discounts from sales assistants in stores or via web chat. But it never hurts to ask. The assistant may offer an unadvertised ‘friends and family’ or other discount. And as always, if you see a lower price online, ask the sales person if the store will match it.

6. Skip the extended warranty

Buying extended warranties on consumer electronics is rarely worth the money, according to Consumer Reports. “Extended warranties can have many gotchas, relying on contract fine print to deny coverage for almost any reason,” the magazine reported. “They've become a major source of complaints to the Better Business Bureau and elsewhere.”

For more, check out Consumer Reports’ Extended Warranty Buying Guide.

Some retailers, such as Costco, and most credit card issuers, including Visa and MasterCard, offer their own extended warranties for free. The policies and benefits vary. NerdWallet offers a helpful guide to credit card extended warranties.