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Skip the Lines: Shop Black Friday Online -- While Eating Pie!

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There's so much to look forward to the week of Thanksgiving. Family comes home. Friends in town for the holiday stop by to visit. The kids bring home heartfelt, DIY cards and crafts from school.

(My favorite so far: Answering the question "How to Cook a Turkey," my first grader wrote, "First, you go to the store. Next, you go home and wrap it up and hit it with a mallet. After that, you pop the turkey in the oven for 8 degrees F. Then, you cover it with salt and pepper. Finally, you eat mashed potatoes and gravy with your turkey. Happy Thanksgiving!")

Of course, there's also the feasting. The turkey, the stuffing, the gravy, the rolls, the yams, the cranberry sauce, the pie -- pumpkin, pecan, apple -- and the wine -- white, red, bubbles. Pass the seconds and thirds of everything, please.

And, yes!, there's the shopping. Black Friday has turned into a week-long event, with retailers opening their doors earlier than ever before. Macy's, for example, is letting folks in at 8:00 p.m. on Turkey Day for the first time in 155 years, and they're staying open through Nov. 30. USA Today reports shoppers started lining up as early as Nov. 18 at an Akron, Ohio Best Buy. Not sure I want to know how that situation works, exactly, but I hope that Xbox One is worth it. I mean, the bathroom situation alone would have me playing my Atari for eternity.

Rather than camp out in the cold -- or deal with an elbow-flinging mob hot on the trail of a marked-down Furby Boom -- I'll be doing my Black Friday shopping from the comfort of my mother-in-law's couch, pumpkin pie at the ready (shopping requires energy), dressed in sweatpants (elastic waistbands rule this time of year) and credit card at hand.

Many retailers are offering doorbusters online, as well as in stores, so prep yourself by searching store circulars and your favorite websites for sneak peeks at the deals to come (hint: many start Nov. 27 -- we may need to change the name to Black Wednesday next year, for real).

Another tip: Brush up on return polices at stores you're likely to buy from so that once you've scored your deals you can pull the trigger on your purchase. Adding coveted items to your shopping cart, only to watch them disappear because someone else was quicker on the draw, will cause you to stress out harder than Charlie Brown attempting to please Peppermint Patty with a Thanksgiving feast of popcorn and toast. Nobody wants that.

Finally, do some online sleuthing before the sales start.

  • Who has free shipping? Do you need a code or minimum purchase?
  • Find a website that does the hard work for you, listing all coupons, promo codes, cash back deals and other ways to save the most.
  • Do you have a favorite savings or couponing blogger? Follow her closely, for alerts on top discounts.
  • Even though you don't really want to, sign up for free email newsletters, VIP clubs, apps or other insider groups at the stores you love. They'll often send members exclusive deals and codes that can lead to significant savings. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter, too, where fans are also offered specials the public isn't privy too.
Because eating pie while scoring deep discounts on everything from clothing to cookware to cologne? That's something to be thankful for.

Lesley Kennedy writes about family, fashion and other shopping trends for ShopAtHome.com.