Want to get a head start on your Christmas shopping this year and save a bundle of money in the process? Black Friday early bird sales are one of the best ways to get special deals and also one of the worst ways to shop–unless you do so with a plan.

These sales are the ones we see on TV or hear about in the most salacious stories about holiday shopping.

Just as with scarce concert tickets, shoppers will camp out in front of Best Buy or Wal-mart starting at 3 AM, hoping to get a deep discount on big-ticket items like plasma screens and laptop computers.

This year it will probably be those things on sale, and also newer prize purchases such as iPads, smartphones, and GPS systems. These are great holiday gifts, especially if you can get them at the right price. This article will provide three ways that you can increase your chances of getting these items without getting burned by retailers tactics.

Understand sales. When considering Black Friday early bird sales it is important to understand why they exist and how stores use them to increase their own sales. Items in these sales are expensive ones which have been marked down at almost unbelievably steep discounts. 50% up to even 80% or more is not uncommon.

The catch is that there is only a very limited supply. Maybe the first twenty people will benefit from the sale. The rest of the people who waited on line will enter the store with no hope of cashing in on their early morning excursion.

The stores count on the fact that you will not want to go home empty-handed, and will instead buy some more moderately discounted item. That is a classic sales tactic. Have a hard limit.

One way to beat this tactic is to have a firm plan and hard limits on how you will spend your money. For example, if you go to Best Buy hoping to get an iPad for $100, chances are someone else will get it before you. You need to have a back-up plan.

For example, you will only spend $200 on a high-end printer. As long as you are sure that the store has the printer at that price you can immediately pivot from the iPad to it. Don’t go into the store without a plan and a spending limit. Try to get them earlier. Many stores now offer early bird sales before Black Friday even begins.

You can take advantage of these on Thanksgiving morning, or even before that, in some cases, by searching the web for deals or coupons. The earlier a bird you are, the better chances you have of getting products at steeply discounted prices.

Black Friday early bird sales are some of the best you will ever see. In order to make them work for you, instead of for the stores that offer them, you must understand their tactics, make a plan which includes spending limits, and take action as early in the sales cycle as possible.