How to tell if holiday sale is real deal

Consumer Reports offers different tools, apps to use when bargain hunting

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Rachel Barer and her mom love the thrill of finding a Black Friday bargain.

"I feel like I'm getting better deals, so I’m going to buy more than I usually would than if I went and was getting no deals," Barer said.

That feeling is what retailers bank on.

"Just the idea that you’re getting a bargain can affect a center of your brain that can cloud your reasoning and make you open your wallet," said Consumer Reports money editor Margot Gilman.

"Retailers know this and play on it by offering deals that might not be such good bargains," Gilman said.

So how do shoppers know when they’re getting a real steal?

Gilman suggests going in with your eyes wide open and with a healthy sense of skepticism while taking advantage of tools on your laptop or cellphone.

Before you buy, browser extensions such as The Camelizer, Invisible-Hand or PriceBlink scour the Web for the best deals.

Price alerts such as CamelCamelCamel, Price-Tracker, Shop it to Me and Slick-Deals, tell you when prices for the items have dropped.

Price-comparison apps like Buy-Via, Now-Discount, Scan-Life and ShopSavvy can tell you if there’s a better deal out there, online or even at a local store.

While you are shopping, coupon apps such as Coupon Sherpa or Snip-Snap offer discounts to use at checkout.

You can also get price protection after you shop.

Price adjustment apps continue to search the web after you charge something and initiate a refund if prices drop on something you’ve already bought.

Consumer Reports cautions, though, that you may have to expose your bank and credit card information for the apps to work.

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