Apart from the Saturday before Christmas, Black Friday ranks as the ideal shopping day of the season. However, a recent analysis by Consumer Reports and Decide.com, a Web site that tracks electronics products and their pricing, reveals that the day after Thanksgiving isn't necessarily the best possible time to get the best deals on many products.

According to an analysis of prices from the mid-November to mid-December period in 2010, in a significant proportion of cases, the lowest prices of the season on the included items were not on Black Friday or Cyber Monday, the day following the Thanksgiving weekend.

The analysis revealed that more than a quarter of the recommended TVs and cameras were at least 5 percent cheaper between Cyber Monday and Dec. 13 than they were earlier, including during the Black Friday weekend. With laptops, the resulting data indicated that consumers would have been at least as likely as with TVs and cameras to save on recommended models by waiting.        

There's no doubt you can score some incredible bargains by getting up extra early or staying up past your bedtime to take in the midnight madness sales, says Consumer Reports' senior editor and shopping expert Tod Marks, But retailing trends suggest that the opportunity to score a great deal won't end this weekend. So there's no need to panic.

For those consumers who plan to shop at a store or from the comfort of home, Consumer Reports has offered five Black Friday tips that can help save money and sanity.  To get the full list, clickhere.

It's Not Always Worth Breaking Down the Door

There is no doubt that manufacturers offer large discounts on Black Friday. Generally, the very best deals are only available in limited quantities and perhaps only for a short duration. Since early October, there has been a flurry of such promotions, promising items like a $200 laptop or a TV. Black Friday earned its reputation as a bargain hunter's paradise because retailers feature a few of these high-profile items as loss leaders (which are sold at or below cost) to draw shoppers in. However, consumers shouldn't bother to show up unless they are willing to wait in line, sometimes for hours, before the store opens and even then should be prepared for possible disappointments. There are no guarantees and usually no rain checks.

Sniff Out the Most Appealing Specials in Advance

Numerous Web sites, such as FatWallet, Gottadeal and TheBlackFriday, obtain and publish Black Friday deals often weeks before they're officially released. You can also find out which products come with rebates and which merchants offer free shipping. Like your favorite retailers on Facebook and follow them on Twitter for advance notice of special sales. You can also follow @DealCyberMonday on Twitter.

Try to Get it for Less Online

If a circular features what seems like an eye-popping deal, consumers should visit a price-comparison Web site to see if another reliable seller is offering it cheaper. Some sources worth checking: Bizrate, Nextag and Pricegrabber. Shoppers might want to try Amazon, too, as Consumer Reports' reader surveys have cited Amazon as a good merchant for appliances, electronics and books. And don't shop without first checking for coupons at sites such as Coupons.com and RetailMeNot.com.

Request a Price Guarantee

Ask if the retailer has a low-price guarantee - which entitles shoppers to a refund of the difference in prices - if the item in question is offered cheaper elsewhere. WalMart, for example, recently announced that it is beefing up its price-matching policy for the holidays. Note that most price-matching policies apply to the price charged by a local competitor and not Web sites like Amazon.com or even warehouse clubs like Costco and Sam's.

Read Polices on Returns Carefully

The blanket policy for most products at big-box stores is 90 days. This may, however, change for electronics.  Some merchants extend the return period for holiday purchases but reserve the right to refuse the return without an original or gift receipt, especially if the item was bought with cash. Even if a store agrees to take an item back without a receipt, they may only issue you a gift card or store credit slip in exchange. And shoppers will get back the value of the lowest price the item actually sold for, not necessarily the value of the price paid for it. Receipts are needed to take advantage of warranty services. Make sure there are no restocking fees for returned goods.