By Jim Donovan

By Jim Donovan: Sometimes waiting to shop at a specific time can lead to big savings. In the November issue of ShopSmart, from Consumer Reports, experts share the best times for shoppers to look for bargains throughout the holiday season.

Below are five shop-smarter tips from the experts at ShopSmart. A lot of the saving comes from determining the best time to take advantage of some of the big sales or online bargains.

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1. Beat Black Friday deals. The best way to score holiday bargains might be to wait for Cyber Monday. Last year the biggest markdowns were on that day, followed by Thanksgiving (the biggest day for coupons), and Black Friday. Look for sales on electronics as usual, but also expect more door busters in other categories, including clothing, home goods, and health and beauty items.

2. Buy groceries on Wednesday nights
. Grocery stores often start their new sales on Wednesdays but may still honor the previous week’s deals. Plus many stores get their deliveries on Mondays and Tuesdays, so shoppers should find a good selection. And shopping later in the day means that you might get extra markdowns on bakery items, meat, produce, and other perishables.

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3. Scope holiday bargains. To maximize savings, shoppers should plan their holiday shopping in advance. A good first step is to sneak a peek at sales on websites such as blackfriday.com, blackfriday.gottadeal.com, cybermonday.com, and cybermonday2014.com. Also follow @blackfriday and @cybermonday on Twitter.

4. Wait to buy. It can pay to hold off on buying toys and winter items, such as think ski jackets and sleds, until the last minute because they tend to be cheaper right before the holidays. However, ShopSmart experts advise those who have a wish-list toy, or need a certain color and size, not to wait. Just choose a retailer that will issue a refund if the price drops.

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5. Get gift cards for less. No present is easier than a gift card, especially those looking for last-minute solution. But if they plan ahead, shoppers can buy gift cards for less at warehouse clubs. ShopSmart found discounts at all three clubs: BJ’s, which offers a section called “Extreme Values”; Costco, which has the most options, including flowers and food but no stores; and Sam’s Club, which adds jewelry to the mix.