SEATTLE — It's the countdown to the markdown.

Starting at 3 a.m. eastern time next Monday, Amazon Prime Day kicks off. Or should we say "days," because the shopping holiday's been expanded to 48 hours. 

Prime Days has basically become a competitive sport which Amazon claims is bigger than Black Friday and Cyber Monday. So that means you shouldn’t wait until Monday to go online. There are ways to prepare now, so you're up and running out of the gate.

Like most big shopping holidays, you need a strategy to get the best deals. The good stuff goes fast, not everything is a bargain, and there are some tricks that only serious Amazoners use to get ahead.

First, if you're not a Prime member, sign up for a 30 day free trial to have access to best deals.

Next, load the Amazon app and set up the Amazon Price Alert. It will ping when there's a deal, which is important according to Rachel Krych, who runs the blog Couponing with Rachel.

"Deals will come on every…about five minutes...and some of them can go lightening fast," she told us.

Then, get familiar with the site. Amazon has a Bargain Finds section where you can find deals for less than 10 dollars. There's also Amazon's Outlet Store section, where overstocked items ranging from home goods to groceries are heavily discounted.

To set yourself up for success before Prime Day, put things in your shopping cart that you’re interested in now, to see if the price really drops during the big event.

The next thing you should do, according to Regina Novickis-Conway, Consumer Expert for the website and app Slickdeals, "is enable the one-click shopping cart, which means that you bypass the inputting of your credit card information. You have all of that in there. You just click to buy, and that makes sure that you'll really tap into those really hot deals."

Slickdeals also has alerts, which is great if you don't have time to scour Amazon over two days.

"You can set that Deal Alert on Slickdeals and you will be notified when something becomes available that matches your criteria," Regina told us.

And there are some other apps that can help with your hunt, like camelcamelcamel.

"You can enter what you're looking for and they'll tell you if it's actually the lowest price it's been on Amazon," Rachel said. "Because not all Amazon Prime deals are the best. So, if you check out that website, they'll let you know."

And did you know you can earn money back on your purchases? There are apps like ibotta or Ebates, now called Rakuten, which I personally love. They give you a percentage back for your purchases. On some items I’ve seen it as high as 10%.

There's also Swagbucks, where you collect points on Amazon purchases that you can redeem for cash back through Paypal, or a gift card. 

But with all manufactured sales holidays, make sure you research the product ahead of time. And don’t buy something just because it seems like a great deal. You want it to be something you really need. If not, no matter how cheap it is, it will likely be a waste of money.

Now, if you're not an Amazon shopper, you can still score some great deals even before Prime Day. To stay competitive, loads of brick and mortar stores are joining in on this Christmas in July, offering huge savings as well.

Below are some of the stores offering sales, but check the website of your favorite spot, because they may be offering deals as well.

Brick and Mortar Store Deals

Target Deal Days

eBay Crash Sales

  • eBay will host a Crash Sale on July 15, poking fun at the possibility Amazon’s site will crash on Prime Day. eBay’s Crash Sale is part of a series of events kicking off on July 1 for 3 weeks.

Walmart Google Week

Kohl’s Accepting Amazon returns

Macy’s Black Friday in July