Black Friday makes headlines every year. But are the deals really worth it—and is the name even accurate anymore?
In-store sales have crept into Thanksgiving Thursday, while online sales may start even earlier in the week and extend to Cyber Monday or beyond.
Some people enjoy lining up outside stores and rushing in to claim the limited-quantity doorbusters. But, thrill-seeking aside, you may want to temper your expectations and try to avoid getting caught up in deal frenzy.
Spending within your means isn’t just good for your budget, with a plan in place you can make sure you’re actually getting a good deal this year.
Stick to your list or budget
Creating and sticking to a list is common advice when it comes to and shopping. So, let’s keep this short and sweet.
If you don’t have a plan of attack, you may find yourself walking into a store to buy one thing and walk out with an overflowing basket.
Whether it’s a list of people who you want to buy presents for, or a few things for yourself—like an iPhone, Samsung phone, or Xbox—check those purchases off your list and call it a day.
Do your research
One of the best ways to get a deal, and avoid overspending, is to do your research ahead of time.
Home appliances and electronics are often hot items on Black Friday, so let’s use a new TV as an example. Make a list of the features that are most important to you, such as size, screen type, and smart-TV capabilities. Then, narrow in on a few models that meet your criteria by reading reviews online or visiting a store when it’s not overflowing with shoppers.
Using a tool like CamelCamelCamel you may also be able to track the TV’s price on Amazon, get an alert if the price drops, and see its historical prices. This could help tip you off to whether a Black Friday “discount” is truly a bargain.
Watch out for pricing and product traps
With your planning done, you may feel extra pressure to follow through and buy something on Black Friday. Resist temptation and double-check the details before you buy.
Here are a few things to look out for:
- Retailers may raise a product’s price ahead of a Black Friday, drop the price during Black Friday, and then promote the “sale.”
- Sometimes, slightly different models of products are created specifically for Black Friday sales. So, you may be after the 42-inch model VA800 LED TV, and wind up accidentally buying a 42-inch model VB800 LED TV with similar, but not quite as good, specifications.
- Products with especially large discounts sometimes have very limited quantities. Don’t be pressured into buying something similar just because your top pick already sold out—there will be other sales in the future.
- Black Friday may be an opportunity for stores or brands to offload the last of the year’s inventory before a new model comes out. The previous year’s model may not be bad, especially if you get a deep discount. Just know that a new model could be coming soon.
Know what to buy and when to wait
You may also want to pick and choose which purchases you make during Black Friday based on what’s on your list. Every year, there are great sales on certain types of product, while other items are generally cheaper at other times.
For example, you may be able to find truly good deals on electronics, like e-readers, televisions, and video game system bundles. Appliances, ranging from large machines like dishwashers or dryers to smaller countertop blenders and toasters can also be a good buy during Black Friday.
However, toys are often cheaper in early December, and annual linen sales in January may offer the deepest discounts. Seasonal items, such as camping gear or winter wear, are also usually cheapest at the end of their season.
Let others do the hard work
You’ve got a list in hand and did your homework on what to buy. But, how do you compare prices and deals from the many different retailers? Don’t. Let others do it for you.
There’s no shortage of Black Friday coverage online. As stores’ ads get “leaked” in the weeks leading up to Black Friday, there’s plenty of analysis on what’s genuinely a good deal and what’s a bust. Keep on eye on the headlines, create keyword alerts to get a heads up when something on your list appears, and then plan your shopping trips accordingly.
Louis DeNicola is a freelance personal finance writer and credit enthusiast. You can find him on Twitter @is_lou.
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