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Black Friday is a holiday like no other. While Cyber Monday comes a close second, Black Friday stands alone in the holiday season as a time-honored tradition for shopping and saving money on the day following Thanksgiving.
This post is all about planning the BEST Black Friday experience so that you can save the most money possible!
What is Black Friday?
Black Friday is actually a lot older than you may think. With the term being used in the early 1960s, it is the name given to the day after Thanksgiving. It’s thought to be called “Black Friday” because businesses are in the black, which in marketing terms means that the business is turning a profit and doing well- being in the red means that they are underwater and in debt.
While the term Black Friday was used in the early 1960s, and it was published in The American Philatelist Magazine, it wasn’t commonly used until the late 1980s. After that is became linked to almost every retailer’s post-Thanksgiving sales.
Since then, the supply and demand for hot ticket items on extreme discount prices have stores competing for consumers. Making the Black Friday sales start on Thanksgiving or even sooner. Some stores offer deals all week or all month long.
It’s not unheard of to see companies trying to do Black Friday in July, February or other months. Some even try to host it around New Years, but honestly they’re just using the term “Black Friday” as a marketing ploy to make you think of large discounts and be more tempted to shop- don’t fall for it.
Why is Black Friday Bad?
Whether or not you believe that Black Friday is bad is entirely up to you and your beliefs.
On the one hand, you can get some great deals and discounts that make Christmas shopping on a budget that much easier.
On the other hand, you have a ton of people camping out for days on sidewalks for a chance to be the first person in the doors. The news always reports about people getting hurt or trampled due to other Black Friday shoppers.
I avoid Black Friday shopping in person and do it 100% online. I hate crowds, and the one time I went Black Friday shopping in an actual store, adults were shoving kids and pushing wheelchair users out of their way so they could grab something. I decided right then and there that my desire to save money was not worth putting myself at harms risk or watching my fellow humans act so disgraceful.
How to shop Black Friday smart
The best shopping tips for a successful Black Friday shopping experience.
Your Black Friday plan can happen in just 6 simple steps.
- Make a plan
- Do your research
- Know what you want and when it’s better priced
- Don’t fall for doorbusters
- Double check online prices
- Make the final plan
1. Make a plan
Make a list of everything that you want to buy.
Grab a piece of paper and a pencil and write down who is getting what gifts, or what you want to buy. After doing this, prioritize the items so you can know what is the most and least important.
How much are you willing to spend?
I’m a budget gal, so of course, I have to recommend that you put down a budget and do so in writing. How much money can you afford for this Black Friday shopping experience?
Will you be paying in cash, gift cards, credit cards or swiping your debit card?
While I highly recommend cash purchases to help you stay within budget, on Black Friday- it may be better to use a debit card or gift cards. This is mostly do in part to the huge crowds of greedy people that would either take loose money from your pocket or not warn you that you dropped a few bucks on the ground.
That said, Black Friday is also a time when a lot of information leaks happen for retailers as hackers try to gain personal information and steal identities. So no matter which way you choose to pay, you will have pros and cons to consider.
Setting up a sinking fund a few months/weeks before your Black Friday shopping can help you to afford some great deals without feeling a huge splurge of cash from a single paycheck.
2. Do your research
Now that you know what you want to buy, you can start looking for the best Black Friday deals on them. Believe it or not, there are actually trends for which days have the best deals. It’s not just a bunch of deals scattered together (even though it looks like it).
Thanksgiving day is normally when you can find the best deals on electronic devices. The Monday before that is for small appliances and house items.
The Monday after Thanksgiving is excellent for buying clothes and toys. This day is also referred to as Cyber Monday and it can often contain deals that rival or exceed those that you’ll find on Black Friday, so make sure to pay attention to any sales previews before dedicating yourself to purchasing a specific item on either day.
Smart Black Friday shopping tips
On a new piece of paper, draw out 5 columns. Label each one with the following:
- The item
- Regular price
- Sale price
- Store name
- Sale time frame
This will help you to keep track of everything as you look through Black Friday sales ad previews. If you find the item cheaper elsewhere, cross it off and write the new deal down. Don’t worry about it getting too messy; you can always rewrite it on a master list later.
PAY ATTENTION TO THE FINE PRINT!
Whoever writes the ads for sale items knows what they’re doing. The brilliant use of colors and giant savings advertised can easily have you running to the store to save some cash. Unfortunately, there is often fine print that you should make sure you read as well.
Some deals are exclusive if you have a store credit card, others may require an additional purchase or the price could be shown as “low monthly payments.”
You could also find that a deal might cost $10 more but it comes with freebies that make it a better deal overall.
An example would be purchasing an Xbox360 and getting a free game to play or a few months of Xbox membership. While you might be paying a few dollars more upfront, the overall value of the package bundle is much better than elsewhere.
Another reason to check the fine print
You should be fully aware of the store’s policies in regards to returns, exchanges, and layaways. If you buy something and it doesn’t fit or breaks before you get to use it, or even if it came defective, you may want to return it. Some stores have it in their policies to not accept returns or exchanges if an item was purchased on Black Friday.
*Tip, you can often find the stores policies listed at the bottom of their printed ads in tiny print.
3. Know when to buy what
Due to the stores having regular sales cycles and similar Black Friday patterns every year it’s easy to predict what can be better priced on what days. Figuring out the rhythm and anticipating these deals can help you to get the best deals when they’re available.
The weekend before Thanksgiving is a great time to buy toys. This is when prices drop and not many people are shopping because they are waiting for Cyber Monday deals.
Your chances of getting what you want are much higher during this weekend because items are actually in stock. Of course, Cyber Monday is still a great time to buy, just make sure your online and ready when items go on sale because you are 3 times more likely to see things run out.
Electronics are one of the most prominent Black Friday sale items. But don’t expect to see the high end, better quality stuff on sale. Do your research on which items are best for you.
For instance, the TVs might be better suited for your kid’s rooms. If you miss out on a TV deal, don’t worry because they go back on sale in January in anticipation of The Super Bowl in February.
Make sure you know what you want before you get it. Don’t end up with buyers remorse and no chance of returns.
If you are looking for good clothing type deals, you usually find the best sales the week before and after Christmas. Discounts are typically close to 50% off, not including coupons and other stackable money-saving things you can use.
These are most discounted the week of Christmas but remain cheaper through February.
So, if you plan to travel somewhere (like Disney World) buy the accommodations in December and plan to take the family during January or February. Not only will it be cheaper, but you’ll also have fewer lines to stand in as folks usually stay home during those months. Just dress for the weather and you’ll be fine.
Why you shouldn’t assume a Door Buster is a deal
This is probably one of the best Black Friday tips I could possibly give you. With a name like door-buster, they sound great, right? Honestly, they are not nearly as amazing as the hype often builds them up to be.
While the item might be one or two items that have you considering entering the store, they are often items that go on sale for even cheaper prices throughout the year.
Some stores even make sure to only have a few of the better doorbuster items in stock. I went to a Radio Shack for a GPS system many many years ago because it was a great doorbuster sale. The store literally had 2 of them in stock and as the third person in line, I got nothing.
Doorbusters are nothing new; you seem them every week in every store ad. Often referred to as loss leaders, these are the items marked so low that you choose to shop there instead of anywhere else. The goal is to get you in the store so you can overspend elsewhere and the store can gain a nice profit.
Double check online prices
The hardest decision you’ll have to make is whether or not to shop in-store or online.
Which has the better deals and can save you the most money?
Which one is the safer and more efficient choice?
While stores often have their Black Friday ads leaked online about a month in advance, online retailers usually do not. This makes it a gamble as to which one is the better money-saver. While you could go to Walmart and spend a few bucks, you could come home only to realize that Amazon had it cheaper.
Online retailers are also more likely to do a flash sale and drop their prices to get your money. By choosing to do your Black Friday shopping online, you can also get the added benefit of staying with your family inside your home. Which is so much better than standing in a long, cold line for an hour with a bunch of strangers that would stomp on you if you fell just so they could buy an iPod.
Make a final game plan
The last of my Black Friday shopping tips is to make a Black Friday strategy. With your research and lists, you will already know where to go to get the most savings on the items you want. But now you have to compile it all together.
By looking at the times of the sales and store locations, make a game plan telling you a detailed outline of where to go and have your whole day planned accordingly.
Make sure that you cross reference your list with your Thanksgiving plans so that you can enjoy both. Ask for assistance wherever it looks like it is needed and be ready to enjoy your shopping with a well-organized list and plan in place. It may even be wise to set up a Plan B if the items and list don’t work out.
With the right planning in place, you can have a great Black Friday experience and save a lot of money!
Tell me in the comments below what your favorite Black Friday past-time tradition is! I’d love to hear it!
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