Black Friday is an exciting time, but it can also be overwhelming. If you don’t have a strategy in place, you could miss the best deals.
That’s why we’ve come up with 12 strategies to ensure you have a smooth Black Friday experience. Read on to see when you should start watching for deals, how to keep your budget intact, and how to avoid disappointment.
Make a Budget (Now)
First things first: decide how much you can afford to spend on the holiday season. Figure out your must-haves, like gifts or household purchases you’ve been saving up for. And definitely calculate the maximum amount you absolutely can’t go over. Don’t forget to account for holiday incidentals like office parties!
Once you’ve figured out how much you’re willing to spend, make a list of all the people you’re shopping for. That’ll help you dole out appropriate amounts for each gift. Then, get an idea of what you’d like to buy for your recipients. It can be as vague as “clothes,” or as specific as “Amazon Kindle Paperwhite.”
Check the Ads
Familiarize yourself with the Black Friday ads. Check the circulars for your favorite stores first, but don’t ignore the ones from places you might not normally shop! It’s easy to buy a new Echo device from Amazon, but stores like Staples or Best Buy could have better savings locally. Make note of any restrictions, including deals that only run until a certain time or on a certain day.
Weigh Online vs. In-Store Shopping
If you can’t take the crowds in-store, staying online might sound like the perfect alternative. But online shopping can come with a few drawbacks. Watch out for short-lived deals that sell out fast, a lack of inventory transparency, and website crashes (or outright refusals to load). Additionally, price comparisons are an absolute must.
If you can, look at both in-store and online prices. A store’s website might start Black Friday sales earlier than the physical store, helping you get a better price. Or it might just match store prices. Even if the latter is the case, you’ll still avoid fighting over parking spaces if you shop online!
Braving the crowds to get an exclusive deal? Black Friday shopping in-store can be a test of anyone’s patience. While crowds might not reach mythical levels, you can still expect longer wait times. However, only stores in highly populated areas will host huge crowds. Your local retailers may only have a rush when stores open.
Craft an In-Store Game Plan
If the idea of hitting the stores doesn’t fill you with dread, don’t think you can just plunge into it blindly. You still need to craft a game plan. Check the ads for your most wanted items and find the retailers that have the best deals. Then note store opening hours and how long the discounts run — doorbusters are usually available for a limited time.
Then you have to prioritize. Pursue items based on whether they’ll be on sale for a short amount of time, or if they’re in high demand (and likely to sell out quickly).
If your game plan involves creating a dream team of friends and family to help, try to coordinate your lists. Assign your team members to different stores to maximize doorbuster coverage. You can meet up later to swap items and pay each other back.
Start Shopping on Thanksgiving… or Sooner
Savvy Black Friday shoppers know that the best deals aren’t only found on that day. Often the best deals are found on Thanksgiving, and many retailers are rolling out deals even sooner. That doesn’t mean they’re all worth it, but you should be keeping an eye out.
Prepare to Stand in Line
No matter what time you shop on Black Friday, you’re bound to encounter at least one notable wait. Make sure you have entertainment on hand, lest your boredom lead to impulse purchases. Think about adding a new playlist or audiobook to your phone (and remember to take out your earbuds before dealing with any store associates). That said, focus on the essentials. Don’t haul anything that’s likely to become a pain to carry around while shopping.
Download Apps for Extra Savings
While standing in those long lines, you may want to double-check that you’re getting the best deal. If you actually do find a better price, the store might match it. Alternatively, you can order online and head to the next store on your list.
Stay Away From Impulse Purchases
There’s a variety of items to avoid on Black Friday, and impulse purchases are definitely on the list. When you’re saving a lot of money on Black Friday, it’s easy to feel like a couple of extra items won’t matter. This kind of thinking will destroy your Black Friday budget! Avoid the knickknacks near the registers or by the door.
Watch Out for Final Sale Items
Before making any purchase (especially a big-ticket item), know whether or not it’s marked “final sale.” Those products typically can’t be returned. Even the returnable ones could still come with restocking fees that amount to 15% or more — especially electronics. Familiarize yourself with the store’s return policy before you buy.
Black Friday is a huge opportunity for discounts in the form of mail-in rebates or store credits. In fact, retailers prefer these offers for big shopping days. They get to advertise significantly discounted products, but still rake in the full price for those items. It’s a win-win.
Redeeming those offers can be a bit tricky for those who aren’t well organized. We suggest tucking your receipts and rebate forms into a special envelope or section of your wallet. When you’re home, create a spreadsheet with all the pertinent details for each offer, including the product, store, dates the offer is valid, and anything else you might need to scoop up those savings.
Be a Social Media Butterfly
Whatever your favorite social platform might be (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or something else entirely), start following your favorite stores now. Keep a close eye on these accounts, as coupons, sale previews, or even Black Friday ads can appear there. These can net you some serious savings, or help you find a bargain you wouldn’t have seen otherwise.
Be Kind to Everyone
Please be nice to sales associates. True, some retail employees absolutely jump at the chance to earn holiday OT by working on Thanksgiving or Black Friday. But they still have to face long lines, temperamental customers, and probably co-workers who have zero desire to be there. You won’t be able to control the people around you, but you can definitely be a bright spot in someone else’s stressful day.
In fact, be kind to everyone. It’s not worth arguing with someone over the last item in a pile. There is always another deal.