What was once a one day bonanza of shopping deals the day after Thanksgiving has turned into a month-long frenzy of online and in-store discounts throughout November. So you can get great deals without fighting the crowds on Black Friday.
Some prices drop closer to Christmas as retailers and e-tailers want to move merchandise before year-end, including car dealers.
Still, some people like the rush of searching for deals and loading up their shopping bags on Black Friday.
If you decide to venture out on one of the biggest shopping days of the year, consider these tips to save your sanity (and hopefully some money too).
Tips for Finding Black Friday Best Buys
Do your homework
Read Black Friday circulars in advance so you’ll know what items retailers are offering at what prices.
You’ll find tons of leaked Black Friday ad scans at bfads.net, bestblackfriday.com, dealnews.com, gottadeal.com, and theblackfriday.com and many retailers already have posted their Black Friday deals online.
Do some comparison shopping to ensure that it’s actually a good price, because not everything will be on sale and the “compare at” price isn’t always accurate.
Make a list of items you plan to purchase as gifts and match those with the items on sale. Some retailers may have limited stock on sale items, so consider creating a plan B in case your first-choice item is unavailable.
Know the return policies before you buy. Return policies can be 30, 60 or 90 days, for a full refund or store credit only, and usually require the original sales receipt or a gift receipt.
Follow your favorite retailers
Sign up for email offers from retailers you shop regularly, and follow them on social media so you’re up-to-date on their sales and special promotions. However, if you’re the type of consumer who can’t resist a bargain (even if it’s not something you really want or use), you might want to skip this step so you’re not tempted.
Retailers use door-busters and other strategies to get you in the door and convince you to spend money on things you weren’t planning to buy. Even if it’s a great price, it may not be a great buy if you don’t have a specific need or recipient in mind. Stay strong and stick to the items on your list to avoid buyer’s remorse.
Skip the extended warranty
If you’re buying electronics or household appliances, the retailer will likely offer you an extended warranty. Don’t take the bait.
Most extended warranties aren’t worth the money, because the items rarely break during their warranty period, and if they do, the repair cost most likely isn’t much more than the warranty, especially after the loopholes.
Try to pay with a credit card that offers a one-year extension on the manufacturer’s warranty, which might be better than what the retailer is offering.
Ask for a price match
Major retailers like Target, Best Buy and Walmart will match prices with competitors. Bring the sales flyer or show the price on your smartphone to customer service to verify that the item qualifies for price matching.
Look for price drops
If you buy something and the retailer drops the price soon afterwards, some credit cards will refund you the difference as part of their price protection policy, so keep your receipts just in case.
If you are shopping online, services like Earny and Paribus will comb through your email receipts and request credit card refunds automatically for certain credit card issuers in the event of a price drop. You can create a separate account just for online shopping receipts if the idea of granting access to your email creeps you out.
Retale lets you track specific retailers in your local geographic area and has a tab where users can preview Black Friday circulars.
RetailMeNot lets user can pull up in-store mobile coupons on their phone or purchase discounted gift cards. You can also use the website to find discount codes for items you’re buying online.
Brad’s Deals lets you search your favorite stores for deals and coupons and save coupons for later.
DealNews offers up-to-the-minute information on online and in-store deals, including Black Friday circulars you can access on your phone.
Benefit Mobile lets you buy discounted gift cards to use at major retailers like Target and Banana Republic and donate the difference to charity or apply it to life expenses such as your mortgage or car payment.
Honey doesn’t have a mobile app, but its Chrome browser plugin will apply promo codes automatically when you shop online or alert you if another Amazon seller offers the same item for less.
Use caution shopping on mobile apps
Consumers have gotten savvier about not clicking on phishing emails, so experts caution that some scammers have moved onto fake shopping apps designed to steal your credit card information or install malware on your phone.
If you’re downloading a mobile shopping app, make sure you’re using the retailer’s official app and not a copycat app. Follow the link directly from the retailer’s own website rather than searching in the app store.
Read reviews to ensure that it’s a legitimate app. If an app doesn’t have any reviews yet or the name seems fishy, it may not be the real deal.
- See also this Forbes article on Black Friday smart shopping strategies
- See also this Consumer Reports article on top Black Friday shopping tips
This article was adapted from Consumer Reports and other sources, and first published in 2017.