Black Friday, the Friday after Thanksgiving, is one of the biggest shopping days of the year and an ideal time to get the best deals on items on your list, whether you’re buying online or in stores.
This year, shoppers will face some hurdles related to product shortages and longer delivery times amid higher demand. That means you could have trouble getting all the items on your list, especially if you shop later. However in shoppers’ favor, many retailers are launching their holiday deals earlier than Black Friday.
Whether you’re shopping for holiday gifts or you’re buying for yourself, scoring the best Black Friday deals means starting early. Here are some tips to help you plan to get the most out of the slew of discounts.
- Use ads to plan your shopping day so you have a better chance of getting your most-wanted items.
- Many retailers start running Black Friday deals at the end of October, so you can start shopping early.
- Consider subscribing to retailers' emails to get notified of savings opportunities immediately.
- Check return and price-match policies in advance to help you decide where to shop.
Check the Ads and Apps
Many retailers start circulating their Black Friday ads weeks before the actual shopping day, which gives you plenty of time to start shopping for the best deals.
Checking out the ads early will help you organize your day so you can save time as you take advantage of early sales. As part of mapping out your plan, learn when retailers require you to be in the store or online at specific hours.
Consider downloading your favorite retailers’ apps for early information on deals such as Black Friday discounts. Some apps offer push notifications, giving you instant notice of sales. Some apps even help you find the best place to park or the best route to take to the store.
You can also join retailers' email lists or follow them on social media to keep tabs on their offers as they announce them.
Compare prices to make sure you're getting the best price, especially for higher-priced items where the savings can be significant. You can use price comparison apps such as RedLaser and ShopSavvy, both of which pull price information from multiple retailers to help you find the lowest price.
You can use the apps to find the best prices in advance, or you can use them while you're shopping in the store. If you’re in one store and you find a lower price from another retailer, you may want to ask about a possible price match.
Do Your Research Well Before Friday
As you spot items you want to buy, research reviews of different brands so you won't be surprised by quality. Find out this season's hottest items so you'll know which items will be harder to get. That way, you can prioritize them.
Knowing the original prices of products will help you identify the significant markdowns versus a promotion for just a minor discount.
Prices are generally higher for the 2021 holiday season due to inflation and higher demand, and discount levels have been lower for sales weekends, such as Labor Day and Memorial Day. So be aware that your total savings may be lower as a result.
Research the return and exchange policies for each retailer you're shopping with. Understand the types of products you can return, the time limit for returns (some retailers have extended return periods for the holidays), and whether you'll need to provide a receipt. You’ll also want to know whether you can return the products for cash, or whether you'll have to get store credit or a gift card.
If you're planning to shop online, find out whether you can return the item to a physical store or if you're required to return it by mail. You may want to avoid stores with strict return policies if you have any concerns about buying the product.
In addition to Black Friday, retailers often commonly offer steep discounts throughout the holiday season. That includes:
- Cyber Monday: The Monday following Black Friday that is focused on online deals
- Small Business Saturday: The Saturday following Thanksgiving that is focused on supporting smaller, local retailers
- Green Monday: The second Monday in December and a major online shopping day
Look for Early-Bird Shopper Discounts
You don't have to wait until Black Friday to take advantage of the flurry of discounts because many retailers offer early-bird discounts. You may even be able to get all your “Black Friday” shopping complete before Thanksgiving and avoid the crowds.
Starting early also gives you a better chance of getting your items on time if the retailer runs out of stock due to recent issues with shortages or higher-than-expected demand.
Expect retailers to advertise different deals throughout November and December, so keep a close eye on the price trends for your top items. Deals may be limited to a specific day or time period, and products may sell out quickly.
Plan Where You Want to Shop
Mapping out your day will help you make the most of Black Friday, no matter if you'll do most of your shopping online, in person, or a combination of the two.
If you're looking for the season's hottest items, consider prioritizing them as ones to buy first, since they may go fast. You may have to be in line when the doors open to get dibs on your priority items. Some stores have specific hours for sales, so plan your day according to the sales you want to catch.
Check the store's website or app to learn in advance whether the item is available. Some retailers even add the exact location of items in the store so you don't have to spend time searching.
Keep in mind that due to the pandemic, many retailers have been experiencing product shortages, which could affect the availability of some of your target items. “Out of stock” messages have spiked significantly since the pandemic hit, especially in apparel, sporting goods, toddler and baby items, and electronics, in a trend that has shown no signs of slowing as of July 2021.
Make sure the stores you want to visit are still open and verify the address. Some stores may have closed or moved locations since your last visit.
If you're not sure where a store is located in a mall or shopping center, visit the center’s website in advance. This way, you'll know where to park without wasting time circling the parking lot, scanning signs. Depending on your shopping location, it may be helpful to use a parking app to help you locate (and pay for when it's required) parking.
You can also take advantage of curbside or store pickup if the retailer offers it. That way, you can avoid store crowds or parking hassles.
Many retailers offer price matching, which means they'll lower their marked price to match a competitor's price. Price matching gives you a chance to get an item for the lowest price at your favorite retailer, or get an item that has sold out at a retailer with a lower-priced advertisement.
Look up the store's price-match policy ahead of time, so you won't be surprised if a retailer doesn't match prices.
When you're asking for a price match, you'll typically need to bring proof that you can get a lower price on the same item, such as a print ad or a screenshot of a competitor’s offering. The products must be the exact same to get the lowest price, including size, model, and even color.
Some retailers price match with online retailers, while others may have a specific list of competitors they'll price match. Doorbuster or early-bird specials, including Black Friday specials, may not be included in some retailers' price-match guarantees.
Ask for Gift Receipts
Gift receipts make it easier for your gift recipient to return or exchange the item. They typically include a description of the purchase, but not the price.
You can request a gift receipt for online and in-store purchases so your loved one can make a hassle-free exchange or return. Some retailers, including Amazon, even make gift receipts available online or through their app after your purchase.
Be Careful When Charging Black Friday Shopping
Using your credit card may offer benefits like rewards points, an extended warranty, or purchase protection. But be careful about overspending with credit. High credit card balances may take longer to repay, which could mean you will pay more in interest.
Set a budget and make a list in advance, then keep an eye on your balance as you spend. Some card issuers offer apps that help you easily track your spending while you're shopping. You'll be able to check your balance and available credit in real time.
Be aware that the season’s significant markdowns may tempt you to buy impulsively. However, remember that spending money you didn't plan to spend isn't really "saving."
Finally, don't hesitate to return things you don't need even if you think you got a good deal on them. You can lower your credit card balance by taking unplanned purchases back to the store. Some retailers are offering extended return periods, which give you a little more time to make your return.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Why is it called “Black Friday”?
Police officers in Philadelphia first started calling the day after Thanksgiving “Black Friday” to refer to the chaos of tourists coming to the city for their holiday shopping. Then, in the 1980s, retailers used the phrase to describe Black Friday as the day they finally turned a profit for the year—their bottom-line numbers went from the red to the black.
When do Black Friday ads start to come out?
Some retailers begin sharing Black Friday ads in late October. Expect to see ads released periodically throughout the month of November, with some promotions starting in the weeks leading up to Black Friday.