17 Expert-Backed Shopping Tips for Black Friday 2019
These Black Friday tips will help you score some major savings.
Sure, you could show up to stores on Black Friday without a game plan—but that doesn't mean that you should. By scouring stores' ads and researching past price points, you can budget and choose which stores to visit accordingly. But even that amount of effort is hardly enough to prepare you for the chaos that is Black Friday. To help get you ready for the post-Thanksgiving retail holiday madness, we've compiled some expert-backed Black Friday tips that will help you score those deals in the most painless way possible.
Stack savings by using discounted gift cards.
“You can stack more savings on an existing sale or create your own sale by shopping with a discounted gift card,” says smart shopping expert Trae Bodge of True Trae. “If you find a 15 percent discounted gift card on a site like GiftCardGranny.com and then shop with it, you’ve automatically saved yourself 15 percent.”
But don't be fooled by deals that offer free gift cards or more coupons.
Don't let the allure of free gift cards and coupons persuade you into buy things you don't want or need on Black Friday. “Gift cards and store credit deals—such as the one offering $15 in Kohl's Cash for every $50 you spend—offer shoppers huge savings on popular products that are often excluded from coupons,” notes DealNews.com consumer analyst Michael Bonebright. “However, if you never spend that store credit, you're effectively overpaying. Avoid this trap by only buying store credit deals from stores you regularly shop at."
Use browser extensions to find coupons and get cash back.
There are tons of extensions you can download that sync up with your browser and find you better deals while you shop. “If you shop online and are not using a browser extension, you’re leaving money on the table,” says Bodge. "Browser extensions make your browser smarter, which in this case means comparing prices, offering and applying coupons, and alerting you to cash-back opportunities."
Check out online ads before you shop.
Do your research in advance from the comfort of your home to make sure you get the best deal. “Some of the coupon sites have all the circulars in one place, which I find handy," says Bodge. "Slickdeals.net offers this, and you can also set a deal alert [to] be notified when an item goes on sale. I also like the Flipp app, which has the circulars within the app [and] is helpful when you’re in store."
Don't forget to shop at your local wholesale club.
On Black Friday, don’t forget to check out the offerings at your local wholesale club if you're a member. “Wholesale clubs often offer amazing deals on Black Friday, so if you’re paying for a membership, definitely check what sales [your local wholesale club is] offering, especially on electronics,” says Bodge.
Don't have a membership? According to Bodge, BJ's offers an online-only membership for just $10 per year that gives you access to exclusive online discounts—and this can come in handy on Black Friday.
Know what to buy on Black Friday…
Though pretty much everything gets marked down on Black Friday, not all deals are created equal. So what's worth buying? Well, according to Sara Skirboll, shopping and trends expert at RetailMeNot, the best deals on Black Friday can be found in the electronics department. "If you see a good deal on TVs, computers, tablets, or phones, pick [them] up immediately," she says. "Electronics are going to be heavily discounted, which means people will start shopping super early."
According to Skirboll, small appliances are a good bet, too. “Look for items like coffeemakers, electric skillets, slow cookers, toasters, deep fryers, blenders, and rice makers,” she says. “Retailers make more mass orders than they usually stock, and prices drop much lower than normal retail.”
And what not to buy.
You aren't going to see the best prices across all categories on Black Friday. And one category in particular that you'll want to avoid during the shopping holiday is furniture.
"You may find ads for doorbuster deals on furniture from your local department stores or retailers, but don’t give in to the hype," says Skirboll. "Black Friday is not the time to buy these items, as indoor furniture is at its lowest in January and July through August, while the best discounts on patio furniture happen between August and September." Other categories that she suggests avoiding include toys, bedding, and fitness equipment.
Avoid those supposedly "great" travel deals.
Think twice before booking your next vacation during Black Friday. “Buying airline tickets far in advance does not always yield the best airfare," Bodge says. "Wait until after January to purchase airline tickets for spring travel. The optimum window to lock in airfare this time of year is about six to eight weeks out.”
If you don't want to wait until after January to secure your seats on the plane, you can always see what's available on Travel Tuesday, which is what experts call the Tuesday after Cyber Monday. If you decide to do this, Bodge says you should "use an app like Hopper to seek out deals for you. It will look for deals for a destination that you designate and even make suggestions for deals at other locations."
And on't fall for "fake" deals.
On Black Friday, many retailers will offer seriously slashed prices on items of inferior quality in highly coveted categories and try to make them out to be the best deals ever.
“Sometimes, doorbusters and other deals that sound too good to be true… are,” notes NerdWallet personal finance expert Kimberly Palmer. “That’s because instead of selling a high-quality television or computer with all the bells and whistles at a record low price, retailers actually sell lower-quality products at that low price so it looks better than it is. Make sure you review all the details of what you’re purchasing, including details like screen resolution and hard drive memory.”
In order to avoid being blinded by sales that aren't worth your time or money on Black Friday, make sure to read product reviews before you buy.
“It’s not really a good deal if you get a product that doesn’t meet your needs or work like it should,” says online shopping expert and PriceBlink president Karl Quist. “You’re better off paying a bit more for an item that works instead of just grabbing the cheapest one. Check the reviews to make sure you’re getting what you pay for.”
Compare prices before you purchase.
There are plenty of price comparison tools that do the work for you when it comes to getting the best deals on Black Friday. “Amazon has good prices, but people mistakenly assume they always have the best price. In fact, more than half of the time, there is a lower price available from another online store,” Quist notes. “It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of Black Friday and assume that all sales are great deals. Often, other [less popular] merchants will have cut the price on the same item.”
Take advantage of your smartphone while you shop.
To get the most out of in-store shopping during Black Friday, keep that smartphone handy. “Shoppers should rely on mobile shopping to supplement their in-store experiences,” says Bonebright. “Then they can take advantage of conveniences like online price comparison, mobile coupons, and in-store pickup.”
Track the price history of any items you want.
"The best deals aren’t always offered on Black Friday, and not all Black Friday deals will be deep discounts," says Quist. "By tracking the price history of a particular item, you can see when the price has been historically the lowest and decide whether to buy now or wait for a better deal. Focus on the items that have dropped substantially from their pre-holiday levels, and act fast on those deals since they will likely sell out quickly."
Use the shopping perks that come with your credit card.
Palmer advises Black Friday shoppers to harness the power of the credit cards they already use (and may even pay a fee for). “If you have an American Express card in your wallet, did you know it comes with ShopRunner, free two-day shipping, and returns at over 100 retailers? If you have a Chase or Citi card, did you know you have access to their sites’ bonus malls, where you can shop and earn extra cash back or points? Other cards offer price protection, so you get a refund if the price goes down after you purchase the item.”
Find out when your favorite stores start their Black Friday sales.
Even though Black Friday is technically on Friday, of course, many stores start to offer deals well before then. “If you're looking for the best time to snag a deal, stay up Wednesday night [before Thanksgiving] and shop then," suggests Jon Vincent, the expert shopper behind the website EarlyBlackFriday.com. "Retailers typically flip the switch on their sale a few hours before Thanksgiving so you can quickly get the deals while everyone else is sleeping. Some retailers such as Kohl's and Amazon will [even] have their deals available starting on the Monday before Thanksgiving."
Be strategic (and safe) when you shop in stores.
If you love shopping in store on Black Friday, more power to you. However, try to preserve the joy of the season by parking as far away from the store as possible.
"There are always crowds in front of the store making it difficult to navigate,” Vincent says. “Instead, we suggest you park further away from the entrance so that you can quickly buy your items, load up the car, and head off to another store without having to worry about avoiding all of the foot traffic that will be heading into and out of the store.”
And don't forget about the smaller stores.
“Don't forget to visit your local stores on Black Friday," says Chuck Casto, retail marketing expert at small business network Alignable. "Your charming local stores offer great deals, one-of-a-kind products, and some of the best nostalgic shopping experiences anywhere. Some small businesses save their deals until Small Business Saturday, so save some of that shopping money for that holiday as well."