15 Secrets You Need to Know About Black Friday Deals, According to Experts
Scoring big Black Friday deals and steals is an expert's game—here's how you win.
If the Black Friday frenzy feels like it's getting more intense with every passing year, you're not imagining things. In 2018, the total amount of money spent on Black Friday weekend reached roughly $59.6 billion, according to estimates from GlobalData Retail. That's a 5.7 percent increase from 2017 sales! Now, to prepare yourself for the biggest shopping day of the year this year, it's time for you to get smart about the fact that not all Black Friday deals are created equal.
With retailers eager to move massive amounts of inventory, they're liable to resort to tricks and traps to make sure you buy what they want you to buy, not necessarily what you actually want. "Black Friday is big business and marketers have our number," says Cherie Lowe, a personal finance blogger at Queen of Free and the author of Slaying the Debt Dragon. Before heading out, she warns, "resolve to stay out of traps like using credit instead of debit or cash, not setting a budget, or buying 'gifts' for yourself." Of course, that's easier said than done. But with a bit of expert knowledge, you can cut through the gimmicks and get right to the savings. Get ready to nab those products you've been dreaming of after you study these insider secrets for scoring big on Black Friday!
Use gift cards
Want to save big on your Black Friday haul? Make gift cards the only plastic you're using. "The best money-saving shopping tips generally follow a two-part process that involves stacking discounts together," says Lou Haverty, a personal finance expert at Financial Analyst Insider. "First purchase a gift card to the store you plan to purchase from [at a discount]," he explains, "and then you use the gift card to make the final purchase." By saving on both, Haverty estimates, "you can easily get 30 percent to 50 percent discounts in total."
Visit niche stores
That specialty store may be your best bet when it comes to scoring major savings on Black Friday. "Lines outside places like Walmart and Best Buy are always massive," explains Dustyn Ferguson, personal finance blogger and founder of Dime Will Tell. "Instead, skip the popular stores and go to less popular locations. The more specific a store's offerings, the less busy it will be." Places like GameStop or Kiehl's have great deals, but less competition to scoop them up, Ferguson notes.
Use shopping apps
Your biggest asset when it comes to scoring Black Friday deals is right there in your pocket. We're talking about the shopping apps on your smartphone, of course! "With everything from weekly ads, to store ads, to price comparison options, you'll want to spend some quality time with your smartphone," Lowe says. On her must-download list? Bfads, Black Friday FM, and The Black Friday. By helping to compare and keep track of deals, she explains, these apps allow you to spend your energy on more important things—like getting to aisle 5 before your neighbor does!
Sign up for loyalty programs
Once you know where you'll be shopping, Lowe urges you to "investigate any rewards programs…[to] sign up for ASAP." You work hard for your money, so it's important to make it work just as hard for you. "If you're going to be spending money, you should definitely take advantage of any rewards programs your store offers," she says.
And add your name to mailing lists
If you want to score the best Black Friday deals, you may have to provide some personal information first—namely, your email address. "With Black Friday being crazy busy, we've seen merchants try to get a head start on the day by running their marketing campaigns a day earlier," says George Hartley, CEO and co-founder of marketing app Smartr Mail. "If I was a shopper, I'd sign up to email lists to catch the exact moment items go on Black Friday prices." With ample warning, you can make sure to plan out your Black Friday so you don't miss a single deal.
Make a plan and stick to it
"When will the stores open?" "Are there deals that occur only during specific time periods?" These are just two of the many variables to consider when scheduling your Black Friday shopping plans, explains Lowe. "You need to create a hit list and rank what items are of most importance to you," she says.
By making a plan beforehand, you can help to avoid some of the stress that inevitably affects all shoppers on the busiest shopping day of the year. Syed Farhan Raza, founder of SFR Digital, adds that "the best way to get the most out of [Black Friday] is to buy less and focus more on what you actually need." Getting organized will help keep you on track—avoiding all those things you definitely didn't need but ended up grabbing because of their steep discount.
Bring family and friends
Want to make the most of your Black Friday shopping? Don't hit the stores solo. "One person can hold larger items in a cart in a less trafficked area of the store while another darts around for deals," explains Lowe. Make sure to "schedule a time to chat about where you'd like to go and which deals you're hoping to score." After all, a team needs to be on the same page to work together effectively.
Carry your own bags
"Carts = gridlock, and you need to be a mean, lean shopping machine," says Lowe. With reusable bags on hand, she explains, "you'll be able to quickly maneuver through the aisles and find the items you need more quickly." Because when it comes to securing the best Black Friday deals, speed is everything.
Look for the unusual
Lowe says "everyone else can have the toys, TVs, and clothes, [but] you need to be on the lookout for the unusual items," as they tend to be the most heavily discounted on Black Friday. It's the lesser-in-demand items, she explains, that often receive the largest markups. So keep your eye out for the obscure, and you'll score the Black Friday deals that no one will believe!
Don't assume you're getting the lowest possible price
"Buyer beware—not every Black Friday deal is worth it," warns Sara Skirboll, a shopping and trends expert at Retail Me Not. "Things like furniture, the latest gaming consoles, spring airfare, and gift cards may be slightly discounted, but you can find better deals closer to Christmas…or at different times of year," she explains. Instead, focus on items that generally do not receive discounts throughout the year, like personal care products or pet goods—Black Friday is their time to shine.
Beware of off-brand items
"Some doorbuster deals may seem like huge savings, but only for off-brand or lower quality items," Skirboll says. So, make sure that deal applies to the higher-grade product that you actually want. There's no sense in buying a third-rate TV just for the Black Friday discount if it's less dependable in the long run.
And of older products, too
While there are plenty of items you might be comfortable buying a year or two after they first hit the market, Black Friday isn't the time to snag those older models. "Beware of deals on older products," says Louryn Strampe, senior deals analyst for Thrifter. While these deals may appear fruitful, you can often purchase older items online for similar or better prices throughout the year, she explains.
One example is Target's $25 deal on video games. "If the game in question is from 2016, you can probably find it for $25 or even less at other points throughout the year," Strampe says.
Watch for bloated discounts
"It's a common tactic for retailers to inflate the value of a discount by comparing the deal price with the highest possible price for the item in question," says Strampe. "In many cases, the item will never actually see that high price tag in stores." In fact, with so many supposedly slashed prices flying around, retailers will do anything to catch your eye, including telling white lies about what that item cost in the first place. To avoid getting duped, Strampe recommends using apps like BuyVia or websites like CamelCamelCamel to review an item's pricing history before purchasing.
Shop from home
While it may seem counterintuitive, skipping those long lines at your favorite big box stores may save you more cash in the long run on Black Friday. Or, to put it simply: "Stay at home!" advises Skirboll. "Plenty of retailers will be offering Black Friday deals online. You get the benefit of being able to price compare the items you want in just a matter of seconds!" (Not to mention the benefit of staying in your comfy PJs all day.)
But make sure you're getting free two-way shipping
When shopping online, always "look for two-way free shipping," advises Skirboll. "While most retailers have caught on that free shipping is a must, be sure to check the return policies before you hit 'purchase,'" otherwise returning an item may cost you. After all, when it comes to gifts, it's always better to play it safe with the return policy.