Some people love the rush of searching for deals and loading up their shopping bags on Black Friday. This year, retailers are encouraging online shopping, but most will open their doors after Thanksgiving for in-person bargain hunting. If you decide to venture out on one of the biggest shopping days of the year, consider these 11 Black Friday shopping tips to save your sanity and hopefully some money, too. (Plus, many of our best advice applies to online shopping, as well.)
1. Make a wish list.
Just because something is on sale doesn’t mean you need it. Start by making a list of all the items you hope to buy, either for a holiday gift or because you are ready to upgrade your TV or replace your broken camera. Focus your Black Friday shopping on the key products you have decided to buy, rather than spending frivolously. Some retailers may have limited stock on sale items, or might not discount the exact model you want, so consider creating a plan B in case your first-choice item is unavailable.
2. Do your homework and determine in advance what’s on sale.
Start by doing some research so you know what are good prices and what are amazing deals for the items you wish to buy. Not everything is on sale on Black Friday, and the “compare at” price isn’t always accurate.
Next, read Black Friday circulars in advance to determine which items retailers are offering at what prices. Look for “leaked” sale info sites such as DealNews or The Black Friday. For retailers where you shop regularly, consider signing up for email offers and following them on social media so you’re up-to-date on their sales and special promotions.
Then, prioritize your shopping list based on the best deals you find, and decide which stores to hit when.
And, remember, many doorbusters are available online, as well. Bookmark the web pages of products on your list, so you can go straight to the item and get it in your cart as soon as the sale starts.
3. Have a shopping plan.
Call stores to learn what time they open or check out ads in newspapers and online. Previously, many retailers opened on Thanksgiving and stayed open for 40+ hours straight. However, in 2020, most stores are not opening on Thanksgiving Day. (Costco and TJMaxx tend not to open on Turkey Day anyway, and REI started a new trend of closing its doors on Black Friday, too.)
Scout out the store in advance to familiarize yourself with the layout. That way, you can make a beeline to what you want, nab it, and get to the check-out quicker.
This year, stores will be limiting the number of people inside, so be prepared to wait in line. Some might give out tickets or wristbands to shoppers looking for specific doorbuster items, so if inventory runs out, you can pick up the item at a later date but still get the Black Friday sale price.
If you plan to shop in person in 2020, wear a mask and maintain a safe space from other shoppers in line and in the aisles. Expect store staff to guide you on where to stand and possibly limit shoppers in areas of the stores with popular merchandise. Alternatively, consider shopping online and accessing curbside same-day pickup at retailers like Target and Walmart.
4. Start later in the day.
Don’t need to be the first in line? Try stopping by your favorite retailers on Black Friday afternoon or in the evening after the crowds have thinned. Many stores will be open late – unless your area has imposed a curfew. You may have to dig through strewn merchandise, but many sale items remain available.
If you’re shopping after the initial rush, go slowly through the aisles, and look for sale items stashed behind a different product or left behind on the wrong shelf. You might find some excellent deals that other shoppers overlooked.
5. Stick to your list.
Black Friday is the king of loss-leader strategy. Retailers use doorbusters 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!
If you spot an item you like, be sure to also look up or down. The most expensive merchandise is at eye-level, while lower-cost versions are stocked in shelves above or below. Sale items are most often in the back left-hand corner of a store.
6. Don’t assume all items are on sale or that prices are as marked.
Do not be enticed by big neon sales stickers. Not all items claiming to be marked down are actually on sale or a good deal. Know your prices, so you pick up only bargains and don’t get tricked into buying gifts at close to full price, when you could wait and get a deal in December.
On the flip side, some stores don’t have time to change the price signs on all their merchandise. You can easily miss a bargain because the marked price is wrong. Bring the Black Friday ads with you, or bookmark online circulars, so you can confirm sale pricing and offer proof to any skeptical salespeople.
7. Buy now, trade later.
See the style, but not the size you want? If the store allows returns or exchanges on merchandise, buy it at a discount and bring in back next week when your size might be in stock. While this is generally a good strategy, you’ll want to check 2020 return policies before you try it. Not all stores are being so kind about returns this year.
In the same vein, 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. Keep your receipts just in case.
If you’re 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.
8. Be on the lookout for price matching.
Many brick & mortar stores such as Target, Walmart, Best Buy, Staples, and Home Depot will match prices with online competitors including Amazon. In the store, show the competitor’s online price for a specific item (bring the sales flyer or have it on your smartphone) or go to customer service to verify that the item qualifies for price matching.
9. Skip the extended warranty.
If you’re purchasing electronics and household appliances, the extended warranty is typically not worth the money. That’s because the items don’t break during their warranty period and if they do, the repair cost isn’t much more than the warranty, which often has loopholes. Doublecheck your credit card policies, too. Many versions of MasterCard and American Express offer free one-year extensions on manufacturer warranties.
10. 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. You can follow the link directly from the retailer’s own website rather than searching in the app store. Also 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.
11. Skip it and still save.
Want to avoid the madness? Shop at home. In 2020, retailers are offering Black Friday level deals throughout November, and bargains are likely to be had in December, as well.
Hot to shop a specific retailer? Sign up on its website for deal alerts or follow it on Twitter and/or Facebook.