Black Friday is coming.
The anticipation is palpable. But, a part of me wonders - are they really ‘deals’?
There are rumors of off-brand electronics that break after a week and jacked up prices that are marked down 50% off just in time for Black Friday shopping. And then, of course, there is the #optoutside campaign which encourages us to forgo shopping and connect with the outdoors.
The problem is… the FOMO is strong.
Am I really saving by shopping on Black Friday?
The very first time I went Black Friday shopping, it was for the experience. New to the U.S., my friend told me, “It’s an American rite of passage.” I didn’t really need anything, but I figured there must be unbeatable deals because so many people turned up each year.
We woke up at 4 a.m., and the first pre-dawn stop was Starbucks. There was a line of people ready for their kick start. The excitement was in the air – there were bargains to be had! And so we started… by 11 a.m. I was exhausted and had ten things I didn’t really need.
Was this worth it? Are Black Friday deals really that good? Are Black Friday deals worth it?
Do stores raise prices before Black Friday?
This is a common thought – that stores artificially raise prices before Black Friday so that you can be persuaded by the 50% off signs. This appears to be a common approach with clothing, but less so with electronics and games. From a seasoned retailer, I learned that there are three ways items will appear in Black Friday sales:
Older model electronics and base models.
These are the models retailers want to clear because a new model is coming out, and they need to clear warehouse space, or they have too many of an item in stock and want to maximize sales now before the item goes out of fashion.
This year’s older model clear-out will be the PS4. The PS4 is a great bargain to grab if you don’t need extra functionality or bragging rights with a PS5. Air Fryers and Instant Pots are the rumored overstocked items according to The Deal Guy, and prices could be even lower after Black Friday.
Items brought in for the sale that are low quality, low price.
Black Friday sales often have items that appear to be just too cheap to pass up. These will be ‘off-brand’ TVs or cheap appliances. These types of items are known as ‘made’ for Black Friday.
It’s a good way for an unknown brand to get exposure and a great way to entice shoppers into the store. In the sales world, these are called ‘loss leaders.’ Loss leaders are priced below or at the same price the store paid. Not all loss leaders are off-brand; sometimes, they are great brands with fewer features. For example, Target is offering a Google Home Mini for $19.
Good stuff that is full price and marked down.
You are excited to bring home the latest appliance or TV, but is this truly the lowest price on offer? It could be. For the first time Apple, who doesn’t normally participate in Black Friday, have quite a few deals in the stores that sell their items – Target, Walmart etc. (Note the Apple Stores will not have these deals).
These are the deals you will talk about after Black Friday!
To get the best deals, you need to do your research. Know your prices ahead of time by doing a quick online search for the product – look at model numbers too so that you are not confused by the variety.
How to Get the Best Black Friday Deals
Getting the best deals is all about research, preparation and being organized. My favorite tool to do price research is the price aggregator camelcamelcamel.
This site will tell you the highest and lowest prices of an item on Amazon and 3rd party sites for the last month or even the last year. This is a great tool for knowing if a deal is good or if there are better deals, historically, at other times.
I researched three of the top items in the Walmart Black Friday catalog as well as the Target Black Friday catalog and compared them to the best deals all year. The results were interesting and not what I expected.
- Walmart: $49 - 6 quarts, base model
- Amazon: was $49 in July December and August
- Target: $64.95 - 6 quarts – Duo Nova
- Amazon: was $64.95 in early November
- Walmart: $69 Versa Inspire HR
- Target: $69.95 Versa Inspire HR
- Amazon: The lowest price was $80 in August.
- Walmart: $129
- Target: $144.99
- Amazon: The lowest price was $139 in April and May.
How to approach Black Friday sales to save time and money
Now that we know the deals are real, you need a “playbook” to maximize savings and time and energy. This can be a time where you get distracted, and if you are a budget, you have to stay focused.
- Make a list of the items you want note the regular price and the best price you found on camelcamelcamel Ask yourself, is this the only time something I need will be available?
- List the store where you can get the best deal and the price you will pay if you get that deal. For example: Is 5 a.m. in-store the only time this is available? Can I get this online?
- If you can buy this online, put the item in your shopping cart right now. On Black Friday, simply refresh your shopping cart, make sure the prices update and click, they are yours.
- Map out and list the items you need at each store and what time you need to be there.
- If you need a ‘wow, that’s a bargain’ impulse allowance, use cash. Putting cash in your pocket for the extra things will help you stick to your budget. No cash, no more extra’s.
Winning on Black Friday
Using these approaches, I tried Black Friday shopping again in 2018, years after my first ‘experience.’ We made a wish list, shopped online and then went for a hike.
Nothing we needed had to be in hand immediately, and websites were all offering free shipping.
And, that’s what I call a win-win situation!