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Black Friday Tips, Part 1: Preparing & Finding Pre-Black Friday Deals

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Ah, Black Friday: you’ve gotta love it. What other day of the year will find me racing out the door at 3am in the morning just so I can… stand in a line. In the freezing cold. With people I don’t know.

Ok, ok, I know I’m leaving out the good stuff (the deals) for dramatic effect, but—hey—you’ve got to allow me some liberties here or this guide wouldn’t be very fun to read. As you may or may not know, Black Friday is the Friday immediately after Thanksgiving and it is arguably the biggest shopping day of the year, when stores offer some of their biggest discounts.

This two part guide will show you how to get the best possible savings on Black Friday with the least possible hassle. And it all starts with this little gem… 
  • Black Friday Ain’t What it Used to Be: Simply put, Black Friday isn’t the be-all-end-all shopping day it once was. Yes, you can still find some stellar, “today only” deals, but they are less common than they used to be. Most of the deals these days are the same ones you’ll find at other times of the year. In fact, you’ll often see the same promotions running just weeks before and after Black Friday. Over recent years, more and more stores have started advertising their "Black Friday" deals as early as a week or two prior and allowing customers to buy early. Plus, you've got plenty of online shopping opportunities which brings us to our next point...
  • Shop Online First: Black Friday is traditionally about deals in the actual store, but more and more deals are found online these days. As such, we recommend scoping out the deals before, during and after Black Friday. Start on Thanksgiving day, check again before you go out to the stores on Black Friday and then periodically check throughout the following weekend until the end of Cyber Monday (the Monday after Thanksgiving). If all that "scoping" sounds like a bit much for you, then keep it simple: check online for deals once before you head to the stores--either on Thanksgiving night before you go to bed or Black Friday morning. If you find the deals you want online, you've saved yourself a trip. If not, you still have time to head to the stores. One final note: Although it will vary from store to store, we've noticed that more stores tend to offer free shipping on Cyber Monday. 
  • Start Tracking BF Deals Now: Start monitoring now so when Black Friday (and Cyber Monday) arrives, you can tell if a deal is truly great or if it’s something that just happened last week and is likely to roll around next week too. Check online, your weekly circulars or wherever else you find deals. Then compare them against popular Black Friday deal sites. There are many sites that track BF deals, but our favorite is Fatwallet which has a really robust list and well organized information.
  • Get Cash Back: When you're ready to shop, sign-up to get cash back. When you sign-up, you'll get a $10 free gift card with your first $25 purchase, plus cash back rebates of 3%, 6%, 8% or more at 1,600 online stores. Best of all--it's free!  This is a great way to save all year round--not just on Black Friday.
  • Use Credit Cards that Offer the Best Rewards: Just like cash back, these savings will be in addition to the discounted sale price. We like that!
  • Pay with Discounted Gift Cards: Another option is to purchase discounted gift cards from a store like Cardpool. Paying $90 for a $100 gift card is like getting $10 free!
  • Comparison Shop: This goes hand in hand with tracking deals. If you have a particular item you’re shopping for, it pays to comparison shop now so you’re familiar with prices and deals on the item. This will also help you assess the value of a Black Friday deal. Store A might be offering a better discount than Store B, but if their base price is higher you may still end up paying more. Check out this article for a quick 101 on comparison shopping.
  • Create a List: Don’t rely on memory alone! As you track your deals and comparison shop, make a list of what you find. This will keep you focused and informed on Black Friday. If you see a deal that’s just so great you need to buy it now now now!!! Stop…take a breath…check your list. If it still looks like a good deal, snatch it up. If not, keep on shopping around for a great deal. It's also a good idea to keep track of your priorities: what do you really need/want versus what would be nice to have if you can find a great deal? You might find a great camera for $100, but if your current camera works just fine, you'll be better off putting that $100 toward another purchase that you really need.
  • Figure In Related Costs: You might find a great price on an item, but don't forget about any extras you'll need that may not be on sale. This is particularly relevant for big box electronics. Take a Blu-Ray player for example. You might find one at a really low price, but what about the cables to hook it up to your TV? Or all those movies? You should comparison shop for these items to ensure you'll get the best price too. Also, don't feel pressured into getting these extras right then and there unless you know they're being offered at a great price. I'm sure Best Buy will be glad to sell you an HDMI cable for $40, but you can find one just as good on Amazon for under $10.
  • Buy Now to Ensure Item Availability: If there’s a particular item you want and are afraid that it will sell out before you can pick it up on Black Friday... buy it now and ask for a price adjustment. Many companies are do this these days. If you really want the item though, we recommend still showing up at the store early enough that you can purchase it that day if necessary. If they’re willing to do the price adjustment, you’re all set. If they’re not, you can still pick up the Black Friday deal and return the one you bought previously. Be sure to check the store’s return policy to make sure they’ll accept it.
  • Price Matching is More Common Than Ever: Similar to the tip above, more and more stores are matching the prices their competitors offer. Some advertise this, while others do it quietly, so always be sure to ask. In fact, Amazon often does the latter: if you find a great deal at Best Buy, it's likely Amazon has adjusted their prices to match it so always check there as an alternative. When you do find a good price, do whatever you can to record it. If you see it listed in a circular, take it to the store with you. If you see it online, print the page. If you have a smartphone, you can also pull up the website, though we'd recommend paper since internet connection may be spotty in the store and you never know when the company will update it's website and change the price!
So, there you have it: a handful of tips to make your pre-Black Friday shopping and preparation easier and more valuable. Have you got some tips of your own? We'd love to hear them, so leave us a comment!

Also, be sure to check back out part two of our Black Friday Tips where we provide resources and tactics that will get you the most value with the least stress from the biggest shopping day of the year.

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