Tips for shopping Black Friday

Black Friday shopping tips

There are a number of ways for shoppers to ensure they get a genuine good deal and make thoughtful purchasing decisions during Black Friday sales. Consumers should:

1. Do the research

Research is the best way to avoid poor decision-making and overspending in Black Friday sales.

  • Find the best price. There will be some great deals out there among the bad and the ugly, but the chances are that you won't find them without careful research.i
  • Find the right product. No matter how low the price, a lousy product or the wrong product is no bargain.
  • Use deal websites and apps. Many websites and apps, such as RetailMeNot, RedFlagDeals, Shopbot, ShopToIt, PriceGrabber and Nextag, offer ways to quickly assess the merit of a deal and check out current market prices. They may even offer a coupon to sweeten the deal.
  • Bring a smartphone. In addition to doing research at home beforehand, consumers should bring a smartphone to check prices in-store before buying.
  • Get advice from knowledgeable friends. Consumers who are unfamiliar with a particular product area should consult someone more knowledgeable—for example, marathon runners know more about the cost of running shoes than most, parents with young children are better informed about the prices of toys than those without, etc.

2. Time it right

Black Friday sales no longer revolve around just one day, so it's important to keep timing in mind.

  • Shop before and after Black Friday. Thanks to "Christmas creep," which sees holiday shopping starting earlier and earlier, this year some of the best deals may start on U.S. Thanksgiving or even before. This might be especially relevant if shopping across the border (online or in person). Similarly, some of the best online deals last year were available on Sunday, the day before Cyber Monday.ii
  • Don't limit research to key sale days. Prices across the whole holiday season are more volatile than most shoppers imagine, repeatedly spiking up and then plunging back down. There are cheaper prices for most products than those offered during Black Friday sales.iii
  • Check return policies and keep receipts. Consumers may feel the pressure to buy now for fear it might be gone later, so it's important to check the return policy, which can be different during a sale, and keep the receipt somewhere safe. Stores can also exclude sales from their price-match guarantees.

3. Think it through

According to retail behavioural scientists at the U.S. firm Purchased, only 3% of Black Friday shoppers nab the deal and then head straight home while the remaining 97% linger in the mall and spend more money.iv Consumers should carefully consider their reasoning for additional purchases.

  • Think twice before buying multiples. According to the law of diminishing returns, more of a good thing isn't always better. It's the first pair of pants or box of chocolates that give the most value, use or pleasure.
  • Don't plan too far ahead. If planning to stock up on products, remember that consumers have stockholding costs, too. These costs are financial (ties up money that could be used for something else) and psychological (clutter). Plus, over time people forget they've bought products on sale and where they've stashed them.
  • Avoid wishful thinking. If a product isn't useful to a consumer now ("It'll be great … when I lose 5lbs/get a coat to go with it/learn to play golf/take up gourmet cooking"), it's best to put it back.
  • Don't get caught up in the deal. Loving the deal more than the product is the root-cause of most money wasting.v Simply put, if a product isn't worth more to a consumer than its discounted Black Friday price, it is no bargain. What's important is what a product is worth to the consumer, not the claimed original price or size of the discount.

4. Understand trends for different types of products

There are always exceptions, but here are some category guidelines from retail experts and deal industry insiders.

  • Buy toys closer to Christmas. Consumers shouldn't expect hot toys to be on sale for Black Friday. Experts say that retailers generally hold off on discounting toys given the expected surge in demand—if there are going to be deals, they're more likely to be in the last two weeks before This year could be different, but it's unlikely.vii

  • Buy luxury goods closer to Christmas. Luxury good retailers "would rather sell out, than sell off," as discounting cheapens premium brands. Consumers should wait closer to Christmas for overstocking to spark discounts on luxury goods. viii
  • Buy winter apparel in the New Year. Cold weather gear is a category where retailers still genuinely need to clear old stock, but November is a little early for this. The best winter clothing sales are in the New Year.ix
  • Buy bed linens during New Year "white sales". Linens sell well before the holiday as people prepare their homes for guests so, like toys, don't expect the best deals around Black Friday. White sales of linens began over a century ago, when bed linens only came in white, but now bedding is both a fashion item and a seasonal product (warmth factor and colours), adding two more reasons to expect better clearance prices in Boxing Day sales.x
  • Watch out for look-alike electronics. Top brand, state-of-the-art computers, tablets and TVs have rarely been significantly discounted over the last few years.xi Many sale electronics are often lesser known or off-brand names, lacking full technical specifications and carrying model numbers which are difficult to research or price compare. These products can be lower quality and may have been manufactured especially for a sale: they won't be found on the manufacturer's website. This year word has it that because entry level electronics can't get any cheaper, the quality of some budget electronics is beginning to improve and more name-brands will be available. xii

Check out our tips on responsible credit card use on Black Friday

i'Stampedes, Stocks, and Savings: 16 Black Friday Myths Busted', DealNews, October, 2014;
ii Ibid
iii 'Advice to Black Friday Shoppers: Sleep In. ShopAdvisor says Black Friday is the worst day to shop',, October 18, 2012;
iv 'Understanding the new generation of Black Friday shoppers', The Market Research Event, October, 2013.
v Seminal paper: Richard Thaler, 'Mental accounting and consumer choice', Marketing Science, (4) 1985.
vi 'Think Black Friday is best day to get a deal? Think again', Los Angeles Times, November 24, 2013,
vii '13 Ways Black Friday 2014 Will Be Different', DealNews, October, 2014;
viii '5 things not to buy on Black Friday', MarketWatch, November 29, 2013;
ix Ibid
x Ibid
xi Ibid
xii 'Black Friday 'deals' often no better than sales throughout year', WFTS, November 20, 2013;
xiii 'Stampedes, Stocks, and Savings: 16 Black Friday Myths Busted', DealNews, October, 2014;