Black Friday shopping has become almost as much of an American tradition as Thanksgiving itself, with more than 154 million people shopping in stores and online on Black Friday in 2016, according to the National Retail Federation.
However, not all Black Friday deals are worth the effort. Sometimes, it’s because there are better sales at other times of the year. Or, shoppers often can get the best deals on Cyber Monday. Read on to discover which sales and deals don't provide much value or savings so you can avoid wasting your money on Black Friday.
Beware of doorbusters. These are often lower-quality items that sound too good to be true because they are, said Carson Yarbrough, a savings expert at Offers.com.
"Offers.com looked on Amazon reviews for doorbusters featured last year and found that many had ratings of three stars or less," Yarbrough said. "Don't be fooled by companies offering these kinds of deals — do your research online to see if those products are really worth the money."
Though some retailers often highlight Black Friday sales on television flyers, these are often off-brand or low-quality items, said Kyle James, founder of Rather-Be-Shopping.com.
“If you’re a college student and looking for a disposable TV from Best Buy or Walmart for your dorm room, you’ll want to head out Black Friday morning,” he said. “If you’re looking for a quality TV that will hold up over the long run, you’ll want to look for deals right after Christmas through February. The reasoning is new models are typically released in late January at the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas."
Plus, bargain Black Friday TVs are “notoriously difficult to acquire, even if you camp out in line at Best Buy or Target," said Lindsay Sakraida, director of content marketing with DealNews. "There are usually only a few in stock, so they get snatched up almost immediately."
Even if you’re lucky enough to get one of them, Yarbrough said, you’ll be very tempted to spend more on other items while you’re at the store.
You don't need to prioritize getting a good deal on a mattress on Black Friday. Mattress stores have massive sales throughout the year, so the pressure to get a great deal on Black Friday or risk missing out isn’t there, Yarbrough said. While you’re most likely not getting taken advantage of by so-so deals, you’re better off focusing your Black Friday shopping elsewhere, she said.
Plus, Consumer Reports recommends haggling with mattress stores whenever you do decide to buy because of the large markup on mattresses, even starting with an offer at 50 percent below retail. But, don’t just go for the lowest price — a good mattress is one of the items that are worth the money.
If you’re looking to buy the hottest new phone, Black Friday sales generally aren’t worth the effort, Yarbrough said. You might get a gift card with newest models, but that gift card isn’t always money in the bank. If you get a $100 gift card at the cellphone store, you probably can’t spend it at the shoe store next door at the mall.
Instead, you usually must redeem any rebate card at the store, and the stores are hoping that you’ll spend even more when you come back. You’re more likely to spend more than $100 because you don’t want any of your gift card going unused.
“We might see the iPhone 8 with a $250 gift card this Black Friday, for example, which is great in that it'll be one of the first promotions for that phone," Sakraida said. "But we'll see actual discounts in December and later that make it a cheaper up-front purchase.”
However, if you can find a discount on Apple products, jump on it — even if it’s 10 or 20 percent, said Andrea Woroch, a consumer and money-saving expert. “Apple never discounts their products so this represents a good buy.”
Though you might be thinking it’s time to finally start exercising as you recover from your Thanksgiving-induced food coma, Black Friday isn’t the best time of year to buy fitness equipment.
"Always wait until January to shop for fitness equipment. Retailers notoriously offer some great sales and incentives to folks looking to get in shape as a New Year’s resolution,” James said. “Look for products like elliptical machines, treadmills and weight machines to be offered at up to 50 percent off in early January.”
Popular Holiday Toys
Getting your holiday shopping done as early as possible allows you to focus on family time and other holiday events instead of trips to the mall.
But, if you have popular holiday toys on your list, consider waiting until two weeks before Christmas to purchase those items when they are notoriously cheaper than on Black Friday weekend, said James.
“Sure, you might see some deals sprinkled in the Black Friday ads but none as good if you wait a couple weeks,” he said.
Clothing is typically most expensive during the season that it’s meant to be worn, James said. With temperatures falling and winter coming, retailers don’t need to give customers much incentive to purchase winter apparel such as jackets, coats and boots on Black Friday.
Instead, as long as your current winter clothes can make it through the season, James said you should wait until the last few weeks of winter to buy. Then, the savings of 50 percent or more on your next coat or pair of boots will be a great way to save money on clothes.
Though you might want to impress your mom or significant other with some new bling for the holidays, you won’t find the best prices for jewelry on Black Friday, Yarbrough said.
The best sales for rings, necklaces, earrings and other jewelry come in the weeks following Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day, she said. That's because those are the peak holidays for jewelry demand. Of course, it might be worth paying a little extra now rather than be tardy with a gift to try to save money.
You might see ads for furniture discounts at a number of stores on Black Friday. But don't put buying that new sofa or dining room table at the top of your list.
Furniture and home furnishing stores are like mattress stores in that they have sales throughout the year. So if you don't make it on Black Friday, you can still get a good deal other times, Yarbrough said. You’ll be able to find blowout sales where either everything or specific categories, like rugs, will be on sale at a number of times during the year. Focus your efforts elsewhere — or enjoy a little extra sleep Black Friday morning.
One of the main reasons stores offer Black Friday sales is to draw people in with the expectation that customers will end up buying a lot more than just the best deals. The super deals serve as loss leaders — items that the store sells for less than their costs.
Warehouse clubs, however, “simply don’t have the loss leaders that other stores like Walmart and Best Buy have,” James said.
As a result, you won’t find the same level of deals. But if you want to look anyway, James said you can shop for all the deals from warehouse clubs online from home rather than trying to make your way through the crowds at the store.