Consumers flock to stores in droves on Black Friday to take advantage of what are hyped as the best deals of the year. But are the savings as great as retailers want us to believe?
There are plenty of myths about Black Friday deals. If you believe them, you might not save as much as you think by shopping on the day after Thanksgiving. Keep these myths in mind to save money and find the best deals on Black Friday.
Everything Is on Sale on Black Friday
One of the biggest misconceptions about Black Friday is that everything is on sale. In fact, there are several items that aren't worth it because you can get them for less in December or after Christmas.
For example, deeper discounts on toys appear in mid-December, said Ivy Chou, marketing and public relations director at DealsPlus. "That's when retailers have their last push to buy," she said.
Prices won't drop much on winter gear, either, until after the holidays. And don't expect to see jewelry or high-end laptop computers among the best Black Friday deals, according to DealNews.
Black Friday Is a Good Time to Buy ‘Hot’ Items
It can be a mistake to think that you can snap up hot, newly released items at great prices during Black Friday sales. Often, new toy releases aren't discounted much, Chou said. Those that are sell out quickly, according to DealNews.
So, if there's a popular toy your child really wants, don't wait until Black Friday to buy it. You won't get the best price, but you also won't show up empty-handed on Christmas morning.
For some hot items, such as new game consoles, you might even pay more for them if you buy them on or around Black Friday, Chou said. If you wait a few months, prices will drop.
Black Friday Is Always the Best Time to Shop
Black Friday is no longer the best day to get the best deals. "Thanksgiving is in fact the best day of the year for deals and discounts," said Benjamin Glaser, formerly an editor for DealNews. "Cyber Monday is No. 2."
However, true deal hunters should shop on all three days to get the best prices, Glaser said. "But shopping in store early on Friday — or even late on Thursday — is no longer completely necessary," he said.
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Every Black Friday Sale Is a Great Deal
Consumers also need to be aware that many stores inflate the original prices on items to make it look like you're getting the best Black Friday deals, said Kristin Cook, managing editor of Ben's Bargains.
"Kohl's, JCPenney, Toys"R"Us and Macy's are all notorious for doing this," she said. "Sure, 80 percent off a jacket sounds like an amazing deal, but there's no way a jacket has ever sold for $150 at a store like Kohl's."
Black Friday Always Starts on Friday
Black Friday began when retailers started offering discounts to compete for consumers who were off work the Friday after Thanksgiving and could do their holiday shopping, said Glaser. However, the sales begin before Friday now.
"[Black Friday] now essentially begins on the Monday before Thanksgiving and goes through the Friday after Cyber Monday," Glaser said. It's important to keep this in mind because you might need to head to a store or shop online before Black Friday to get the best deals on the items on your holiday gift list. Or, you might be able to wait for sales from online retailers the Monday after Thanksgiving — Cyber Monday.
To find out when you can get the best Black Friday deals on the items you want, check retailers' Black Friday and holiday sales ads on sites such as DealNews and BFAds to see which days items will be marked down. You also can sign up for deal alerts on sites like Slickdeals to be notified when a deal is available for a product you want.
You Have to Shop in Stores to Get the Best Deals
You don't have to brave crowded stores to take advantage of all of the sales on or around Black Friday.
"While there will be some enticing sales on Thanksgiving and Black Friday, most retailers will be offering the majority, if not all, of the sales online," said Howard Schaffer, general manager of Offers.com. In fact, many Black Friday deals will begin online Wednesday night prior to the in-store sales, Cook said.
Shopping online might help you save money because you won't have to pay for gas to get to stores. Plus, you can avoid the tricks retailers use in stores to get you to spend more, such as strategic product placement and calming music. However, if you shop online, make sure you opt for retailers that offer free holiday shipping to avoid this extra cost, Schaffer said.
You Should Get Up Early to Score Doorbusters
Black Friday is known for doorbuster deals — items that are in limited supply and sold at deep discounts at certain times. These are frequently the deals people line up outside stores before the crack of dawn to get.
Often these doorbusters are just gimmicks to get people into stores. "As we've found after speaking to psychologists and researchers, limited supplies and time frames are powerful motivators for getting people to spend," Glaser said.
Because many retailers now offer doorbusters online, you can avoid camping outside a store and pushing your way through the crowds to get the discounted items you want. But should you wait beside your computer in the late or early hours to try to snag a limited-time Black Friday deal? Not necessarily.
"Amazon's lightning deals are both the best and worst offenders," Glaser said. "They offer some truly amazing prices, but they are available only for an hour, or more accurately, until they sell out — which is often just seconds. That drives a lot of people to buy first and ask questions later."
All Doorbusters Are Great Deals
Many of the doorbusters from years past have received poor reviews and low ratings from consumers after they bought them, Schaffer said. No matter how low the price, you're not saving money if you end up with a cheap product.
Another reason you might not need to get up early to score doorbusters is because they're becoming less common.
"Sale prices are still aggressive, but they're not so extreme that it's nearly impossible to actually get them," Cook said. "In my opinion, Black Friday now feels less like you're trying to win the lottery. The deals are solid, and you can save a nice chunk of change on holiday gifts, but it's not something you need to go crazy for."
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Black Friday Is Dead
Because retailers have spread out Black Friday sales over several days and online — and have even started offering pre-Black Friday sales in early November — you shouldn't assume the shopping holiday is dead. You'll still find the lowest prices of the year on many products on Black Friday, Glaser said.
Plus, the in-store shopping experience will remain, he said. "For many, it is a matter of tradition," Glaser said.
"If you get a thrill in finding the last toaster for $4.99 at Kohl's or scoring one of 50 doorbuster TVs at Best Buy, then go forth and shop in-store," Schaffer said. But research products before doing your Black Friday shopping in a store — or online — to make sure you're getting a quality, brand-name item at a good price rather than something that's cheap because it's inferior.
"The best sales will be on brand-name items that are sold at multiple stores," Cook said. "These items have a real MSRP that can be verified." You can use the model numbers listed in retailers' ads or on their websites to find suggested retail pricing to compare discounts, read product reviews and compare specifications with similar products to pinpoint the best Black Friday deals.