With the chaos and hype that surrounds Black Friday, shoppers who plan to visit stores should make sure that the deals they get are worth the long lines. Before you set out to wade through crowded store aisles, you need a game plan. These Black Friday shopping tips will help you find better deals and save more on holiday shopping — with less legwork.
1. Scour Leaked Black Friday Ads
The best way to know that you’re getting the best deals on Black Friday is to compare ads as they are leaked. With major retailers leaking Black Friday ads earlier and earlier, you’ll have plenty of time to compare prices.
You don’t have to do all the homework yourself, however. Many deals sites offer resources to help you wade through the fluff to the real discounts. FatWallet, Brad’s Deals and DealNews are just a few that offer roundups of the best Black Friday deals and tips to get the most out of your holiday shopping.
Brent Shelton, an online shopping expert for FatWallet, said users of the site often have some of the best insights. “It’s a deal-hunting community that shares the hottest deals and tactics on how to make the deals better by stacking coupons with cash back and other discounts,” Shelton said. “They also vet out the bad deals, offer suggestions and post price mistakes.” When you’re on a deals site, be sure to check out user comments on Black Friday ads, articles or other information to see what other smart shoppers think.
Rebecca Lehman, manager of content marketing for Brad’s Deals, said that this site highlights deals consumers should watch. “Our team of online shopping experts will be posting the best deals at Brad’s Deals all through Black Friday, Cyber Monday and beyond, and they are often digging up bargains from retailers who don’t publish Black Friday ads or that you never would have thought to check,” Lehman said.
2. Shop Around Black Friday Instead of On It
Don’t just compare Black Friday deals — make sure you also look at discounts being offered on Cyber Monday. “Cyber Monday is a fantastic day to shop online, and many deals will meet or beat Black Friday,” Lehman said. “So much (of) Black Friday shopping has shifted online that one bleeds into the next with not a lot of differentiation.”
Still, Black Friday doorbusters are unlikely to be overshadowed, she added. But shoppers uninterested in braving Black Friday crowds or who are shopping for items unlikely to be steeply discounted could find better deals on Cyber Monday. If you have your eye on clothing, shoes, beauty products, toys or travel, for example, Cyber Monday could be your best bet, according to DealNews’ analysis of last year’s deals. Retailers tended to offer steeper and more frequent discounts in these categories on Cyber Monday than on Black Friday.
“(W)e recommend you do your shopping a little early,” said Louis Ramirez, senior features writer for DealNews. “So instead of Black Friday, shop on Thanksgiving day. Instead of Cyber Monday, shop on the weekend before Cyber Monday. That’s when you’ll see the best deals.”
3. Snag the Best Black Friday Deals Online
Most Black Friday deals will be offered online as well as in-store, so shoppers can shop from home and still take advantage of some of the best prices. “In general, you can shop any major retailer’s Black Friday online deals and get the same prices as you would in the store,” Lehman said. She added, however, that big doorbusters like televisions under $79 likely will be in short supply and won’t be available online.
On the other hand, some doorbusters might only be available online or offered throughout the holiday weekend. “Many stores will offer online-only doorbusters, or make them available to both online and in-store (shoppers),” Shelton said. “And other stores have time-released doorbusters throughout Thursday, Friday and some on Saturday.”
Just make sure you pay attention if you’re planning to shop online for Black Friday. “Read the fine print in the ad, which should disclose whether or not a doorbuster is in-store only,” Lehman said.
4. Stack Black Friday Savings With Coupons
“One of the biggest mistakes a shopper can make is assuming that the ad price is the lowest price,” said Lehman. “My favorite example for this is Kohl’s Black Friday sale, where just about everything in the ad is also eligible for further discounts with promo codes.”
On top of lowered Black Friday prices, Lehman said last year she saw the retailer offer a 15 percent off coupon as well as $15 in Kohl’s Cash per $50 spent. “(A)ll of that combined makes it one of the most underrated Black Friday sales out there.”
Many Black Friday and holiday ads will include coupons, and retailers will also offer plenty of coupon codes that are valid when shopping online. “(D)o not buy anything online without first looking for a coupon,” Ramirez said. “Even if you’re happy with the deal you’ve found, there will be hundreds of coupons available on Black Friday week — some of which you’ll be able to stack with existing coupons or sales.”
To make sure you’re not missing any coupons from your favorite retailer, subscribe to its email list and get coupons and offers delivered straight to your inbox. Sites like CouponSherpa, RetailMeNot and Coupons.com also round up Black Friday coupons and coupon codes that’ll help you save more.
5. Watch for Gift Card Offers
In-store gift cards are a popular Black Friday deal that some major retailers offered last year to sweeten deals for customers. Shoppers will probably see some of these gift cards up for grabs again this year. Toys”R”Us, for example, recently released a coupon to get a $10 credit for every $75 you spend between Nov.1 and Nov. 21.
“It’s an awesome deal if you … know you’ll be buying other items as you can use these incentives to save money on your next purchases,” Shelton said.
If you’re not a frequent shopper of that store, however, “You may be better off using a different store’s discount,” Shelton added. Shoppers should also pay close attention to the fine print on these gift cards — unlike gift cards you buy, these cards have expiration dates and will probably need to be redeemed before the end of the year. After their redeem by date passes, they’ll be worthless.
6. Use Your Smartphone
Your smartphone can be a smart tool you can use to find and take advantage of deals. One way is to follow your favorite stores on social media apps. Retailers often reveal exclusive deals to their social media followers. “We have seen interesting things happening in the last few years, like Sephora sending sneak peeks (of) their Black Friday deals to followers on Snapchat last year,” Lehman said.
Some stores also offer special rewards to smartphone users who download their apps. “Target has their Cartwheel app which offers exclusive deals year-round, so it’s not a huge leap to think they would leverage that on Black Friday, and I’m sure that other retailers are considering similar strategies,” Lehman said. In fact, Target’s 2015 toy book advertises two exclusive offers on its apps: a 50 percent discount on a different toy each day through Cartwheel and 10 percent off all items selected through the Target Kids’ Wish List.
7. Get Rewarded for Loyalty
“Sign up for the loyalty programs,” Lehman suggested. “Many retailers give their loyalty members early access to the deals,” as well as additional opportunities to save.
Members of the Toys”R”Us Rewards”R”Us program, for example, earn $5 in rewards for every $125 spent at the brand’s stores. These rewards can stack with other deals for even bigger savings. Kohl’s Yes2You loyalty program gives shoppers $5 for every 100 points they accumulate. The store also runs promotions that allow members to earn double or even triple the points on purchases.
8. Earn Cash Back
Black Friday shoppers can earn cash back on their holiday purchases by taking advantage of other cash back offers. Cash back sites like BeFrugal, Ebates and FatWallet can offer customers cash back on qualifying purchases. The app Ibotta does the same for mobile shoppers.
Using these shopping tools, you can easily get 5 percent cash back or more on the stores you’re already shopping at. BeFrugal offers up to 8.5 percent back at Amazon and JCPenney, while Ebates offers 3 percent back at Sears and Macy’s.
9. Take Advantage of Credit Card Perks
Cardholders of a cash back credit card will also get back some of the money they spend on Black Friday purchases. By simply being strategic about how you pay, you’ll qualify for even bigger savings.
Store credit cards and debit cards are probably a shopper’s best bet for bigger savings. Kohl’s regularly offers extra savings to Kohl’s Charge cardholders, for example, while Target offers 5 percent off every day on purchases made with a REDcard.
But even a basic 1 percent cash back credit card can help a shopper stretch their holiday budget further. Plus, these holiday credit card rewards can stack with loyalty rewards and cash back sites.
Cardholders should check for other perks, like a credit card price matching policy, said Lehman. “Read up on your credit card’s price matching policy, and then consider buying your picks early,” she said. It might take a little work, “and model numbers have to match exactly, but for (many) items it can be a great way to beat the rush.”
10. Set Price Alerts
“Prices on items fluctuate not only from store to store, but also from day to day on any given website,” said Regina Conway, a consumer expert at Slickdeals. “If you’re shopping for a particular item, your best bet is to set a deal alert on Slickdeals.net — that way you’ll be notified when the best price becomes available.”
FatWallet offers a similar tool: “I set up topic alerts,” Shelton said. “Every time a deal or discussion happens that matches my keyword, I get an alert that offers me a chance to buy the super-hot items that can often sell out quickly.” This makes hunting down Black Friday deals easier.