Black Friday Sales and Smart Money Prep

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The biggest shopping event of the year is fast approaching: Thanksgiving weekend. Whether it’s Black Friday sales, the Saturday and Sunday afterwards, or the “Cyber Monday” sales that are the big internet shopping days, they are the markers for most retailers that take them from being in the “red” each year to being into the “black” and profitable!

To get ready for Black Friday sales, you need to do a little preparation to get the best deals. Here's my advice on how to score the best bargains.

Actually, they should call the entire weekend “green weekend” for that very reason!

Black Friday weekend kicks off the first of the four weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas that will determine a retailer’s fate for a successful holiday season. One thing for sure is that saving money and getting a really great deal is totally possible. But also possible is that you can get caught up in the whole crazy shopping experience and make some purchases you regret or even worse, purchases that you just can’t really afford! That’s the reason the phrase “buyer beware” is so appropriate even during this, the time when you are most involved with shopping and saving’s glee!

Why You Might Want to Listen to my Advice

I have been through Black Friday sales over almost 50 years in my retail career and have seen it all, from the bargains of a lifetime to sometimes completely foolish offerings purchased by a frantic public. Now in my retirement, I write about this event and have been since I started back in 2014, more than five years ago.

While it’s certainly true that the shopping experience has changed dramatically over the last 50 years, the one thing that has never changed is the excitement of bargain hunting and the goal of saving the most money.

What Has Changed Since 1972?

I went through my very first Black Friday as a retailer back in 1972 while with Macy’s. One thing that has definitely changed over the years since then is that Black Friday has grown into a whole week or more of ads and savings when you include the days before sales, the days of sales, and the extended sales afterwards, too! That has all continued to grow over the years.

And then there’s Small Business Saturday and blockbuster Cyber Monday with more opportunities to shop and save on great deals, this time from the comfort of home (or work and I swear I won’t tell your boss, I promise!).

That’s why I have done my homework and developed my rules to help you and my tips that can make you the best bargain hunter around this holiday season!

When Do Black Friday Sales Actually Begin?

Well, it’s tricky. Black Friday is technically the day after Thanksgiving, of course, so it falls on November 29, 2019 this year. But many retailers have begun offering deals already, making the entire month of November fair game for pre-Black Friday discounts. While the schedule varies from store to store, most of the best deals seem to be starting on Wednesday, November 27, or Thanksgiving Day. Other deals won’t be available until Black Friday itself. Once Black Friday kicks into full gear, the deals will mostly continue through the weekend and pick up steam again on Cyber Monday.

Because the schedule of Black Friday deals varies so widely from store to store, it’s hard to know which deals are truly the season’s very best. That’s because there are differences between the true brick-and-mortar retail stores and those that exist totally online. Those differences can affect their inventory and availability and pricing.

A lot of stores will have their sale deals begin starting on Thanksgiving, presumably in the morning for online shopping and later on at 5 PM for brick-and-mortar stores. However, pre-Black Friday deals are already live on websites right now, a full two weeks ahead of Thanksgiving!

Amazon – The Biggest Retailer in the Universe

While Amazon has opened a small (but growing) number of brick-and-mortar stores across the U.S., the bulk of its Black Friday discounts will continue to be available on Amazon.com.

Because Amazon is primarily an online store, it’s not waiting until the end of the month to start offering its Black Friday deals. Instead, Amazon launched its Happy HoliDeals sale on November 1 with discounts across gaming, tech, entertainment, and other categories. Then, starting on November 22, more deals will be available on Amazon, including a wide range of smart devices. Basically, Amazon will have deals going live all the time, so check back often, even as much as every day. Right now, here’s the Amazon scorecard:

November 1-22: Pre-Black Friday deals available in Happy HoliDeals sale

Starting November 22: More deals will go live every day up until Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and also the week after Cyber Monday

Do Your Homework Before You Shop

You can begin to check out the ads from major retailers online right now, long before they hit your local newspapers. The competition has become so fierce that the retailers plan way ahead, and aren’t so inclined to keep them a secret as was true back in the day when “Macy’s wouldn’t tell Gimbel’s”. This gives you a huge advantage. You now have two weeks ahead to research and compare prices to find the items you really want or need.

Use the opportunity to check online comparison sites such as pricegrabber.com to see whose deals are the best before you actually shop. Plus you’ll have time to read all the product reviews, too. You can then determine whether you are interested in the early bird sale items or even the Wednesday night before items as your booty for the event. I know, I know, it’s a terrible practice to now be adjusted to actually shopping on Thanksgiving Day itself, but we all might as well get used to it. Yes, you have no control over it. Each day will have its very own ads and door busters to compare.

Three Key Basics of Shopping Black Friday Sales

First, to avoid any confusion with items, models, colors, prices, deals, etc., bring the ads or printouts along with you to compare when you shop. Many items look alike and stores often substitute items in deals to increase the selection. This may or may not be a good thing for you. If the item you want is gone or substituted, you may be out of luck.

Most stores have limited quantities on the best deals and won’t issue rain checks

Second, don’t assume everything you see is a bargain. Just because it’s Black Friday doesn’t always mean all items are a true deal. Many items are specially produced just for these events and may be a stripped-down cheaper version of something you really wanted. There’s a saying that “sometimes the cheap can be expensive“, so if you buy cheap, you may be buying again sooner than you’d like to replace it. Be wary and compare item specifications to the ones you had your eye on before Black Friday.

And third, know the store policies before you buy anything. Check online or in the store itself for their policies, like returns, price adjustments, rain checks, use of coupons, competitive price matching, etc. The written policies trump anything you may be told by a well-meaning store associate. The policies should be found easily and will be provided to you if you ask. If you don’t like the policy, don’t make the purchase. If your bargain includes a rebate, make sure you find the area where the rebate forms are and grab one to take home with you.

And Don’t Forget the Cash Back

Whether you’re shopping online or even in stores, don’t forget the promo codes and cash back. Start at Rakuten (formerly Ebates) to find an additional deal on top of your deal, and get that money back check after the holiday!

Final Thoughts

Some items you see that have great prices in November can and will be greatly reduced as you get closer and closer to Christmas. It’s a fact that in order to clear inventory when the most people are shopping, stores will take big markdowns right up to Christmas Eve. So knowing that, lots of people wait and shop at the very end of the season.

Would I recommend it? Probably not for those “must-have” items. But waiting can save you more money if you can find what you’re actually looking for. It’s a gamble that could pay off though if you’re willing to take that risk.

Are you prepared to start your holiday shopping now? What tips do you have to help get through the busy, hectic spree of bargain hunting this year? Do you enjoy the shopping or do you dread it, and why?

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