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When holiday sales start in October, who cares about actual Black Friday?
Lots of people do, according to Brian Field, global leader of retail consulting and analytics for Sensormatic Solutions. The retail insights company predicts Black Friday (Nov. 25 this year) will be the busiest shopping day of the year for in-store traffic.
Tradition keeps the major shopping event alive and kicking, he says. Eat well on Thursday, hit the stores on Friday — it’s a familiar and comforting social routine.
Of course, low prices on lots of products also help. “Everything goes on sale,” says Samantha Gordon, deals editor at Consumer Reports.
But with so many incentives to shop, it’s tough to predict which bargains will actually be worthwhile. We’re here to help with a short list of what to buy and skip — and a few tips for this Black Friday.
Discount TVs and Black Friday go together like peas and carrots, and this year is no exception. Expect choices galore, from doorbuster deals on TV models made exclusively to be sold on Black Friday (called derivatives) to more full-featured sets. If you’ve been holding out for a TV with the latest technology, Gordon says this is the time to go for it.
“There are other times of year, like right before the Super Bowl, we tend to see a lot of good discounts, but they never quite reach that Black Friday level,” Gordon says.
Skip (rather, don’t sleep on): Video game consoles
The price of the PlayStation 5 Console on Amazon hasn’t budged from $499.99 in the last six months, according to price-tracker site Camelcamelcamel. And at the time of this writing, you can buy one on Amazon by invitation only. It’s the same story with Xbox Series X.
There are never enough game consoles to go around, Gordon says. The safe play is to buy yours before Black Friday. “The longer you wait, the less likely there's going to be inventory,” she says.
Buy: Headphones and electronics
Here’s a twist on electronics that may shock you. The best deals on headphones and other electronic gadgets are expected to come on Thanksgiving Day, according to a 2022 holiday shopping forecast from software company Adobe. Stores like Best Buy, Target, Walmart and Costco are closed on the holiday, but you can look online while the turkey is cooking.
Something to keep in mind for next year: NerdWallet's product pricing intel shows Black Friday-like sales that happened in October offered rock-bottom prices on popular electronics like Apple AirPods Pro.
There’s no fear of missing out with mattresses. Gordon says while they do go on sale for Black Friday, mattress markdowns are common throughout the year. “And those sale prices tend to be pretty much the same all year long,” she says.
Labor Day sales make September a good month to buy a mattress. Need sheets and a comforter too? Pencil in January for the best in bedding sales.
Buy: Clothing brands you love, directly
TVs and gadgets get all the hype, but clothes go on sale too. The friction-free way to do Black Friday is to shop your favorite clothing brands online, in your PJs. Retailers like Gap, Victoria’s Secret and Lands’ End are known for Black Friday bargains. Check upscale brands like Vuori and Prana too, for a chance to offset expensive clothes with a discount.
Don’t dillydally when you find something you like. The lesson from last year is that the early buyer gets the size and color they want.
Black Friday brings big sales on nearly everything. Add major appliances to the list. So, it won’t hurt to shop around anytime during November if your fridge is on the fritz. But if you can wait, the deepest discounts on appliances will fall on Dec. 1 this year, according to the Adobe holiday shopping forecast.
The availability of more inventory, compared with last year, may make it easier to roll the dice on a potential deal in December.
Black Friday shopping tips
The most timeless financial tip is to plan ahead. Make a list and set a budget to avoid wayward spending. Here are a few more strategies to consider.
Time of day matters if you’re shopping in the store. Field says doorbuster-type deals draw crowds to stores early, and that will peak around 10 a.m. local time. Then, there’s the lunch hour rush, and another around 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Go in between the peaks for a calmer experience.
Buy now, price-match later. Does shopping shoulder to shoulder still give you pause? Liberal price-matching policies can give you the confidence to shop early. Target, for one, has an extended holiday price-matching window that goes from Oct. 6 to Christmas Eve this season. So, if something you buy early becomes cheaper later, you can contact customer service for a refund of the difference, Gordon says.
Be clear on the store’s policy before you buy, though, because exclusions can apply. Best Buy’s price-match guarantee, for example, doesn’t cover Thanksgiving week.
Keep your expectations in check. Black Friday often brings the best prices, but the multitude of weekend sales throughout the year and movement toward price parity among retailers make a life-changing deal less likely.
“That margin between regular holiday weekend sales and these big moments is getting smaller and smaller from what I've seen,” Gordon says.
Have fun. Is it a good deal or a good time you’re going for Nov. 25? However you spend the busiest shopping day of the year, be safe and have fun.