It’s the most wonderful time of the year for shoppers. With huge sales and steep savings at nearly every retailer, Black Friday — the day after Thanksgiving — has long been touted as one of the best times of the year for buying just about anything.
But it won’t be all discounts and deals during the 2017 post-Turkey Day shopping bonanza. Use this guide to steer clear of the duds and get only the best bargains this Nov. 24.
Buy: Apple products
Traditionally, major retail stores such as Best Buy, Target and Walmart discount Apple products each year on Black Friday, and previous-generation models usually see the most dramatic deals. These offers may include price cuts, free gift cards with purchase or a combination of both. This year, look for deals on MacBooks, iMacs, iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches and Apple TVs.
Target devoted an entire page of its 2016 Black Friday ad to Apple. All iPod models were 20% off, and the Apple Watch Series 1 started at $198.
Toys are one of the seasonal purchase staples, but you might want to think twice before checking them off your list on Black Friday. Historically, it’s best to wait until closer to Christmas to purchase dolls, action figures and play sets. You run the risk that certain items will sell out, but you may also be able to find bigger savings on what’s left.
Last year, in the final days before Christmas, select toys were on sale for as much as 50% off.
Buy: Gaming system bundles
Black Friday is for gamers just as much as it is for shoppers. This year, look for savings on video games and video game systems from retailers such as Best Buy, Walmart and GameStop. You’ll find particularly great offers on gaming bundles. Traditionally, these include the game console plus a combination of games and accessories.
Last year, video game retailer GameStop took $50 off both the Gears of War Xbox One S Blue 500GB Bundle and the Uncharted 4 500GB PlayStation 4 Bundle (regularly $299.99 each). We expect gaming bundles to be on sale for $249.99 again this year.
Skip: Christmas decorations
You’ve likely seen the blowout post-Christmas clearance sales every year on Dec. 26 as you made your way to the store to return that gift that missed the mark. That’s when Christmas decorations, wrapping paper, tinsel and other seasonal trimmings reach super low prices (for obvious reasons).
If you can’t wait until after Christmas, hold off for a little while. Sure, you’ll see plenty of deals on artificial trees and rolls of wrapping paper on Black Friday — especially at home and craft stores — but retailers are particularly eager to slash prices closer to Dec. 25. In the days leading up to Christmas 2016, Big Lots took 50% off a selection of ornaments and decorations.
Buy: Electronics (TVs, tablets and smartphones)
Electronics deals are a Black Friday staple. In 2016, Walmart offered an impressive $125 deal on a 40-inch Element or Hisense HDTV. Best Buy discounted select Amazon Fire tablets by up to $30.
No matter where you choose to spend your Black Friday (or Thanksgiving), you’re almost guaranteed to find TV and tablet doorbusters. Another electronics deal to keep an eye out for is smartphones. Last year, some retailers offered free gift cards (in amounts as substantial as $250) with a qualifying phone purchase on an installment plan.
You’ve got the entertainment center covered, but you should hesitate before stocking up on supplies to refresh the look of your bedroom this Black Friday.
The lowest prices on bedding and linens have been known to appear in January during what are called “white sales,” so hold off until then if you can. Discounts at this time can range from 50% to 75%. January 2017 white sales took place at retailers such as Macy’s, Kmart, Kohl’s and Overstock.
Buy: Video games, CDs, DVDs
If you’re in need of some affordable stocking stuffers, look no further than the video game, CD, DVD and Blu-ray department at most major retailers this Black Friday. You’ll find films and gaming titles deeply discounted from their original prices.
In 2016, Best Buy offered select Blu-ray+DVD+digital titles for $7.99 each. Walmart had certain video games for $27 each and a selection of over 200 DVD titles for $1.96 apiece.
Skip: Outdoor essentials
You won’t see too many grills or patio furniture sets plastered on the front pages of Black Friday ads this year. That’s because, not surprisingly, outdoor products and patio furniture are deeply discounted immediately after summer ends.
If you didn’t pick up these products at the close of this summer, wait until Labor Day sales roll around next year. Can’t wait until then? Another viable option is the Spring Black Friday Sale that home improvement store Lowe’s usually holds each year.
Buy: Home appliances
No secret here. Black Friday is well-known for its offers of huge savings on washers, dryers, refrigerators and major kitchen appliances. Look for similar deep discounts again this year.
Last year at Sears, a Kenmore washer and dryer were on sale for $274.99 each when shoppers purchased the pair. That was a 49% discount on the pair. Best Buy took up to 40% off major appliance top deals, and shoppers got a free Keurig K525 coffee brewer with purchase of two or more major appliances totaling $2,000 and up.
If you’re in the market for smaller appliances such as coffee makers, mixers, blenders or vacuum cleaners, expect deals this year from department stores such as Kohl’s, J.C. Penney and Macy’s.
Skip: Winter clothing
Fall and winter clothing generally isn’t the best value on Black Friday. Jeans, for instance, see big sales in October, and retailers frequently offer big clearance sales on jackets when winter gives way to spring.
Of course, if you need something to keep you warm before then, you’ll be able to find some bargains this Black Friday. Year after year, Macy’s and J.C. Penney have offered doorbuster deals on women’s boots. In the past, select pairs have been just $19.99 each.
Buy: Travel deals
Whether it’s hotel rooms, ski lift tickets or airfare, you can expect bargains on travel this Black Friday and Cyber Monday (Nov. 27). Check for deals from online travel sites and major airlines alike. In the past, most of these promotions were available for a very limited time. You’ll likely have to book during that window and travel during an allotted period.
Skip: Mail-in rebates
If you want to avoid some of the hassle related to Black Friday shopping, resist deals that require a mail-in rebate. Unless you’re disciplined enough to fill out the form and wait to receive the rebate, you could end up paying more than you intended. And even if you do follow through with a rebate, you’ll have to shell out a higher price at the register before getting some money back.
Always read the fine print; some kitchen appliances, electronics and other popular items may require you to fill out a mail-in rebate to achieve the advertised price. At Kohl’s, for example, some small kitchen appliances were available for $9.99 last year — but that was after a $12 mail-in rebate.
Buy: Online doorbusters
Finally, for the ultimate combination of convenience and savings, spring for online doorbusters this year. Plenty of big box retailers will be bringing their doorbusters online this Thanksgiving and Black Friday.
That’s good news for shoppers. But you have to take precautions when shopping on your phone or laptop, such as making sure you’re not on public Wi-Fi. Read more about how to ensure the safety of your online credit card purchases.