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’s not all discounts and deals on the 2016 post-Turkey Day shopping bonanza. Use this guide to determine what you should purchase and what you should skip on Nov. 25 to ensure you’re getting only the best bargains.
Buy: Previous models of Apple products
Traditionally, major retail stores such as Best Buy, Target and Wal-Mart 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.
Last year, for instance, Target devoted almost an entire page of the bull’s-eye retailer’s 2015 Black Friday ad to Apple. Shoppers scored a free Target gift card when they bought any iPad Mini, iPad Air or Apple Watch. There was also a 20% discount on all iPods.
Toys are one of the seasonal purchase staples, but you might want to think twice before picking them up on Black Friday. Historically, it’s best to wait until closer to Christmas to purchase dolls, action figures and the like. You may 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, toys were on sale at Kmart, Wal-Mart and Big Lots, to name a few. Shoppers bought one toy and got a second toy at 50% off on Monster High dolls and accessories, Fisher-Price preschool toys and Block Tech playsets, as well as activity and science sets.
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, Target, Wal-Mart 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 Xbox One 500GB Gears of War Ultimate Bundle and the PlayStation 4 500GB Uncharted Collection Bundle.
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. The absolute best time to buy Christmas decorations, wrapping paper, tinsel and other seasonal trimmings is right after Christmas (for obvious reasons).
But if you need these items before the holiday, don’t buy them on Black Friday. Sure, you’ll see plenty of deals on artificial trees and rolls of wrapping paper, especially at home and craft stores, but retailers are more eager to slash prices the closer it gets to Christmas.
Buy: Electronics (TVs, tablets and smartphones)
Electronics deals are a Black Friday staple, and for many consumers, that means shopping for a new TV, tablet or smartphone. In 2015, Target offered an impressive $249.99 deal on a 55-inch Westinghouse LED TV.
Over at Staples, tablets were all the rage. Shoppers could save up to 25% on select iPad models. Staples also dropped the price of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 Lite 7-inch down to $79.99 (regularly $139.99).
No matter where you choose to spend your Black Friday (or your Thanksgiving), you’re almost guaranteed to find TV and tablet doorbusters. Another electronics deal to keep an eye out for: smartphones. Verizon offered $100 off the retail price of select Android smartphones last year.
If you’ve got your eye on something with a heftier price tag, you might want to protect your purchase by paying with the right credit card. Some credit cards will pay you the difference if you find a lower price later, extend the product warranty, or protect against loss or damage. NerdWallet has compiled a list of our best credit cards for holiday shopping so you maximize your benefits this season.
» MORE: Black Friday 2016 ad leaks
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. January 2016 white sales took place at Macy’s, Pottery Barn, Nordstrom and more.
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 2015, for example, Best Buy offered select Blu-ray titles for $9.99 each and up to 70 CD titles for $6.99 each. Wal-Mart had certain video games for $25 each and a selection of special-buy DVD titles for just $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 kitchen appliances. Look for similar deep discounts again this year.
Last year at Sears, the Kenmore 4.3-cubic-foot washer and 7.3-cubic-foot dryer were on sale for $799.98 for the pair. That’s a 57% discount. Best Buy took $1,500 off the price of a Samsung 28.2-cubic-foot 4-Door French Door Smart Refrigerator, bringing it down to $2,099.99.
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Skip: Winter clothing
Fall and winter clothing generally isn’t the best value on Black Friday. Jeans, for instance, see better 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 big deals on travel this Black Friday and Cyber Monday (Nov. 28). Check for deals from online travel sites like Expedia and major airlines alike. Note: In the past, most of these promotions were available for a very limited time.
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 rebate, you’ll have to shell out a higher price at the register before getting some of your 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 $7.99 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 are bringing their doorbusters online this Thanksgiving and Black Friday. Office Depot and OfficeMax, for instance, will be closed on Thanksgiving Day 2016, but deals will be available online starting at 12:01 a.m. Eastern time on the holiday.
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