I have had many questions so far about Black Friday shopping- particularly online shopping- and wanted to put everything down in one place.
I have been covering Black Friday deals on this blog since 2009- so this will be the 5th year of watching the ads and how the sales unfold for the holiday season.
Black Friday is technically the day after Thanksgiving when all the sales start. In years past, Black Friday shoppers might line up at 3am to get into stores around 5am. Over the last 3 years or so things have changed and stores have started opening earlier and earlier.
This year stores are opening as early as 5pm on Thanksgiving Day. So what we are seeing is that Black Friday is not actually the big day to score deals, but rather Thanksgiving Day.
After the big weekend of sales, we see “Cyber Monday” which is Monday 2nd. That is the day that we supposedly see amazing deals online.
Here are my observations:
1. The majority of deals WILL be available online. There are always a few exceptions but last year and the year before almost all the big ticket items and electronics were available online. Obviously these things will sell out so you can’t leisurely shop but if you plan correctly, you can probably get nearly everything you want online. We won’t know for certain until the sales begin so if you absolutely have to have something in an ad, the safest bet is to shop in store. I find the cheaper things like Crayola art kits and inexpensive children’s pj’s and such are the things that are not available online. Oh and a harsh lesson I learned last year is that the stores don’t guarantee to have these things either. Last year Target had little girl’s tutu’s advertised for $2.00 and almost every store never actually received the tutu’s- so for those that really wanted them and waited in line they were out of luck.
2. Cyber Monday is never that big of a deal to me. We still see nice offers from stores but I find year after year the Wednesday, Thursday and Friday sales far eclipse what is offered for Cyber Monday.
3. Last year I found a lot of deals were available well before Black Friday from various retailers. This year appears to be the same. One example is the Furby Boom- Target offered a coupon making the Furby Boom $29 a few weeks ago. That is the lowest price we have seen in the Black Friday ads- so if you bought it when I posted back in October- well you saved yourself a lot of trouble and got a great deal! Last year I bought things starting around mid November and I found that the prices seemed to go up as we got closer to Christmas.
4. Prioritize your shopping. If you do plan to do it all on Black Friday you might not be able to get to each store and each department. I have been to Walmart once on Black Friday and it was horrifying. I went to Target on Black Friday as well and it was also just chaos. One thing with shopping in store is that there are so many people- even if you think you have a great plan mapped out, you might not physically be able to get to each department. If you do plan to shop at Target or Walmart make sure to go to their web sites beforehand and look at the maps they provide. They tend to drop pallets of hot items all over the store- so the Pyrex set of baking dishes might be in the men’s clothing department and Blurays might be located in the bedding department. If you have a friend shopping with you, you might just divide up your lists and see how much of the store you can cover.
5. Price matching- if you planned to just stop off at Walmart or Target and price match everything on your list please note Target is not offering price matching for Black Friday ads. You can see the Target price match policy here . Walmart will honor price matching on Black Friday but it must be an identical item.
6. Impulse purchases. If you do decide to shop in store I will warn you it can be hard to resist impulse buys. When I went to Target on Black Friday, I had a list of 4 items. I left the store spending 3x what I planned because as you are waiting it can be hard to resist all those lovely deals! Plus seeing everyone else with overflowing carts seems to make me feel like I need all that stuff too. So just be aware that the temptation might be too great to resist.
7. For online shopping, I found the best deals on Wednesday and all day Thursday. Usually the ads break online at midnight on Thursday. It is important to note what time zone each store is in- usually it is midnight EST but sometimes midnight PST. Last year Target started offering the Black Friday deals at 11pm PST. The prices were changing slowly online for about 40 minutes- so you just had to keep checking until the item you wanted switched over to the Black Friday price. If you want to focus on your holiday and not watching sales, you can always check in with me from time to time because I post everything as it comes up online.
8. In store tricks- every year I hear from people that tell me their Black Friday experience was a breeze. In my personal experience of actually hitting the stores, I have found Black Friday shopping to be an experience I don’t want to repeat. I did hear from readers that went to Walmart an hour before the Black Friday sales officially started, loaded up their carts with what they wanted and then sat and waited until the appointed time and went to check out. I did go to Walmart personally last year to see if this was too good to be true and for me it was. My Walmart had everything in pallets that were completely sealed off and you would need to stand there ripping through all the wrap to get to the items before the sale started. I can’t imagine they would allow people to rip into the pallets beforehand but apparently that happened for some.
9. Amazon. Amazon matched and beat many of the stores prices last year on numerous items. They offered promotions- like the 12 Books of Christmas where hardcover books were up to 90% off. (I got a new Giada cookbook for about $3.) They also offer lightning deals which they announce daily (I post them first thing in the morning) and often their prices matched or beat Black Friday deals from other stores.
10. Bring your patience. Most importantly bring your patience online and to the stores. It can be hard when you get caught up in things but this time of year deals online can end VERY quickly. If something pops up that you want, I recommend grabbing it right away. If you stop to make lunch and run errands and come back an hour later, the offer may have already expired or sold out. You really do want to to be ready to buy once things pop up- and if you miss a deal be sure to leave a comment and let me know! I will keep looking for things that I know people are interested in.
So bottom line- in my opinion you do not need to go to the stores on Thursday or Friday to get the best deals. I have found most items can be purchased online from the comfort of your home. Many Black Friday deals will start on Wednesday evening and hopefully many of you will check in with me because I am updating nonstop with deals!
We will see lots of sales AFTER Black Friday ends so if you want to skip it altogether it isn’t the end of the world. Just note as we roll into December the shipping times from some merchants so you aren’t stuck getting holiday gifts just in time for New Years. My Disney Store order from Black Friday last year took 3 weeks to arrive just because of the volume of orders they received.
Happy Shopping! I hope these tips help you navigate the best deals for your holiday. Any other great tips you want to share or questions you might have?