If you’re going to be one of the more than 75 million shoppers braving the crowds on Black Friday, then we suggest you come armed with a plan. If you don't, your desired item may be gone before you’ve even left the house—after all, the National Retail Federation reports that in 2015, half of those who hit the shops were there by midnight on Thanksgiving Day. Use these tips and tricks as your roadmap to scoring the best deals on the biggest shopping day of the year.
1. DO YOUR HOMEWORK.
To snag the best deals on Black Friday, you need to do your homework, says Sarah Berger, columnist for Bankrate’s money-saving blog The Cashlorette. “Before you start shopping, check out ad fliers and price comparison sites,” Berger says. “Just because something is advertised as being heavily discounted, doesn’t mean it’s a good deal.”
Price tracking sites like CamelCamelCamel, which tracks Amazon, will help you find the lowest price for the item you're after. Also, be sure to check out BlackFriday.GottaDeal.com, BlackFriday.com, and TheBlackFriday.com for more sale alerts and store-specific Black Friday news.
2. BRING THE BLACK FRIDAY AD TO THE STORE.
Either a physical or digital copy will do. “That way, you can guarantee you get the advertised price in case there’s any discrepancy,” says Courtney Jespersen, retail and shopping expert at NerdWallet. And be sure to read the fine print: The advertised price also may only be for a few hours on Black Friday morning, for example.
3. PRICE MATCH.
Many stores will be willing to match a competitor's lower price, so ask. Just make sure you read their rules and understand what qualifies, says Andrew Schrage, co-owner of the personal finance blog Money Crashers. “Usually, it has to be an exact match by model number in order for it to be valid, and some retailers do not accept Internet ads, only those of the paper variety,” Schrage says. “Doing this research can save you a lot of time.”
4. MAKE A LIST.
Black Friday deals for the most part tend to be product-specific, whereas the sales on Cyber Monday (the Monday after Thanksgiving) are generally storewide, Jespersen says. “For example, a select number of items may be deeply discounted on Black Friday, but everything on a store’s website may be 15 percent off on Cyber Monday,” Jespersen says.
So make a list of the items you're after and plan your attack accordingly. If you know you want a specific size and model of a tablet and you know exactly where to buy it, then you’re probably better off shopping for it on Black Friday. If you’re generally in the market for a tablet but don’t really care about the brand, then Cyber Monday might be the day for you to shop, Jespersen says.
5. SHOP ON THANKSGIVING.
For several years, Thanksgiving day has beaten Black Friday in terms of the quality of the deals, says Benjamin Glaser, features editor at DealNews. “And you don’t have to sacrifice family time—just log online when you’re done with dinner,” Glaser says.
And just because some stores are closed on Thanksgiving doesn’t mean their deals are. Places like Sam’s Club, Staples, and Office Depot have had online sales beginning on Thanksgiving in past years.
6. SIGN UP FOR A MEMBERSHIP.
Some stores, including CVS and other drug stores, only offer Black Friday deals to their reward members, Jespersen says. Black Friday ads, which are released before the sale starts, often indicate whether a membership card is required for the lower prices. This will help you decide if joining the program is worth it for you.
7. FOLLOW YOUR BRANDS.
Connect with your favorite stores and brands by signing up for their email newsletters, following them on social media, and downloading their apps, Glaser says. Doing this can get you exclusive deals and discounts as well as give you immediate notice when sales go live—and being the first person to know about a deal can mean the difference between getting that TV and watching it sell out. “Also, we’ve seen stores like Amazon and Twitter offer app-only deals in recent years, so download the mobile apps of your favorite stores,” Glaser says.