Preparing for Thanksgiving dinner is a challenge, but gearing up for Black Friday is arguably worse. With so many retailers to choose from and deals to sift through, it can be tough to determine what’s worth purchasing and where you should buy it.
We asked experts from the most-shopped deal-finding websites to share their pro tips for hunting down Black Friday goods. Follow their 12 simple rules to score your best finds yet.
Shop at these five retailers.
Black Friday can mean deals at stores big and small. But the top five retailers competing for Black Friday customers ― and that dominated our experts’ commentary about the big day ― are Amazon, Walmart, Target, Kohl’s and Best Buy, according to a recent study from Offers.com. So if you’re confused about where to start hunting for discounts, start there.
If you need a TV, buy one.
“A ‘doorbuster’ is meant to be an item that’s typically too expensive to afford, and [in the past] TVs were an ideal item to dangle in front of customers,” she told HuffPost. “The desirability factor made people line up.”
Our experts agreed that TVs are indeed Black Friday’s best deal this year. (Yes, the type of item with the “best deal” can change from year to year, Sakraida said.) Prices on 4K TVs ― which have ultra-high resolution ― are “crazy low” this year, said Kristin Cook, managing editor of Ben’s Bargains, so don’t even bother with lower-resolution sets.
Get an iPhone...
iPhones are also a good deal on Black Friday: For one thing, older models historically go on sale. And this year, there’s the added ― and unexpected, Sakraida said ― bonus that Target and Walmart are offering $250 and $300 gift cards, respectively, when you purchase a new iPhone model.
“If you’re going to buy [the new iPhone] anyway, then Black Friday can be a good time to do it with that extra incentive,” Cook advised.
...but not from Apple.
Whatever you do, don’t buy directly from Apple on Black Friday. Best Buy, Walmart and Target famously have better deals, according to the pros we spoke with.
Take advantage of the war between Amazon and Google
Amazon and Google are currently wrestling for control of the smart home market, so you can expect to see major discounts on products like smart speakers, smart lights and smart alarm systems, said Carson Yarbrough, a savings expert at Offers.com.
For example, Best Buy and Kohl’s are selling the Amazon Echo Dot for $29.99 versus the usual $49.99, and Walmart is selling the Google Home Mini for $29 with a $25 gift card, essentially bringing the total cost to $4.
Avoid anything that’s not brand-name.
Some retailers have been known to commission special Black Friday models of TVs, which are of lower quality but can also be offered at a lower price. The practice is becoming less common, but it’s still good to remember that the tradeoff isn’t worth it, said Brad Wilson, founder of Brad’s Deals.
“It’s more rare now, but certainly be careful of third-tier brands of TVs that are priced so low that it seems too low,” he told HuffPost. “You’ll get what you pay for. Electronics can be like cars in the sense that they might have similar features but aren’t all built the same.”
Cook said this applies to clothing, too.
“In the last two years, there’s been a trend where stores buy a bunch of cheap-brand stuff to use as doorbusters, and they make the prices really low. This happens to electronics and some apparel,” she said. “Make sure it’s a brand name that you’ve heard of.”
Save some shopping for Cyber Monday.
Traditionally, Black Friday is all about tech while Cyber Monday is about “soft goods” and luxury brands, Sakraida said. So wait until the Monday after Thanksgiving for deals on clothes, shoes and cosmetics. Travel packages and hotel deals often come heavily discounted on that day, too.
Beware of jewelry.
You might see massive price cuts, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re getting a great deal.
“Diamonds and gold have value assigned to them based on the market,” jeweler Dan Moran told Offers.com. “That means if you purchase a diamond or engagement ring at 50 percent off retail during a Black Friday sale, then [it] was either marked up extravagantly to begin with, or it’s a garbage stone or ring and someone is desperately trying to get rid of it.”
Wait until January to shop for gems instead.
Shop before Friday.
Ever since Amazon got in on Black Friday, retailers have started their sales earlier and put more items online, Sakraida said. For example, this year’s online Kohl’s sale starts Monday, and brick-and-mortar stores like Target will open at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving. You could miss out on deals if you wait until Friday to shop.
Don’t leave your house (in most cases).
“So many deals are online these days, and Amazon will often match the best in-store deals anyway,” she said. “So unless there’s a must-have item at a specific store and you’re willing to wait in line, it’s more strategic to shop from home.”
Look up Black Friday deals on any specific items you want before the week begins, and plan your in-store shopping schedule accordingly.
Don’t assume every price you see in ads is a discount.
Logic would indicate that a store’s Black Friday ad showcases its best deals, or at least some kind of deal. But some items in this year’s ads aren’t discounted at all, Sakraida said. The hard-to-find Nintendo Switch, for example, showed up in Best Buy’s ad at market price.
“These are just desirable items that are hard to get,” she said. “It’s not really a deal.”
Similarly, Cook cautions against getting starry-eyed by the percentage attached to the discount you’re getting. A mega-discount might seem like a great deal, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re getting one. There are the quality discrepancies mentioned above, plus the fact that high-priced items come with larger savings when you discount them just a little bit.
To determine a good bargain, you’re better off researching the item’s price history and comparing it to the current price. Sakraida recommends a site called CamelCamelCamel, which tracks the prices of most Amazon items over time and can confirm if you’re scoring a deal.
For example, the Amazon Tap speaker and Kindle Paperwhite e-reader are being offered at discounted prices on Black Friday. But thanks to CamelCamelCamel, Sakraida knows “both are at prices they’ve been offered at before, and it’s not the lowest one.”
Aside from getting you discounts at Target year-round, this app is featuring mega-deals around Black Friday, Cook said. Cartwheel has been throwing out offers like 25 percent off toys and 40 percent off cookware sets since late last month. Plus, it’s taking 50 percent off a specific kid’s item each day in November.