Fresh from their tryptophan-induced slumber, a sea of savvy shoppers flock to stores on Black Friday. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), more than 164 million consumers plan to shop over Thanksgiving weekend. And 71% of those shoppers — that’s a cool 116 million — will do that shopping on Black Friday.
If you’re one of those 116 million shoppers, you’d probably like to know how to make the most of your Black Friday shopping. How can you sift through all the marketing jargon to find the best deals? At the end of the day, is Black Friday really worth it?
Read on to learn how to make the most of your Black Friday shopping.
The truth behind Black Friday
“Consumers today want more than just discounts… they want exclusive offerings and a good reason to spend their discretionary budgets,” said NRF President and CEO, Matthew Shay. “We could witness a sea of change this holiday season as consumers’ reliance on extremely deep discounts over the biggest shopping weekend of the year shifts to more of a ‘wait-and-see’ mentality around what retailers will be offering on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday. We are positive retailers have a few tricks up their sleeve that will draw their customers to their stores and websites, deciding the deals are worth it after all.”
But those Black Friday “tricks” could land you in the red if you’re not careful. So is shopping on Black Friday really the best path to a holiday bargain?
In some cases, yes. But not always.
Retailers pull out all the stops for Black Friday. And not all of them necessarily lead to you scoring a bargain. To truly root out the best deal, you first have to take a peek behind Black Friday’s magic curtain.
Let’s dig a little deeper.
5 retail secrets to help you survive Black Friday
1. Retailers want to scare you
By throwing around anxiety-inducing buzzwords like “limited time only” and “while supplies last,” retailers fuel the frenzy of Black Friday. To pressure shoppers into buying first and asking questions later, retailers cultivate the illusion of scarcity.
It’s easy to get caught up in the panic when we believe that resources are limited. Unfortunately, this means that many shoppers believe they need to buy up bargains fast — even when some of those “bargains” aren’t bargains at all. Retailers also take advantage of human psychology by using frightening, alarming colors (usually red) to highlight their sale prices.
To get the best deal this Black Friday, don’t fall for corporate smoke and mirrors. Before you make a purchase (especially if you’re at the store in person), comparison shop with a few other vendors to make sure that the deal you’re looking at is actually competitive. Otherwise, you’re falling right into the retailers’ trap.
2. The best deals aren’t always on Friday
While Black Friday is the best day for online deals on TVs, tablets, appliances, and jewelry, it’s not the best day for all deals. Studies show that most online sale prices are best on Thanksgiving Day, not Black Friday. If you’re looking for online discounts on sporting goods, computers, apparel, and video games, you should do your shopping on Thursday, not Friday.
Plus, the majority of Black Friday deals are available all week long, not just on Friday. Why fight your way through Black Friday crowds if you could get the same deal on Monday night?
3. Some of the discounts are illusory
We’ll let you in on a little secret: that $60 sweater that’s on sale for 50% off was never meant to sell at $120. When the retailer stocked it, the discount was already baked into the price.
On Black Friday, retailers create the illusion that you’re scoring a massive discount by reducing a product’s price by some enormous percentage. But in reality, the “sale price” is often what they intended to sell the product for in the first place.
Don’t force yourself to splurge on an item because “it’ll be more expensive later.” Instead, do a little research. If you can find the same item for the same “sale price” at several other retailers, it’s likely that the “sale price” is just the item’s standard cost.
4. You don’t have to leave your house
Merchants love foot traffic. The chances you’ll over-spend or splurge on an impulse buy are much greater when you stroll around a store on Black Friday. That’s because in a brick-and-mortar storefront, you’re at the whim of all of a vendor’s mind games. The press of the crowds heightens the illusion of scarcity; the blaring red signs drive panic into your blood. Worse, you’re isolated from the ability to comparison shop, with only a single vendor’s prices for reference. In a store, the retailer has you right where they want you.
Luckily, there’s no need to fight your way through Black Friday crowds. In general, you can access the exact same prices, quantities, and inventory online. In some cases, you can even find special online-only deals.
If you’re struggling to gather the gumption to get to the mall for Black Friday, don’t bother. Online shopping usually offers the same bargains — and without the overwhelming compulsion to over-spend.
5. You might not be able to correct a mistake
Stores often tighten their return policies during the holidays. So if you end up over-spending, you might not be able to fix your mistake. Some retailers only offer store credit, even with a receipt. Many don’t accept returns at all.
Don’t convince yourself that it’s safe to over-spend on a purchase because you can “just return it later.” Thanks to Black Friday policies, you may not be able to return it at all.
Financing Black Friday shopping
Are you taking advantage of Black Friday deals to make a big purchase? Be wary. Before you write the check, do your research and make sure the deal is as competitive as it looks. But as long as you’re prudent with your purchasing, Black Friday can be a great opportunity to save money.
Not sure how to finance that shiny new TV? A small personal loan could be the perfect solution. Browse top lenders side-by-side here. Or find out what you qualify for with our personalized loan engine! Getting personalized rates is quick and easy, and it won’t hurt your credit score.
Frequent contributor of health and caregiving, personal finance, mortgage, and insurance articles, as well as celebrity interviews and Q&As to MSN, Realtor.com, Credit Sesame, Fortune, USA Today, Women’s Health, Family Circle, Essence, Lifescript, Health Monitor Network, and more. Gina’s work has been featured on the covers of numerous titles including Glamour, Live Happy, Neurology Now, and many other national and international publications.