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Black Friday is one of the biggest shopping events of the year, marked by scores of stores across the U.S. offering discounted merchandise marketed as steals. The big day falls on November 24 this year.
Yet many holiday shoppers may be opting to get their shopping done before Black Friday, suggesting they may not find the sales event as advantageous as in the past. According to a recent Bankrate survey on early holiday shopping, 37 percent of American shoppers will start their shopping season in November this year. Another 26 percent plan to start as early as October.
Are Black Friday deals worth the hype? We parse through the deals and trends you can expect this Black Friday, lending insights into how you can use the event to save money.
Holiday Shopping Insights
- U.S. online retail consumers spent $9.2 billion on Black Friday in 2022, up 2.3% over the previous year, according to Adobe Analytics
- 23% of the U.S. holiday shoppers will do most of their shopping in person (Bankrate)
- 27% of U.S. holiday shoppers have money set aside and budgeted for this holiday shopping season (Bankrate)
- 37% of U.S. adults start or plan to begin their holiday shopping during November (Bankrate)
- 41% of American holiday shoppers are choosing to seek out more coupons, discounts and sales to save money this holiday season (Bankrate)
What is Black Friday?
Black Friday is a major holiday sales event landing on the Friday after Thanksgiving, marking the start of a holiday season filled with cheer and shopping discounts. On Black Friday, stores offer deep discounts on listed items and may open early or stay open late to give shoppers more time to shop. Stores market their Black Friday deals ahead of time through flyers, commercials or online ads.
In its early days, the event elicited excited mobs rushing to get the deal before the supply ran out. Stealing wasn’t out of the question since customers could easily hide their treasures among the throngs. This frenzied holiday shopping played out specifically in Philadelphia, according to History.com, until the stores remarketed Black Friday as a cheerful opportunity to save big.
Today, people still make the trek to local stores to stand in line in hopes of gaining deep discounts. Creating even more buzz, Black Friday now shares space with Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, which land on the Saturday and Monday directly following Black Friday. Black Friday now kicks off a weekend of major sales, ending in Cyber Monday in which online shopping deals are featured by online retailers like Amazon.
Shop smart on Black Friday
Black Friday is still a date to watch for, given its slew of markdowns. But planning goes a long way toward making sure you score savings during the shopping event. Our top tips for making the most out of your Black Friday shopping trip:
Make a list and check it twice
Black Friday is best used for items you’re already in the market to buy. Chances are if you go to the store without a plan, you’re going to overspend on merchandise you don’t need just because it’s on sale.
You might even be tempted to go for the hottest trending products you’ve seen on social media, which is a new form of impulse buying. The draw of products promoted by social media influencers might be the uniqueness of the item designed for a specific need.
But you may want to ask yourself if you truly need and will use the item. Why? A hefty 57 percent of social media users regret purchases they’ve made after seeing the product on social media, according to a Bankrate social media impulse survey.
Compare prices ahead of time
You also want to check the Black Friday sale and compare it to the regular price of that item from different stores. Multiple stores may be selling the same item, like the latest iPhone, but you want to account for the final cost, no matter the sale discount. You should also check the regular price of that item to make sure the sale will truly save you money. You may find the same item priced lower than the price at a different store.
Or you might find a better sale on that item on a different sale day throughout the year. For example, you could find tech on Amazon Prime Day or outdoor items during an annual summer sale.
Stack discounts and credit card rewards
According to Bankrate Senior Industry Analyst Ted Rossman, the best way to shop on Black Friday is to take advantage of a store sale and rewards credit cards.
“Use credit cards for rewards, buyer protections and convenience, but seek to pay in full so that you’re avoiding interest. With the average credit card rate at a record high approaching 21%, you don’t want to pay interest if at all possible,” Rossman says.
Be wary of scams
Finally, watch out for the Black Friday scams likely to happen around the big holiday. According to Experian, 24 percent of people who responded to their survey have been victims of holiday theft or fraud. That included everything from having their identities stolen while using a credit card at a local retailer or online to mail fraud and their wallet or purse being lost or stolen.
Common sales traps
No matter where or how you shop this holiday season, keep your eyes peeled for these common sales tactics:
Does a 50-percent-off sale sound too good to be true? It might be if the retailer raised the price before discounting the item a week later. To avoid this trap, you want to know the usual price that item goes for at different stores, preferably before holiday sales kick in. The sale will only save you money when the item is marked at a price you can’t find anywhere else.
Buy one, get one
Buy one, get one (BOGO) discounts are rampant throughout the holiday season, and they can lead you to buy more of something than you need. The same goes for deals that make you spend a certain amount to get the discount, such as spending $50 for $10 off or free shipping. If you weren’t going to spend in the first place, you’re not getting a deal when you spend more for the sale.
But if the stores want to trick you, you can get tricky when it comes to sales for 2 for $4 or 2 for $10 or the like. You could try buying one to only pay half the sale price. For example, if the sale is two for $10, you could buy one for $5. This trick doesn’t work all the time, but it couldn’t hurt to ring it up at the register. But don’t get hooked here: Be willing to tell the cashier, “no, thank you,” if the item doesn’t ring up at the sale price.
Impulse buys are heightened
The buzz around Black Friday sales can leave you feeling pressured to buy even though you were just looking around. Remember, the crowds and time limits are meant to create urgency to buy now. And beware of checkout lanes. The store may stock full-priced items in high-traffic areas, knowing that you’re more likely to add to your cart as you pass by.
Money tip box: Avoid holiday sales traps: Read the fine print on store sales flyers or on the website; create a holiday budget to avoid overspending, especially on gifts; make a shopping list and check it twice and map out Black Friday stores to hit only the sale items you’re looking for.
When is the best time to shop?
The best time to shop Black Friday sales is in the morning, the least likely time to find other shoppers roaming the aisles with you, according to Time. The hours to avoid are between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m., which is when the holiday rush happens. You could also bypass the lines entirely and shop anytime by shopping Black Friday sales online.
If you can wait longer than Black Friday, stores may mark down prices even lower as they’re trying to get rid of products. Or stores will start sales on Black Friday through Cyber Monday and continue them through the holiday season. So going on a different day might help you skip the long lines made by avid Black Friday shoppers.
Finding the best Black Friday deals
If you’re digging for the golden sales on Black Friday, you’re most likely to save money or get a better quality product for the same price in these shopping categories.
- Technology: TVs, phones, computers and smart speakers
- Home appliances: washers and dryers, vacuums, kitchen appliances
- Exercise equipment
- Mattresses and bedding
As always, comparing the item’s price before sales begin will give you a frame of reference to make sure you’re getting a deal on Black Friday. Many stores also offer online Black Friday shopping, giving you the chance to compare multiple stores from the comfort of your couch. Some 39 percent of holiday shoppers are planning to make most of their purchases online, according to a Bankrate survey on early holiday shopping.
Online shoppers can also take advantage of browser extensions like Honey, Klarna or Capital One Shopping. Plus, online stores often lead you straight to the sale via their homepage advertising, while finding the best in-store sale can feel more like a treasure hunt.
Keep in mind: Before checking out with your Black Friday find, look for the store's return policy. Pay special attention to items labeled final sale since you won't be able to return those items.
Shopping small business
If you’re really looking to walk the path less traveled, consider going to small businesses on Black Friday. You could also look for local sales on Small Business Saturday, which happens to land on the Saturday following Black Friday.
According to Bankrate’s 2023 holiday shopping survey, 61 percent of shoppers surveyed planned to go the small business route during the giant sale weekend.
With small businesses, you can find sales on custom or handmade products or high-quality versions of items you’d see at the big box stores. These products are ideal for unique holiday gifts the recipient can’t find anywhere else.
Small businesses are also known to create pleasant experiences for shoppers. You may encounter complimentary cups of hot chocolate, cheerful door-greeters, personalized help from store associates or complimentary gift-wrapping that takes an item off your holiday to-do list. If you’re not there for the experience, shopping small businesses can also mean supporting online small businesses or comparison shopping for the best local deals.
Consumer sentiment towards small business shopping
- 54% of holiday shoppers believe that small businesses provide better customer service than large businesses
- 56% of holiday shoppers believe that small businesses bring unique gift ideas compared to large businesses
- 44% of holiday shoppers believe that small businesses foster a better sense of community compared to large businesses
Small business holiday prep
Small businesses can prep by stocking up on their most popular items and crafting a personalized shopping experience. But if a lack of capital, inventory or staff is getting in the way, business owners can seek financing so they can make the purchases they need. Business lenders may be willing to extend bad credit business loans, helping business owners who otherwise can’t get traditional funding.
Black Friday and inflation
High inflation may put a damper on Black Friday sales this year since product prices have been on the rise. According to Bankrate’s early holiday shopping survey, 33 percent of shoppers expect inflation to influence the way they shop.
Retailers could see shoppers less eager to buy Black Friday sales as they focus on what it takes to save money. “I think we’re going to see a cautious consumer this holiday season,” Ted Rossman says. “When people are splurging these days, it tends to be on experiences such as travel, dining and concert tickets. Demand for physical goods such as electronics, furniture and home improvements has decreased. The supply chain has largely healed as well. I think retailers are going to have to offer sizable discounts to get consumers excited this holiday season.”
But the chance to save money on Black Friday is still worth it, considering prices are high across the board. Inflation might just mean switching up your shopping habits to combat the higher prices. So while no one likes inflation, whether you find happiness in snagging a Black Friday sale may come down to seeing the glass half full or half empty.
Frequently asked questions
Black Friday can be worth it if you find a true sale on an item you’re looking for and need. But the hyped-up sale may not be worth it if you’re impulse buying on items you wouldn’t normally purchase or use.
The choice to wait for Black Friday could come down to how long away the holiday sale is and whether Black Friday’s most common deals are on your wishlist.
You might find shopping on Small Business Saturday worth it if supporting small businesses is a priority for you. In terms of sales, small businesses are known to carry unique, handcrafted or customized items, giving you or a gift recipient an exclusive product.
To save money on holiday shopping, creating shopping lists and budgeting can give you a go-to plan to help you stick to the purchases you need to make. Looking up the item’s regular price can also give you a source of truth for checking for sales. That way you can make sure you’re getting the absolute best price no matter where you shop.