I’ve been shopping Black Friday deals for years, so trust me when I say I’ve made all the mistakes.
Each year, I make adjustments to my routine based on the previous year’s experience. If you’re looking to get in on the action, here are my personal Black Friday shopping secrets:
1. Scout out the store the day before Thanksgiving.
If you want to be a tactical shopper, go the day before Thanksgiving to get a feel for the setup of the store. Not only might you see setup going on for doorbuster deals, you can also find the second location of each hot doorbuster item.
For example, if Beats headphones are the “it” item at Target, you can expect that on Black Friday there’ll be an independent display near the store’s entrance — plus more inventory in the electronics department. If you know where to find them, skip the mayhem at the door, and make a beeline to get your headphones elsewhere.
2. Use the Amazon Shopping app to do real-time price checks when shopping in-store.
Did you know over 17% of items on Black Friday will actually cost MORE than their current selling price on Amazon.com? Don’t get suckered.
If you find the item is cheaper on Amazon, buy it with 1-click ordering.
3. Carry a reusable bag instead of using a shopping cart to maneuver easier through crowds.
Shopping carts on Black Friday are a rookie mistake, but the handheld carts are too small (plus, trolling the aisles with merchandise hanging out of my purse isn’t ideal.)
4. Print out coupons for stores you’ll be shopping at.
Print coupons online to pack in your purse. Instead of printing out a million coupons, only print ones you know you’ll need and what you’re shopping for.
5. Avoid the main aisles when navigating the store.
Most deals are on the perimeter of the store, so that’s where everyone congregates. Save time and avoid the crowds by cruising the lesser-traveled aisles, sans shopping cart.
6. Don’t wait for Black Friday — shop on Thanksgiving.
Ugh, shopping on Thanksgiving? I know, right? We aren’t telling you to abandon your family traditions, pumpkin pie, and stuffing in order to get a good deal.
However, we do want to tell you that most stores now offer their Black Friday deals even the night before Black Friday. Truth be told, there are some very sweet deals, and if you want to get a jump on the crowds, you can score certain deals Thanksgiving night.
7. Try and limit yourself to two stores… Ha.
Listen, I’m not naive enough to believe you’re going to take my advice on this, but when you find you’ve blown your holiday budget, filled your minivan with bags of toys you hadn’t planned to buy, and endured a lecture from your significant other as a result, don’t forget that I told you so.
Only the truly crazy drive to more than two stores on Black Friday. I get tired just thinking about it.
8. Download CrayPay and use it while you’re checking out to save even more.
Pick a retailer and enter your total purchase amount into CrayPay to buy a gift card in the exact amount of your purchase. CrayPay turns the gift card into a barcode the cashier can scan at the register (or use it at self checkout).
You pay 1.5-3% less than retail price of the gift card — that’s in addition to any cash back credit card rewards, coupons and rebates.
You can even use the Raise app to purchase gift cards on the go. It’s the perfect thing to occupy yourself as you stand in that gigantic Black Friday checkout line.
Buy the gift card in exactly the amount you need, and redeem with the instantly delivered digital gift card code. If you’re not using Raise.com, I can’t even…
9. If you’re shopping at Target, avoid wearing red — seriously.
You laugh now — if you think this tip is dumb, I dare you to wear red just once and see what happens.
Also, don’t forget to use the Target app to find Cartwheel offers. (The Cartwheel app itself is going away).
10. Get in line early for free stuff.
In the past, Kohl’s offered free movie tickets to the first 100 people in line. PetSmart offered a free paw print ornament and a movie rental to the first 100 customers. Michaels gave out gift cards to the first 21 customers. Other stores like JCPenney and Kmart handed out perks for being at the front of the line, and drugstores (Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aid) used their own rewards programs to hand out freebies to the first people in line.
If you like free things, this is for you!
11. Download the BFAds.net app to keep all the ads with you.
12. Fill up and abandon your shopping cart online to get discounts like 15-20% off.
It’s no secret that a lot of companies will send you coupons if you fill up your cart and abandon it. If you’d rather stay home on Black Friday and shop from your pajamas, do this a week or so before to get discounts ranging from 15-20% off your online order.
13. Look for in-stock guarantees.
Some of my favorite Black Friday Deals are the ones that you are guaranteed to get. Most stores have a limit on their doorbuster deals — so unless you’re the first in line, chances you’ll get it are small.
Here are a few items from Walmart’s one-hour guarantee in 2016:
- iPad Air 2 Gold 16GB
- Beats Studio Headphones
- LG 55″ Class Smart 4K UHD TV
- Xbox One 500GB Gears of War Bundle with a $30 Walmart Gift Card
- 15″ HP Touch Laptop
Sears is another store that offers the doorbuster guarantee. If the doorbuster isn’t in-stock, you could have it delivered to your house, or you could pick it up before Christmas for that guaranteed price.
14. Shop Amazon Alexa-exclusive deals.
Take advantage of Alexa-exclusive deals by asking, “Alexa, what are your deals?”
Last year we saw the following deals:
- Save $50 on an Amazon Tap — say, “Alexa, order an Amazon Tap” (Reg. Price $129.99)
- Save $80 on a 32-inch Samsung 1080p LED TV — say, “Alexa, order a Samsung TV” (Reg. Price $247.99)
- Save $15 on a Philips Hue LED Starter Kit with 2 Bulbs & Hue Bridge Hub — works with Amazon Alexa — say, “Alexa, order a Hue Starter Kit” (Reg. Price $64.99)
15. Make your shopping list by order of importance.
Prioritize your shopping list with your must-have items at the top. From there, plan your shopping trip in a way that gives you the best chance of getting everything before stock runs out.
Here’s when stores opened in 2016:
- Bed Bath & Beyond: open 6am on Black Friday
- Best Buy: open 5pm-1am Thanksgiving day; 8am-10pm on Black Friday
- DICK’S Sporting Goods: open 6pm-2am Thanksgiving day; open 5am-2pm on Black Friday
- JCPenney: open 3pm Thanksgiving day; open until 5pm on Black Friday
- Kohl’s: open 6pm on Thanksgiving day until 1pm on Black Friday (or while supplies last)
- Macy’s: open 5pm-2am on Thanksgiving day; open 6am-1pm Black Friday (some locations remain open overnight) and 8am-1pm on Saturday.
- Michaels: open 6pm-midnight Thanksgiving day; 7am-10pm on Black Friday
- Sears: open 6pm-midnight Thanksgiving day; open at 5am-1pm on Black Friday
- Target: open at 6pm Thanksgiving day
- Toys R Us: open at 5pm on Thanksgiving day; open at 6am Black Friday
- Walmart: open at 6pm Thanksgiving day
16. Sign up for store emails at least two weeks before Black Friday.
Once you have your list made, sign up to receive emails from the stores where you plan to shop. To be safe, it’s best to sign up two weeks before Black Friday.
But many stores will even send you instant coupons like this 15% off $100+ purchase coupon for Macy’s (which is 20% off this year!)
17. Use a price-protection credit card to get Black Friday prices before sales are live.
These credit cards essentially let you get price adjustments straight from the bank.
If you buy something with your price-protection credit card and find a lower price within 60-90 days, your credit card company will refund the difference. BOOM.
Chase doesn’t cover seasonal sales, which may rule out Black Friday sales, but Discover and Citi don’t mention any limits, which means you have price protection on doorbusters and other Black Friday deals.
If you want to snag one of these cards, here are three good ones we suggest. Keep in mind, most cards have a cap of around $2,500 worth of annual price adjustments:
18. Sign up for Paribus to get automatic price adjustments.
Paribus really wants to do all your heavy lifting when it comes to getting a price adjustment after you make a purchase.
Sign up for Paribus, and they’ll troll your inbox or your credit card statement, track your purchases, alert you of price drops, AND file the request on your behalf! They offer this service to you completely free, and you don’t lift a finger.
Paribus will work to get you money back from these merchants*. And, if you want even greater coverage, sign up for one of the price-protection credit cards I mentioned above, and sync up the card with Paribus for fully automated price adjustment refunds!
*Paribus can no longer request price adjustments from Amazon. They still track your Amazon purchases and get Amazon price adjustments if you’ve linked your price protection credit card.
Tip: Paribus can also score you a gift card if your shipment arrives late!
19. Recruit friends to get items on your list quicker.
Quantities are limited so it’s smart to split up your lists so you can divide and conquer. One of you take apparel, the other toys, and the third electronics. Then meet back somewhere where it’s calm (like the pet aisle) to separate your purchases before you head to the register.
That’s what friends are for.
20. Leave your kids at home. And your husband.
And not because it should count toward your “me time” quota, but because you need to move fast, and neither of them fit into your IKEA bag.
Sorry, but you gotta have your best Black Friday game. And we all know kids and husbands get in the way.
21. Shop the brands that rarely go on sale.
Black Friday is a great time to save on brands that are stingy with sales during the rest of the year. Think: brands like Vitamix, Oakley, Apple or BOB Stroller. Last year, we saw the BOB Revolution SE Single Stroller (reg $459.99) for $275.99.
Sales on BOB Strollers are super rare! If you must have new Apple products, expect gift card sales on all the hottest new phones, watches, and tablets on Black Friday. But, between you and me, last year’s models are a better bargain.
See our list of 9 things you shouldn’t buy on Black Friday.
22. Join free loyalty programs before shopping.
Using a loyalty program on top of sales and coupons will ensure you save all the money.
23. Read the fine print and return policy before making a purchase.
Make sure you know the store’s return policy before you purchase something on Black Friday. The phrase you’re looking for is “restocking fee.” Some retailers may charge a high restocking fee for electronics.
Sears charges a restocking fee of 15% on consumer electronics, patio furniture, gazebos, canopies, pergolas, air conditioners, dehumidifiers, space heaters, and grills if the packaging is open or the item has been used.
Most stores offer generous return policies on Black Friday — with return windows running through January.
24. Don’t waste your time price matching on Black Friday.
Next to nobody price matches on Black Friday. Price match leaders like Walmart, Target, and Best Buy each have a disclaimer excluding Black Friday sales from price matching.
- Target: “Price matches and adjustments to competitors will not be allowed for prices from Thanksgiving Day through the entire week after Thanksgiving. (11/23/2017 – 12/2/2017).”
- Walmart: “…This does not apply to Clearance, Special buy, Value of the Day or deep discounts like Thanksgiving, Black Friday or Cyber Monday… Walmart.com will not price match items on Walmart.com or to other retailers between Thanksgiving and Cyber-Monday.”
- Best Buy: “… and [excluding] items for sale Thanksgiving Day through the Monday after Thanksgiving, whether offered by Best Buy or a competitor.”
- Amazon used to price match, but this year they’ve scaled back, and now they only price match TVs. Regarding Black Friday, their policy states “The Guarantee will not apply to Comparable Offers which are promoted or marketed as limited time sales or offers, which last for 72 hours or less, such as Lightning Deals, Gold Box Deals, Black Friday, ‘early bird’ or ‘door buster’ offers (‘Limited Time Promotion’). The Guarantee will also not apply to Eligible TVs purchased as part of a Limited Time Promotion by Amazon.”
- Kohl’s price match policy doesn’t exclude Black Friday specifically, but my call to customer service let me know that they don’t plan to price match on Black Friday, and the policy will be updated before Black Friday. Even if they did, their price match policy excludes such a huge list of brands, it’d be near impossible to find an eligible product anyway.
25. Expect everything but the doorbusters to be available online.
Know what’s great? In the past two years, we’ve seen a huge increase in the portion of Black Friday advertised sales available online.
Unless you’re going for the hottest doorbusters, you’re not gonna need to leave your house for hot Black Friday prices.
Keep in mind that while some Black Friday circulars will note which items will be available in-store only, in past years even some of those items have popped up online at the last minute.
Stick close to KCL: download our free app, join our email, and sign up for text alerts for the hottest online deals.
26. Stock up on items you can use as wedding gifts in 2018. And birthdays. And baby showers.
This is my favorite thing to do on Black Friday. In fact, I built my gift stockpile for birthdays and weddings this way. You can find small appliances at Macy’s, JCPenney and Walmart.
27. Don’t shop Amazon without CamelCamelCamel.com.
Amazon is one of the best places to shop on Black Friday. They have insane lightning deals and steep price drops. But, sometimes Amazon inflates its “regular prices” making it near-impossible to tell if something is a really good deal.
CamelCamelCamel tracks Amazon prices so you can see how today’s Amazon price compares to the rest of the year. Just enter the Amazon URL to see a graph of price historicity. You can even sign up for price-drop alerts.
28. Walmart is the most dangerous place to shop on Black Friday. (We’re talking crimes committed.)
According to the website BlackFridayDeathCount.com, 10 people have been killed by doorbuster stampedes and confrontations on Black Friday. Another 105 have been injured.
Target and Kohl’s have definitely had incidents, but Walmart gets the prize for most Black Friday assaults, deaths, and overall mayhem (like crowds of people fighting over $2 waffle makers or $1.28 towels). In 2008, a customer died in a stampede of people at a Walmart in New York. In 2011, a woman used pepper spray on a crowd in Los Angeles. And in 2013, a man was stabbed in a Walmart parking lot in Virginia. Why? He got into a fight with another man over a parking space.
Stay calm and be safe this holiday season, no matter where you shop.
With a broad selection of merchandise across top categories including appliances, electronics, apparel, jewelry, and toys, I often put these stores at the top of my Black Friday list.
Check out how the percentage of savings at these three retailers beats the competition:
30. Costco and Sam’s Club are literally the worst.
Traditionally, people want to find deals on electronics (like computers) and toys on Black Friday.
Costco and Sam’s Club don’t even have noteworthy sales on toys at all. Black Friday is the time of year that laptops reach the lowest prices of the year. So you’ll want to shop somewhere that offers the steepest discounts. (Office Depot/Max is where you should buy your computer.)
Find out the best time of year to buy everything.
31. JCPenney is best for clothes.
Last year, JCPenney had a super-savings coupon which was $500 off $500, or a $100 off $100, or $10 off $10.
We saw most clothing for 60% off retail price. Check out some of the best spotlight deals from last Black Friday:
- Select women’s boots — $19.99 (reg. $60-$90)
- St. John’s Bay Faux Fur Puffer Coat — $29 (reg. $150)
- St. John’s Bay women’s sweaters — $9.99 (reg. $30-$34)
- Stafford dress shirts $9 (reg. $36)
- Boys’ or girls’ Arizona graphic tees $6 (reg. $18)
- Carter’s 1-PC sleepwear $7 (reg. $20)
32. Office Depot/Max is best for computers.
Office Depot/Max boasted a 50%-70% discount on computers and tablets last year on Black Friday.
Check out these deals that were hard to pass up:
- Samsung Galaxy Tab $149.99 (reg. $229.99)
- HP 15.6″ Touchscreen Laptop w/Intel Core i7, 8GB RAM, 1TB HHD, Win 10 $449.99 (reg. $849.99)
33. Kohl’s is best for toys.
Last year, Kohl’s was giving $15 Kohl’s Cash for every $50 spent. They also had a 50% discount on brands like Fisher-Price, Playskool, Little Tikes, Barbie, Nerf, Tonka and more.
I purchased three toys, all of which were more than 50% off:
- Fisher-Price ride-on toy — $24.99 (reg. $54.99)
- Star Wars basic light saber — $9.99 (reg. $19.99)
- Step2 shopping cart — $17.99 (reg. $49.99)
34. Macy’s is best for small appliances.
Based on what I saw last year, I have high hopes for Macy’s. They offered $10 off $25, as well as $20 off $50 or more. Last year, I got a slow cooker, electric skillet, and blender for $7.99 each ($19.99 sale price + $12 rebate).
- Crock-Pot 5 quart slow cooker — $7.99 (reg. $29.99-$44.99)
- Bella 12 inch electric skillet — $7.99 (reg. $29.99-$44.99)
- Bella 12-pc. Rocket blender — $7.99 (reg. $29.99-$44.99)
35. Drugstores are best for stocking stuffers.
Walgreens, Rite Aid, and CVS are little known hotspots for deals on Black Friday. Their sales are legit on their own, but the coolest part is that unlike many other Black Friday retailers, drugstores accept loads of coupons on top of Black Friday sale prices.
- Free Scunci hair elastics at Walgreens
- Free Russel Stover candy bags at Rite Aid
- Free Phillips earbuds at Rite Aid
- MONEYMAKER Covergirl lip gloss at CVS
36. Set a budget and stick to it. Even consider only carrying cash.
If you’re known to impulse buy, live on the dangerous side and only take cash with you. You’ll stick to the budget you set and won’t end up with a carload of things you didn’t need!
37. Don’t leave your house unless you’ll be saving at least $50.
Don’t get swept up in a hot deal if you’re only saving ten bucks. That’s barely worth the fuel cost, let alone the lack of sleep and shopping stress. My rule of thumb is I won’t leave the house if I’m not gonna save at least $50.
So if all I want is the hot FurReal pet that’s on sale for $40 instead of $80 on Black Friday, I’ll wait for another sale online, or maybe I’ll buy it in December. I’ll probably end up paying a few dollars more than I would have on Black Friday, but I’ll have saved my time and sanity — both which are worth a lot.