The name of the holiday shopping game is to get everything on your list for the least amount of money possible.
This seems obvious and perhaps even easy — except that holiday shopping has become so overwhelming that it can make the smartest shoppers want to shrivel up into the fetal position and cry.
But don’t cry! We’ve cut through the holiday shopping noise to bring you some of the best tips from years past and trends we expect to see this year.
You’ve got this!
1. “Black Friday” is happening earlier and earlier every year — don’t give in to the hype!
Let’s face it, it’s not Black Friday anymore. It’s more like Black November since holiday shopping trends happen sooner and sooner.
We’ve been trying to shop smart during the holidays for over a decade now, and we’ve found the best deals come to those who don’t jump on the very first “holiday” sale they see in October.
During this time you’ll be able to do all your holiday shopping and feel confident you’re getting the best deals.
Plus, you can take advantage of Free Shipping Day on December 14, ending your holiday shopping a few weeks ahead of Christmas. Enough time to sip cocoa and relax!
2. Don’t go into Target, Kohl’s, Old Navy or Costco during Black Friday week — at all!
These stores offer online Black Friday sales and doorbusters, so plan to do your holiday shopping on Thursday evening from home after the turkey has been consumed and the dishes done.
In the past, we’ve found zero reason to go into a Target or Kohl’s store at all. Everything available in store is available online for the same price.
Costco offers one-day-only online shopping on Thanksgiving — warehouse stores are closed on Thanksgiving, but you can still shop from home.
Learn more about dominating Costco holiday shopping this season.
3. Sign up for Paribus and find out if any retailers owe you money.
Paribus will let you know if an item you bought online went on sale so you can request the difference from a retailer.
This is totally free and a mindless way to make sure you’re saving every possible penny on your purchases! When you use Paribus, the savings don’t stop at the register!
Paribus compensates us when you sign up for Paribus using the links we provided.
4. Only go to Walmart on Black Friday if you must have a doorbuster.
Black Friday urban legends were born at Walmart. You know, people being trampled to death, fistfights breaking out over a Keurig deal, etc.
And while Walmart Black Friday deals can be totally worth the hassle of getting up early the day after Thanksgiving, nobody wants to be a Black Friday Death Count statistic.
For this reason, only go into a Walmart store if you want a doorbuster you can’t get online. That’s literally the only reason to get out of bed and head to Walmart early Friday morning.
Plus, who knows? Last year, Walmart gave out free coffee or cocoa and cookies, so maybe they’ll be able to turn the stereotype they invented around.
5. Otherwise, “I can use coupons” is the only reason to go in store on Black Friday!
Besides trying for an in-store doorbuster, the only other legit reason for doing your holiday shopping on Black Friday inside a store is to get or to use coupons.
Since it’s rare to be able to use coupons on Black Friday, these stores get the thumbs-up:
- JCPenney hands out coupons to the first customers when the store opens at 2:00 p.m. Thanksgiving Day. Score a coupon for $10.00 off $10.00, $100.00 off $100.00, or even $500.00 off $500.00.
- Bath & Body Works allows coupon stacking this one day every year. Otherwise you can only use one coupon per item.
- CVS allows you to use coupons on top of Black Friday prices.
6. Get free food or coffee during Black Friday weekend.
Restaurants and coffee shops are shouting “me too!” on Black Friday with offers for free or cheap DoorDash, UberEats or GrubHub delivery.
7. Use the free KCL app to organize your Christmas list and set deal alerts.
You can make the ultimate Christmas list with the KCL app.
Best part? Not only will it be a list, but it’ll also tell you when deals you’re watching for are available.
Let’s say you want to get a Dyson vacuum cleaner for your mom this Christmas (you’re super nice, just so you know). Just set a notification for Dyson, and you’ll be the first to know when we see a hot deal.
TIP: Consider enabling “Krazy Hot Deals” in order to see the best deals of the season in every category. You may be surprised to find a deal for something else on your Christmas shopping list.
8. Don’t wait for Cyber Monday to shop online!
It’s true that last year Cyber Monday had better deals than in past years. So we may be experiencing a renaissance of Cyber Monday deals.
But even so, don’t expect to see better online deals on Cyber Monday than you’re seeing the week leading up to Black Friday. Pull the trigger whenever you see a price you can live with.
Here’s when online deals begin on Thanksgiving at these popular retailers:
- Victoria’s Secret: 12:00 a.m. EST
- Walmart: 12:01 a.m EST
- Target: 1:00 a.m EST
- JCPenney: 1:00 a.m EST
- Best Buy: 1:00 a.m EST
- Amazon: 3:00 a.m EST
- Macy’s: 3:00 a.m EST
- ULTA: 6:00 p.m. EST
9. Get free shipping at Amazon even if you’re not a member.
We used to suggest signing up for Amazon Prime about a week before Black Friday in order to get free shipping during Amazon’s free month trial.
But last year Amazon offered free shipping for everyone, so no need to sign up for Prime.
I’d be surprised if Amazon didn’t repeat this offer, and if they do repeat it, don’t worry about signing up for Prime if you don’t want to.
10. Shop Amazon’s Lightning Deals for a month.
Amazon Lightning Deals start mid-November and last until mid-December, so get your online holiday shopping game face on.
Also look for 10 major deals at midnight on Thanksgiving and 10 additional Amazon deals at midnight on Black Friday.
Download the Amazon app and sign up for “Watch this Deal” to get alerts on the items you care the most about.
11. Use free in-store pickup to avoid paying for shipping at Walmart, Target and more.
Since Amazon changed the free-shipping game last year during the holiday season, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see more free shipping offers this year from competitors.
But if you still don’t qualify for free shipping, utilize free in-store pickup at stores like Walmart, Target and more.
Last year, Walmart offered free in-store pickup all the way until Christmas Eve, as long as you placed your online order by December 23.
12. Shop Costco’s hot toy deals before they sell out.
Last year Costco had some great deals on toys including Fingerlings, American Girl and LEGO, which were 40-70% less than competitor pricing.
These toys show up around October, and they may be the one exception to the “don’t shop before mid-November” rule.
TIP: As long as you’re not shopping during the Black Friday weekend (typically Thanksgiving through the following Monday), you might be able to get Costco’s price at another retailer if that’s more convenient than shopping Costco.
13. Watch Walmart for the hottest toys of 2019 — last year they offered a few exclusives.
If you’re looking to shop holiday deals on hot toys like Hatchimals, ride-on cars, quadcopter drones, L.O.L. Surprise! and more, Walmart may be your best bet.
Last year, Walmart offered more than a thousand exclusive toy deals. Meaning, you can only find these toys at Walmart.
We earmarked ten of our favorite Walmart exclusive deals from last year — expect to see similar deals this year.
14. Download Hopper and watch for travel deals on the Tuesday after Black Friday (Dec. 3).
Hopper uses data from years past to make estimates on flight costs so you can decide when’s the best time to buy.
You can even set up alerts so Hopper notifies you when a flight you’re watching hits an all-time low price.
Plus, the Tuesday after Black Friday, affectionately known as Travel Tuesday, often sees the best travel discounts of the season.
Why? Most people have purchased their holiday travel tickets, and airlines are hoping to inch procrastinators closer to buying their Christmas airline tickets on Travel Tuesday by offering lower prices.
But who’s gonna tell if a smart shopper like you takes advantage of low travel prices to purchase summer vacation tickets?
15. Get all the Black Friday freebies.
BOGOs, gift cards with a purchase and free totes, oh my!
There are loads of freebies you can get when you shop certain stores like Macy’s, Rite Aid, Target and more during the holiday season, specifically Black Friday.
Here’s a complete list of Black Friday freebies we saw last year, organized by store.
16. Pay attention to ULTA deals and stock up on makeup for the whole year.
I feel like every year I’m surprised all over again at how hard ULTA goes on Black Friday.
I’m talking 40-50% off rarely-discounted prestige makeup brands like Tarte, Urban Decay, Anastasia Beverly Hills, IT Cosmetics, Smashbox and more.
Plus, 50-70% off hair care brands like Redken and TIGI, and 20-30% off styling tools like curling irons and ionic hair dryers.
And last year when you spent $60.00 online, you’d get a free 9-piece makeup gift set.
You don’t even have to go in store. Do all your ULTA online holiday shopping from home starting at 6 p.m. EST on Thanksgiving.
17. Make every online purchase through a cash-back site like RetailMeNot or Ibotta.
Don’t forget about the tried and true smart shopping tricks like initiating your purchase through cash-back sites RetailMeNot or Ibotta.
These offer you a percentage of what you spend back in the form of a PayPal payment.
You can expect to get back an extra 1-10% — not shabby if you’re shopping online anyway!
18. Expect Walmart to offer the best deal on iPhones.
Last year we got an unheard-of deal on an iPhone at Walmart — a $400 gift card with a purchase of a then-year-old model of the iPhone (8, 8+ and X).
If you wanted a then-brand new model (Xs, Xs Max or XR at the time), you’d receive a $300 Walmart gift card.
That gift card is as good as cash when you put it toward your grocery budget or the rest of your Christmas shopping list.
Learn more secrets to shopping for Apple deals on Black Friday.
19. Don’t pay more than $80.00 for Powerbeats3 Wireless headphones. ($146.00 for Beats Solo3).
If you want to splurge on a pair of Beats by Dre, Target is the place to do it.
Last year, Powerbeats3 were on sale for $89.99 (reg. $199.99) on Black Friday at Target. And Solo3 Wireless headphones were on sale for $179.99 (reg. $299.99).
But then on Cyber Monday, Target offered an additional 15% off when you bought them online.
Use your REDcard and save an extra 5% too.
Here are a few more tried and true tips for shopping Beats by Dre.
20. Don’t pay more than $39.00 for an Air Fryer.
Last year, we crowned Walmart the unofficial queen of Black Friday Air Fryer deals.
They offered a Farberware 3.2-Quart Digital Oil-Less Fryer for $39.00 (reg. $69.00).
This was an Air Fryer exclusive to Walmart, so you couldn’t find that specific version or that price anywhere else.
21. Don’t pay more than $225.00 for a Nintendo Switch.
Nintendo is notoriously stingy with discounts, so any little bit you can save is noteworthy.
Last year, Kohl’s came out swinging with a deal on a Nintendo Switch bundle which included the console, Turtle Beach Gaming Headset and RDS Travel Case for $329.99, plus $105.00 back in Kohl’s Cash and Yes2You Rewards.
Year over year, Kohl’s has proven to be in it to win it when it comes to gaming stations like Nintendo Switch, Xbox and PS4.
Plan to shop online on Thanksgiving when Kohl’s doorbusters go live.
Get more tips to dominate Nintendo Switch, Xbox and PS4 deals.
22. Shop holiday deals at Old Navy and Gap when everything is 50% off the lowest price.
This is simple and it’s a no-brainer.
Don’t go in store. Just shop Gap and Old Navy online on Black Friday — everything in the store is usually an extra 50% off the last marked price.
This includes clearance items too — everything!
23. Buy any size clothing to get the deal, and return it a week later to get the correct size.
This is kind of a lazy way to shop Black Friday, but it might be worth it to slightly save your sanity.
When you’re shopping for clothing online or in store, just grab whatever size is available for items you want. Don’t try anything on.
Then a week after Black Friday, exchange your items for the correct sizes.
Make sure you’re not buying anything that’s final sale or this won’t work!
24. Sign up for a Target REDcard at least a month before Black Friday.
For the past handful of years, Target has offered REDcard exclusive Black Friday deals for cardholders.
Last year, Target was all in for REDcard holders because instead of offering specific deals for cardholders like in years past, they simply made every Black Friday deal available to cardholders 24 hours before anyone else.
This means you’re much more likely to actually get those killer online doorbusters.
Make sure you apply about a month before Black Friday to be sure you’re approved and all set.
(Of course, you’ll also get 5% off every purchase you make with your REDcard. Plus, it’s connected to your checking account, so it’s not a credit card!)
25. Educate yourself so you can shop strategically and specifically at every store.
We’ve done deep dives into what the most popular Black Friday retailers are doing every year and what to expect.
Use these guides to find out holiday shopping trends and little-known tips like best things to buy at each store and what to skip.
Plus, you can learn when to expect each store’s Black Friday ad to drop.
- Walmart Black Friday shopping tips
- Target Black Friday shopping tips
- Amazon Black Friday shopping tips
- Macy’s Black Friday shopping tips
- Kohl’s Black Friday shopping tips
- JCPenney Black Friday shopping tips
26. Buy discounted gift cards two weeks before you start holiday shopping.
Scour sites like Raise, Gift Card Granny and Cardpool for gift cards to stores you know you’ll shop during the holiday season.
Look through all three websites to make sure you’re getting the best savings possible and then use these cards like cash to make your holiday shopping purchases.
Resources & Links Mentioned