Black Friday. We all know it’s about saving some green. Beginning as early as the end of October, we’re bombarded with ads about blowout deals, best-of-season prices, and get-’em-before they’re gone gifts. But is it all just hype to stoke up sales or a really great opportunity to pile up perfect gifts in your cart while keeping more money in your wallet?
Every year, on the day after Thanksgiving, you’re dogged by the same dilemma: Should you camp outside your favorite retailer on Thanksgiving night so you’re first in line when the store opens or should you set your alarm for 2 a.m. on Black Friday morning so you can head out in the wee hours to save big? Either way, shopping on Black Friday is a commitment — for some, it’s more like a calling.
So to help make your shopping excursion worth the trip, we’ve looked to some pros for tips on what to get pumped about and what to pass up. After all, Black Friday comes just once a year: Why not make the most of white-hot deals?
Without further delay, here are the BEST and WORST items to buy on Black Friday!
Worst #1: Toys
You just might end up feeling blue if you’re looking to score great deals on toys come Black Friday. Sara Skirboll, shopping and trends expert for RetailMeNot, says “The best deals on toys are found about two weeks before Christmas, at around 20 to 25 percent off.”
When it comes to price drops on Top Ten Toys like a LEGO Star Wars building kit, Let’s Dance Elmo, or Fingerling’s HUGS, it seems like retailers don’t want to play on Black Friday. But a word to the wise: If you wait too long to snap up your tot’s favorite playthings you might find more than one retailer has already sold out of them. Which means holidays at your house could be more humbug than humming with joy.
Best #1: Designer Handbags
Shoulder. Crossbody. Clutch. Take your pick: Designer handbags make for some serious arm candy and you can score them at eye-popping prices on Black Friday. “Black Friday week is definitely the best time to buy a designer bag,” says Smith. Even couture brands like Stella McCartney, Kate Spade, and Dooney & Bourke offer reduced prices that won’t leave you strapped for cash.
Whether you’re looking for a stylish satchel, a truly gorgeous tote, a casual computer bag, or a comfy crossbody, expect to find reductions between 30 and 40 percent off regular prices. What better place to hold all the money you’re saving on Black Friday than in a handbag that’s as beautiful as it is economical.
Worst #2: Christmas Decorations
If after Christmas you’ve ever headed to the mall to return a gift that missed the mark than surely you’ve seen the unbelievable markdowns on holiday decor and accessories spilling out of the store aisles. On Black Friday you might see slight reductions on seasonal supplies but they can’t hold a candle to post-Christmas specials.
Wrapping paper. Tree tinsel. Christmas home decor. Seasonal trimmings. Artificial trees. You’ll find them all, relegated to a corner of your favorite home or craft store where clearance goes, hoping to be snatched up instead of being shipped off to the warehouse of unloved leftovers.
Best #2: Electronics
Electronics just might be the Black Friday item that gets shoppers most charged up. Deep discounts can be found on everything from phones, cameras, TVs, gaming systems, smartwatches, smart home devices, and more. But make a note on your smartphone: Stores usually offer a very limited number of doorbuster deals that time out or sell out very fast, which, unfortunately, can cause a shopping crowd to go from holiday happy to green with greed in no time flat.
Online deals can offer the same great savings as brick-and-mortar stores but items can sell out just as quickly. The good news: Instead of navigating holiday traffic to get to another retailer you can simply navigate another website that offers a similar deal. Shopping trends expert Sara Skirboll advises that “If you see a good deal on TVs, computers, or phones, pick [them] up immediately,” as discounts can go as deep as 40 percent.
Worst #3: Furniture
When the holiday hustle and bustle hits, you sure could go for plunking yourself down on a comfy sofa or chair and resting up before Uncle Bob and Aunt Betty ring the doorbell and roll in for another holiday meal. But according to Knutsson, buying furniture is not a good bet on Black Friday.
Those advertised doorbuster deals? Many of them are just plain hype that local department stores or retailers hope will lure you in before December winds down. For the lowest prices on indoor furniture, shop in January and July through August. The best discounts on patio furniture and outdoor home furnishings happen between August and September.
Best #3: Small Appliances
According to Josh Elledge, founder of SavingsAngel.com, you can’t beat appliance discounts on Black Friday. Why? “Retailers make more mass orders than they usually stock, and prices drop 40 to 50 percent lower than normal retail.” And the choices are many: electric skillets, toasters, blenders, rice makers, slow cookers, coffee makers, deep fryers, and more are a gleaming example of what Black Friday sales are all about.
Top brands get in on the action, too. Farberware, Hamilton Beach, Black & Decker, Oster and many others let you snag high-quality products without the high price. And something else that might just whip shoppers into a frenzy: KitchenAid stand mixers. Elledge says “They’re the heroes you can bank on for price drops on Black Friday.”
Worst #4: Bedding
White sales usually beat Black Friday when it comes to the best bedding buys. Most often taking place in January after the holiday rush, white sales allow you to sleep peacefully knowing you’ve saved a bundle on bedding and linens.
Sure, you have friends and relatives coming to stay for the holidays and your guest room could use a bit of, um, refreshing, but hold off if you can. During the month of January, retailers such as Pottery Barn, Sears, and Overstock could offer bedding discounts that can hit 70 percent. So skip browsing for bedding on Black Friday and wait until the new year to snag a new bed comforter or two — all the while giving your wallet a much needed rest.
Best #4: Winter Wear
Try this on for size: When Black Friday rolls around, retailers often increase the number of winter wear products they stock by more than 18 percent, according to Katie Smith, retail analysis and insights director at EDITED. That means you can pocket more cash by taking advantage of discounts and seasonal sales designed to help retailers clear overstock.
Owing to chillier seasonal temps, puffers, quilted jackets, and outerwear in general are favorite on-sale essentials. But you might also be able to find great deals on items like men’s suits, women’s shoes, and boots for kids and adults. Winter wear accessories like scarves and gloves also play a hand in letting you get some of the season’s favorites for gift giving (or for yourself) at reduced prices.
Worst #5: Fitness Equipment
You know it’s coming: the season of gorging, lounging, streaming, reclining. So wouldn’t it be a good idea to invest on Black Friday in a treadmill, a set of weights, maybe even a stair climber? But you may want to slow your roll. You might see a few headline-grabbing deals on exercise equipment and sportswear during Black Friday but November is one of the worst months for purchases in this category.
Typically, the quality of exercise equipment deals improves later in December, as Christmas gets closer. You can also look for sales in January when retailers look to lure in customers hoping to make good on a New Year’s resolution to shed a few pounds without loosing too much money on equipment.
Best #5: Travel Deals
Travel bargains may be just the ticket for your holiday gift list — or for giving yourself a getaway after the hustle and bustle of the season subsides. Hotel rooms. Ski lift tickets. Airfare. You can expect to find bargains on all of them on Black Friday.
But before you buy be sure you read the fine print: Travel promotions might only be available for a very limited time and you’ll most likely have to book during that window and travel during specific dates. Travelzoo senior editor Gabe Saglie says that “Hotels and car rental companies, as well as travel packages, will pump out time-specific sales.
Ski destinations, for example, which see peak visitor numbers December through March, are likely to push Black Friday/Cyber Monday bargains for their ‘need’ periods…the first and last weeks of ski season.”
Worst #6: Tools
The ads hammer it home: Black Friday is THE day for buying everything on your list. But not so much when it comes to tools. You may be able to find some credible savings on certain tool sets and tool storage but the real savings happen in May around Memorial Day and in June as Father’s Day approaches.
Specialty brands like Craftsman tend to dominate tool deals available on Black Friday but higher-end brands like DeWalt and Milwaukee wait until the spring push. So even though you may be looking to work on some indoor projects after the holidays, try and make do with the tools you have and plan on springing into action when the warmer weather hits.
Best #6: Home Appliances
There’s no place like home for the holidays and there’s no place like Black Friday for home appliances at unbelievably low prices. You can find mega savings on everything from major kitchen appliances and refrigerators to washers and dryers. It’s one of the few days during the year when big-ticket items are available with more than a little wiggle room in terms of price.
In addition to offering savings on appliances — prices can drop as much as 40 percent — retailers often add in incentives such as giving away a smaller item like a small portable vacuum cleaner or offering a gift card with qualifying appliance purchases.
Worst #7: Cheap Tablets
According to TechBargains.com, many stores will carry cheap tablets to lure consumers into their stores on Black Friday. But here’s a window of information: These types of tables often carry very minimal specs and you just might end up with a buggy, slow tablet that’s hardly worth the trouble. It’s unlikely that you’ll find a great deal on any recently released tablets on Black Friday; these items are in such demand they practically sell themselves, no discounts needed.
Your best bet for getting a reasonably priced tablet is to look for some type of bundle offer where you can purchase the tablet along with accessories such as a cover and a power adapter. These types of deals are available throughout the year, which means you don’t have to rush in on Black Friday, only to take your place in a line that seems to stretch into next week.
Best #7: Sneakers
If you’re planning to shop the day away on Black Friday, you may want to invest in a good pair of sneakers for yourself and buy a second pair for someone on your gift list. Discounts run the gamut from 20 to 30 percent off on full-price styles, according to Smith.
Sneaker sales aren’t limited to little-known brands destined for the ‘clearance’ counter. Pumped-up kicks like the Adidas AM4 and Nike Air Max 270 sneakers can be had for a steal. So whether you’re looking for deals on men’s, women’s, or kid’s sneakers, Black Friday is the time to find your favorite brands at prices that won’t break the bank. Sneakers may be too big to be stocking stuffers but they make a perfectly sized present.
Worst #8: Latest-Gen Gaming Consoles
The latest and greatest usually don’t come at great discounts, according to Boirun. “One of the sucker deals I usually advise staying away from on Black Friday is the latest-gen gaming consoles,” says Boirun. “These are usually used as bait, as many shoppers want to check them off their lists.”
Typically, however, discounts aren’t offered on new console models until the final week before Christmas in anticipation of a last-minute shopping rush. But on Black Friday, you can find deals aplenty on last year’s favorite gaming console, also known as a must-have on the better-than-nothing gift list. So don’t play into the retailer’s game: skip latest-gen console shopping on Black Friday.
Best #8: Travel Cups
Thermoses. No, not the standard, straightforward, simple thermos popular in the 1950s that featured a twist-off, matching plastic cup on top. We’re talking about thermoses with stainless-steel construction, double-vacuum insulation, and weather-resistant coating in colors that range from pale to powerful.
More like performance bottles, today’s thermoses are one of the best things to buy on Black Friday. According to Rob Boirun, CEO of Reviewstar, “They’re an easy gift item that will be hot this season.” Great thermos options from Ozark Trail, IGLOO, RTIC, and many more will be offered at low prices on Black Friday. What better way to gear up for the holiday shopping season?
Worst #9: Outdoor Essentials
There’s a chill in the air and Black Friday deals are hot, but, alas, the warm days of summer are long gone and so, too, are any deals on grills and patio furniture, lawn mowers and weed wackers. You won’t see a whole lot of flyers chock full of ads on outdoor items; in fact, the closest you’ll come to an outdoorsy offer is a sale on trees — artificial, of course.
Your best bet is to wait until a Spring Black Friday Sale at a home improvement store like Lowe’s or to hold off on making outdoor purchases until after Labor Day next year.
Best #9: Video Games, CDs, DVDs
On Black Friday, it’s a sure bet that the prices you find on video games, CDs, and DVDs won’t have you seeing red. In the past, GameStop has offered new games for more than 50 percent off and select games for as little as $10. And if you’re purchasing multiple games at the same time, you could score even better deals.
Other retailers getting in on the Black Friday hustle: Walmart, Fry’s, Best Buy, and Kmart. All of them offer a huge selection of video games at what will most likely be their lowest prices of the year. Another good thing about giving these items as gifts: You can lump a few together and give them as stocking stuffers. Sure beats a lump of coal.
Worst #10: Gift Cards
Gift cards. They can be holiday gold and the answer to your gift-giving dreams but if you’re looking for a sweet deal on them come Black Friday your hopes might be tarnished. Gift cards are usually cheaper in December in the weeks leading up to Christmas, according to Knutsson. During that time period, you may be able to score gift cards for less than face value or get a BOGO deal.
The bottom line: Gift cards are always a can’t-go-wrong choice but be choosy about when you purchase them — you won’t find many great deals when Black Friday rolls around.
Best #10: Gaming System Bundles
Bundle up, head out the door, and grab some gaming system bundles while they’re hot: Black Friday is as much for gamers as it is for shoppers. Videogames and video game systems will be offered at reduced prices at many big box retailers like Walmart and Best Buy as well as gaming-specific stores such as GameStop.
You can also score great offers on gaming bundles. Why head home with just a game console when you can load up your cart with everything from a combination of accessories to a collection of favorite games? Knowing that Black Friday is one of the busiest buying days of the year, stores will have plenty of the latest, gotta-have games in stock.