With 2020 being such a weird and unpredictable year, it's especially important to lock down your Black Friday strategy early. This season is already an overwhelming time to shop, and it could be even more so this year.
To help you out, we've put together a list of Black Friday strategies to follow. Check out our guide below and learn when to start watching for Black Friday deals, how to keep your budget intact, and how to avoid disappointment.
How to Prepare for Black Friday
Make a Budget (Now)
Setting a budget is a crucial task in 2020, as some consumers may be dealing with unemployment or the aftermath of being furloughed earlier in the year. Some may even be preparing for the possibility of it happening again.
The first budgeting step is deciding how much you can afford to spend this holiday season. Nail down the items you absolutely must have, including gifts and other purchases you've been saving for. And be sure to leave room for incidentals, like last-minute gifts. Once you've put together this list, calculate the absolute maximum amount you can afford to go over — and be prepared to stick to it.
Once you've figured out how much you're willing to spend, make a list of all the people you're shopping for. That'll help you dole out appropriate amounts for each gift. Then, get an idea of what you'd like to buy for your recipients. Keep it as nonspecific as you can and be flexible with your shopping — doing so will help to shield you from missing deals, or from buying offers that aren't that great.
Check Prices Before Black Friday
This step might seem like a waste — after all, if Black Friday has good deals, why do you need to look at prices now? But the truth is, by checking up on pricing for the items on your list now, you'll have more confidence in the offers you see during Black Friday. Knowing that a Google Nest Mini has a list price of $49 means you'll recognize that a $20 price tag on Thanksgiving is a solid deal.
Study the Ads
Familiarize yourself with the Black Friday ads. Check the circulars for your favorite stores first, but don't ignore the ones from places you might not normally shop! While it's easy to buy a new Echo device from Amazon, stores like Staples or Best Buy could have better savings locally. Make note of any restrictions, including deals that only run until a certain time or on a certain day.
Opt for Online Shopping
Ordinarily, we'd tell you to weigh your options for in-store versus online shopping. However, this year we're expecting an even bigger push for online Black Friday shopping than we've seen before.
We aren't expecting many in-store-only doorbusters in 2020 — if there are any at all. But be aware that online shopping can come with a few drawbacks. Watch out for short-lived deals that sell out fast, a lack of inventory transparency, and website crashes (or outright refusals to load). Additionally, price comparisons are an absolute must.
However, with so many retailers already planning for an extended Black Friday season and for more consumers to shop online, we're expecting stores to account for traffic increases. Still, it's good to be prepared just in case.
Bookmark Pages Ahead of Time
If you're planning on shopping online, you should be utilizing bookmarks. In many cases, bookmarking a product page ahead of time can save you precious seconds when sales go live. However, note that sometimes stores will have products at different URLs. In these cases, you could find yourself staring at a 404 error message. If you'd rather not risk that, bookmark the homepage of the store's website — you'll still save at least a little time.
Craft a Curbside Pickup Plan
Consumers might not be comfortable shopping in-store this year, but that doesn't mean you can't buy and pick up your items on the same day. Stores like Target and Walmart, as well as Best Buy and department stores, will be offering pickup as per usual during their Black Friday events.
Even better, many of them have adopted curbside or drive-up pickup methods for customers. These combine the best of both worlds — you can still shop online, but you can also get your items quickly, rather than having to wait for them to be delivered.
Don't Expect Stores to Price Match
Every year, major retailers pause their price matching around Black Friday. The suspension often lasts from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday, but some stores have been known to pause the perk for two straight weeks around the holiday.
At least one store is switching up their policy this year, but shoppers will still have to deal with restrictions. Target is extending their price matching policy, but only in the case of Black Friday deals sold through Target. That means if you buy something from there between November 1 and November 28, and it drops in price on or before December 24, you can receive a price adjustment — but only if that lower cost is at Target or on Target's website.
Start Shopping on Thanksgiving... or Even Sooner
Many retailers are planning to be physically closed on Thanksgiving this year. More than usual, in fact. However, just because you can't walk into one of their stores doesn't mean you won't be able to shop online.
Savvy Black Friday shoppers know the best deals can pop up before the big day itself. Some of the best savings opportunities show up on Thanksgiving, and many retailers prefer to roll out deals even sooner to try to beat the competition.
Be Ready to Wait
You might not be standing in a physical line this year, but if you're utilizing some method of store pickup, be prepared to wait. If you can, opt for drive-up in these cases; then you can at least wait in the comfort of your car. If you do have to wait inside, remember to follow any rules the store has in place, including wearing a mask and socially distancing at least 6 feet from other people.
Whether you're inside the store or waiting in your car, you'll need material to keep you entertained. Take a book with you to read or listen to podcasts on your phone. The amount of time you'll have to wait will vary, so be prepared with something to do. That way, you won't be standing around plagued by boredom.
Download Apps and Save Extra
When you're waiting on an order, you may want to double-check that you're getting the best deal, or just get started on the next item on your list. Either way, we suggest you download the DealNews app to stay on top of the latest deals while on the go.
Avoid Impulse Purchases
This might be easier to do if you're shopping exclusively online, as you won't have the items right in front of you while you wait for a cashier to scan your purchases. When you're saving a lot of money on the shopping holiday, it's easy to feel like a couple of extra items won't matter. This kind of thinking will destroy your Black Friday budget! Avoid any so-called "freebies" that come with minimum thresholds you weren't planning to spend, like a free tote with a $75 purchase.
Beware of Final Sale Items
Plenty of Black Friday promotions claim to offer the lowest prices of the season. However, before you rush to buy anything — especially a big-ticket item — check to see if it's a "final sale." Products with that designation typically can't be returned, and if they can be, they could incur a restocking fee of at least 15%. Familiarize yourself with the store's policy before you add that new TV to your cart.
Mail-in rebates and store credits are popular forms of Black Friday discounts. Retailers tend to prefer these kinds of savings, as they're able to advertise deep discounts, but still rake in the full prices for these items. It's a win-win, really.
Redeeming those offers can be a bit tricky for those who aren't well-organized. We suggest tucking your receipts and rebate forms into a special envelope or section of your wallet. If you're shopping exclusively online, create a folder or special label for all your outstanding orders. Then, later that day create a spreadsheet with all the pertinent details for each offer, including the product, store, dates the offer is valid, and anything else you might need to scoop up those savings.
Be a Social (Media) Butterfly
Whatever your favorite social platform might be (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or something else entirely), start following your favorite stores now. Keep a close eye on these accounts, as coupons, sale previews, or even Black Friday ads can appear there. These can net you some serious savings, or help you find a bargain you wouldn't have seen otherwise.
Additionally, be sure to check these accounts for coupons before you hit the stores. Look for promo codes from manufacturers' websites, store websites, or right here on DealNews. And if you're headed in-store, check your local paper and online circulars for printable coupons to take along, as well.
Be Kind to Everyone
Please be nice to sales associates. True, some retail employees absolutely jump at the chance to earn holiday overtime pay by working on Thanksgiving or Black Friday. But they still have to face long lines, temperamental customers, and probably co-workers who have zero desire to be there. And even if more people shop online this year, they'll still have to face these obstacles at some point. You won't be able to control the people around you, but you can definitely be a bright spot in someone else's stressful day.
Readers, how are you preparing for Black Friday 2020? Let us know in the comments below.