Is Black Friday All it’s Cracked up to Be?

Black Friday

We have a group of friends that we enjoy Thanksgiving with each year. It never fails that the same family each year is all atwitter about what Black Friday deals they’ll score the next day. Four or five years ago they’d say they would be starting their Black Friday at four or five in the morning. This past year they were happy to report that they would be starting their Black Friday right after midnight. They’d be taking a short nap after we all left and would then get ready for a day FULL of shopping. Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with this if that what floats your boat, but it always seems to puzzle me. As I’ve written before, I personally would rather get a frontal lobotomy then go shopping…especially on Black Friday. Many things draw people to the Black Friday craze, much of it centered on saving money. My question is do you really save money by shopping on Black Friday?

The Best Prices Are Not Always Available the Day After Thanksgiving

Retailers are not stupid. They spend good chunks of money to learn when the best time to offer deals is. Some deals, like toys might be better priced right before Christmas whereas big ticket items like TV’s are generally at their best prices early in the year. Another thing to remember is that most retailers will include numerous items that don’t have a hefty discount to make up for the loss leaders they’re drawing you into the store with.

Not All Black Friday Deals Start on Black Friday

A common myth is that Black Friday deals start the day after Thanksgiving. However, over the last few years the Black Friday deals start earlier and earlier. More stores are open on Thanksgiving and some online retailers like Amazon  start their deals as early as two weeks before Black Friday. This is great for someone like me who likes to get shopping done as soon as possible and get it out of the way.

Black Friday Deals Can Be Had if You Look in the Right Places

What I love about the growth of online retailers is that I really don’t have to leave my home on Black Friday. If I have any shopping left to do, I can do much if not all of it from the privacy of my home. While people are out fighting the crowds I am at home watching football and enjoying time with the family. Thanks to the aforementioned growth and competition in the retail marketplace, more and more retailers are offering to match competitor’s pricing. I’ve heard rumors of retailers like Best Buy, Target and Home Depot being willing to match prices. Make sure and learn who that is so you can take further advantage of savings.

Make Your Money Go Further on Black Friday

As someone who loves to be frugal, I am always looking for ways to save money and Black Friday is no different. The main thing I do is use my credit card when making my purchase; I earn reward points that I’ll redeem for travel or cash at a later date. I then pay it off with the cash we’ve set aside for gift giving throughout the year.

I do a lot of shopping online and my biggest pet peeve is having to pay for shipping. I’ll check retailer’s sites to see what will qualify or I check sites like Retailmenot to see what deals might be available for specific retailers. If there is a store you want to go visit on Black Friday, try visiting their site beforehand. It’s likely they’ll have deals specific to the site listed there and many will also tell you if they still have inventory available. Another thing I keep in mind to save money is to make sure I really want the item I am about to purchase. Many retailers will severely restrict return policies for specially priced Black Friday items. So, before you buy that $20 sweater, make sure your friend really would like it.

What will you be doing this Black Friday? Will you be on the prowl for savings, or will you do it from home? Or, will you be sleeping off your Turkey hangover?

If you’ve not had the time, please make sure to check out my guest post from yesterday at Modest Money on Easy Car Maintenance Tips to Make Your Car Go the Distance.


Photo courtesy of: Rafeal Marchesini

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About the author:

I'm the founder of Frugal Rules, a Dad, husband and veteran of the financial services industry. I'm passionate about helping people learn from my mistakes so that they can enjoy the freedom that comes from living frugally. You can connect via Twitter / Facebook.

55 comments on “Is Black Friday All it’s Cracked up to Be?

  1. I went once to the first day of sales in London, together with about 1 million people according to statistics. It was insane. I am looking for a new laptop to bring from the US so may have a look online at the sales, although I doubt prices will be really good until after Christmas. Marketing people are sooo good, when I see customers sleeping outside the shop the day before to grab a bargain, and fight over the last item, I am thankful to feel no need to be among them.
    Pauline recently posted..Calculating the weighted average interest rate on your debt (and why I am not paying mine faster)My Profile

    • I can’t imagine doing it in London, the number of people would just drive me nuts. Marketers are good, especially when we’re not disciplined. I do think the internet has been a great equalizer though and deals can be had pretty much any time these days.

    • When we were coming back from Thanksgiving dinner at my husband’s grandparents last year, there was already a line at Best Buy and people had tents and were sleeping in the parking lot. I think they had something like 5 $100 TV’s that I’m sure were gone in the first 5 minutes. Did someone even need one or were they just excited about “getting a deal”? We try to avoid, but are considering getting a tablet this year and might venture out if the deal is good, but there are very few thing I would sleep in a tent pitched in the parking lot for.
      Kim@Eyesonthedollar recently posted..Obesity in America: What It Costs UsMy Profile

      • Yea, I bet those tv’s were gone in about 60 seconds Kim. I just wonder what the quality of them were. I agree, there’s very little that could get me to camp out like that.

  2. We plan on getting some discounted luggage on Black Friday. We do have/had a couple cheap luggage sets, but my wife’s got ruined the very first flight she used it on!

    Some of the DVDs, TV shows, etc. are not always cheaper on Black Friday, but sometimes they are. They have to have some bait to get you in the store and get you shopping. Once I’m in a store, it’s easier to just stay there and get other things on my Christmas list. Unfortunately I usually just shop for myself on Black Friday :0
    DC @ Young Adult Money recently posted..5 Products that Fight Indoor AllergiesMy Profile

  3. As long as you stick to a list, there are deals to be had on Black Friday. Whether it’s worth the time and stress is a different matter entirely.
    Somewhat unfortunately, my MIL loves going Black Friday shopping with me for a few hours. But we usually go out from maybe 9-1 and call it a day. It makes her happy, and we can usually get most of the shopping for Christmas done in those 4 hours. Not bad in the grand scheme of things.
    Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies recently posted..Our $50K Duplex Is Worth $97K – Why? Part 1My Profile

    • I agree to a point Mrs. Pop. I think there can be some deals to be had, but you have to be careful you’re not getting a piece of junk in the process. Four hours is not too bad, but I’d rather spend that time on my computer and not with thousands of other people.

    • I think I’ve done it once Michelle, and that was more than enough for me. I agree the savings aren’t that good as the internet has really made it possible to get similar savings throughout the year.

  4. Definitely hate Black Friday! My wife and I started shopping in October for Christmas so we don’t break the bank in December, we also found most Christmas decorations are extra cheap end of Oct/early Nov. so we’ve saved a ton on that. Usually what we used to do is buy them after Thanksgiving when they are the most expensive!

    There’s definitely deals out there that are not on Black Friday (and it’s a mad house), I like Cyber Monday!
    Joe Cassandra recently posted..3 Problems with Corporate America (JoeKnowShow #2)My Profile

    • I am with you Joe, I hate it as well. There are good deals to be had out there, you just have to know where to look. The internet has been a great equalizer IMO to find great prices.

  5. I have no desire to be in long lineups and have to wake up that early just to get a good deal. I’ve read that there’s actually better deals at different times of the year. So I don’t really see the value in wasting energy on Black Friday. At least during Cyber Monday you don’t have to leave your house! Haha.
    Daisy @ Money Smart Guides recently posted..Are You Pretending To Be Rich?My Profile

    • I am the same way Lauren. You could not pay me enough. I agree, it sucks for the people who now have to work on Thanksgiving just so people can get an earlier start.

  6. I think retailers might post 10-20% of their products at lower prices, keep 20-30% the same and actually might make higher margins on the rest. After all, if you go in to get that must-have item, chances are you might look to get some other shopping done as well, and that’s where the retailer makes their money back and then some. They’re not dumb and they’re not in the business of selling things at a loss, so as good a deal as people may think they’re getting, chances are in the grand scheme of things, it’s the retailer that’s coming out ahead. Remember that especially when deciding whether it’s worth it to start missing Thanksgiving, which is what they want you to do now.
    Money Beagle recently posted..5 Things Republicans Need To Do To Get Back In The GameMy Profile

    • I completely agree. These guys aren’t stupid and wouldn’t stick around long by selling things at a loss. Getting a good deal just is not worth it if you feel the need to miss Thanksgiving over it.

    • I’m with you Monica, it’s just not worth it. I’ll be doing everything online myself. Great point, Monica, handmade gifts are much more personal. Thanks for stopping by!

  7. Nice Article John. I am actually writing about black friday right now. Many people either don’t realize or have fallen for the retail marketing machine, but most deals can either be had online, usually with free shipping. The people that go out and wait in lines for “good” deals usually are not even getting a good deal. They see a $250 television, but don’t realize that the TV is a piece of junk that will be broken in a few months.

    My full time job is working with retailers and their online marketing efforts, so I see this every year. It makes me laugh, but also makes me happy because I can get the same things they get, but never have to get out of bed.
    Debt RoundUp recently posted..Breaking Even – The Point Many People ForgetMy Profile

    • Thanks Grayson. I’ve often thought the same thing that people have fallen prey to the marketing gimmick that they’re getting a great deal. If it’s a piece of junk, I don’t care what I am saving, because in the end I really am not saving anything.

  8. I think there’s a whole experience association going on with Black Fridays where saving itself is not the only pleasure people get out of it. The idea of staying up late or going shopping really early in the morning is enough to get some people off lol. It’s like camping outside the movie theater before Star Wars Episode 1 came out – did they really have to see it right there and then? No. Was it a fun experience for them? Most likely. Personally, I’m with you! While people are shopping their wallets off I’ll be sleeping in. The alarm clock will be so lucky to survive a beating if it dares going on that day.
    Veronica Hill recently posted..The Daunting Reality of Financial WoesMy Profile

    • That’s a great point Veronica, I think a lot of it does come down to that felt experience of being the first to get whatever piece of junk it is. I personally don’t get it, but that’s me. I agree that’s one of the few sweet days that my alarm clock won’t be set…but we have three little alarm clocks that usually don’t let us sleep in anyay. :)

  9. As Catherine said we don’t really have a black Friday in Canada but all the buzz from the US gets passed up here and so I see more stores each year trying to cash in on that. Plus of course we can participate in the online shopping if the US store ships to Canada.

    I’ve also known people from Canada to go to Vegas for that week and wait until midnight to go shopping in on Black Friday in Vegas.
    Tackling Our Debt recently posted..Do You Find the Christmas Holidays Too Stressful?My Profile

  10. We went to the sales that started on Thanksgiving last year. After all the plates were clear, we waddled (it felt like) out from my wife’s parents’ house and on to the store. We bought our one joint Christmas gift (a stand mixer, this year if there’s a good sale we’re getting an Xbox 360), a couple of items for our nieces, and got my wife a new phone for half price. We saved close to $200 for 4 hours of waiting in lines.
    Edward Antrobus recently posted..Salsa Dip: Recipe SundayMy Profile

  11. I was checking out the deals just this morning. I found “a deal.” A TV series DVD that was a special price of $25.00. The flyer made it look really good, until I clicked through to the website and discovered the regular price was 20.99. Marketers have lots of tricks this week, and always remember it’s only a deal if you need it.
    Mandy @MoneyMasterMom recently posted..The Value of a Dill Pickle, and other lessons from GhanaMy Profile

  12. Last year I went to CVS and local grocery store early on Thanksgiving morning for their “Black Friday” deals does that count? I’d never stand in line to save at a big box store or spend all day shopping. This year we might do the same with CVS, Meijer, and Staples
    justin@thefrugalpath recently posted..Couponing 101: You Don’t Have to Be ExtremeMy Profile

  13. There is no way I could venture into the store on Black Friday, or Boxing Day (In Canada) as I am fairly certain I would get arrested for punching someone…I think I’m borderline claustrophobic and let’s just say I don’t do well in large crowds with people completely busting my personal bubble of space :(
    More often than not, my husband and I shop online for whatever little that we need. We tend to get better prices that way for most things. But this was a good post for those who are brave enough to head out shopping!
    K.K. @ Living Debt Free Rocks! recently posted..Unconventionalism In ActionMy Profile

    • I feel the exact same way K.K. I would definitely find myself being arrested, which is part of the reason I stay home. :) We’re the same way and get most, if not all, of our stuff online.

    • I am the same way Harry. I love a deal too, but so many times now you can get the same deal online or better. Then it’s on something I need or have been looking at for a while.

  14. I’ve never done Black Friday shopping because like you said I find better deals throughout the year. I got my TV in the spring right after newer models came out. For other electronics I don’t find waiting in line for hours and losing sleep worth it just to save 1 or 2 hundred bucks. I wonder if for some it’s the thrill they enjoy and not so much the discounts or maybe a combo of both.
    John recently posted..Investment Properties Offer a Long-Term Source of IncomeMy Profile

    • I think you’re on to somthing there John. I think for many it’s the thrill of getting a deal and “experiencing” it. But, I can get the same thing and never leave my home and watch football…which is much better in my opinion.

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