Is Black Friday All itโ€™s Cracked up to Be?

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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. I also like to find ways to make extra money before Christmas and in some instances you can find sites that will give you cash back through your normal shopping.

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?



Photo courtesy of: Rafeal Marchesini

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John is the founder of Frugal Rules, a dad, husband and veteran of the financial services industry whose writing has been featured in Forbes, CNBC, Yahoo Finance and more.

Passionate about helping people learn from his mistakes, John shares financial tools and tips to help you enjoy the freedom that comes from living frugally. One of his favorite tools is Personal Capital , which he used to plan for retirement and keep track of his finances in less than 15 minutes each month.

Another one of John's passions is helping people save $80 per month by axing their expensive cable subscriptions and replacing them with more affordable ones, like Hulu with Live TV.


  • Holly@ClubThrifty says:

    No! I’m avoiding black friday like the plague. Actually I already have most of my shopping done because I didn’t want to deal with the hoards of people!

  • Greg@ClubThrifty says:

    I am definitely not a Black Friday shopper. I’ve been out in the crowds a few times on Black Friday, and I’d rather not do it again. Besides, as you state, you can find most of those deals at other times anyway – being that Christmas shopping starts in September now:)

  • Pauline says:

    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.

    • John says:

      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.

    • Kim@Eyesonthedollar says:

      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.

      • John says:

        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.

  • DC @ Young Adult Money says:

    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

  • Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies says:

    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.

    • John says:

      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.

  • Michelle says:

    We have never gone shopping on Black Friday. We tried one year, woke up early and saw the line, and then we just got back in our car. The savings are not even good!

    • John says:

      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.

  • Catherine says:

    We don’t do Black Friday in Canada, rather have Boxing Day sales after Christmas, I don’t go. It’s not worth my sanity. I went one year because I was able to score a fantastic home theater system (I think we paid 300 for it, it still retails for over 1200). I’d rather stay home with the family enjoy my new Christmas PJ’s acting like a hermit.

  • WorkSaveLive says:

    I’ll be sleeping off my turkey hangover! I’m not a big Black Friday person simply because we don’t buy a lot of things. I was going to wait to buy my washer/dryer until then, but I bought it yesterday as I found a great deal and I couldn’t wait any longer. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Thanks for the shameless plug too!

    • John says:

      Same here Jason…that and football.

      Not a problem on the shameless plug, I want that iPad mini. Rather, my wife wants it. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Joe Cassandra says:

    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!

    • John says:

      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.

  • Daisy @ Money Smart Guides says:

    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.

  • Lauren @ L Bee and the Money Tree says:

    I avoid black friday like I avoid the black plague, and I think it’s a shame that all those big box workers have to go in on Thanksgiving this year. You should write a post about how “Black Friday” is really dead now.

    • John says:

      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.

  • Money Beagle says:

    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.

    • John says:

      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.

  • Savvy Scot says:

    Part of me is glad that we don’t have black Friday sales in the UK… I think I will enjoy the Amazon version from the comfort of home ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Monica Clark says:

    You can’t pay me enough to go out on Black Friday anymore – the deals aren’t that good and definitely not worth the hassle! I plan to do most of my shopping online, along with handmade gifts I will make myself – besides, handmade gifts are more personal in my opinion.

    • John says:

      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!

  • Jordann @ My Alternate Life says:

    I’m like you, you couldn’t PAY me to deal with the crowds on Black Friday, or Boxing Day for that matter. I’ll scout some deals but I doubt anything I’m planning on buying will be available at a discount.

  • Debt RoundUp says:

    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.

    • John says:

      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.

  • Cat says:

    We don’t really have Black Friday so much in Canada, although in order to try and keep dollars here, some retailers are starting it. For us, it’s Boxing Day (day after Christmas). I know people who go on about how much they are saving – but mostly they’re just buying crap they can’t afford anyways!

  • Veronica Hill says:

    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.

    • John says:

      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. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Tackling Our Debt says:

    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.

  • Edward Antrobus says:

    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.

    • John says:

      Savings like that isn’t too shabby Edward. Although, I’ll let you have the fun of going out while I stay at home. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Mandy @MoneyMasterMom says:

    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.

  • justin@thefrugalpath says:

    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

    • John says:

      I wouldn’t count it Justin. I’ve done the same thing in the past to pick up something for the dinner, but not for a deal.

  • Brick By Brick Investing | Marvin says:

    No need to go to the store for Black Friday anymore. I just sit in front of the computer =)

  • K.K. @ Living Debt Free Rocks! says:

    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 ๐Ÿ™
    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!

    • John says:

      I feel the exact same way K.K. I would definitely find myself being arrested, which is part of the reason I stay home. ๐Ÿ™‚ We’re the same way and get most, if not all, of our stuff online.

  • CF says:

    We’re not planning on doing any shopping, online or otherwise! If I were in the market for something larger, like a TV, then I would consider it.

  • Harry @ PF Pro says:

    Ah man I don’t think I’ve ever gone shopping on black friday and you know how I love a good deal haha. It just isn’t worth my time. Most of the time you wait in line or go shopping all day to save $100 on a $400 purchase you wouldn’t have normally made.

    • John says:

      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.

  • John says:

    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 says:

      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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