Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping doesn’t have to be painful. Just follow these tips.
You’ve no doubt seen the headlines. There are supply chain bottlenecks everywhere and things are on backorder.
So, if there are things you need ASAP—say, toys for your five-year-old niece for Christmas—then get them now. You don’t want to risk an empty shelf come December.
Also, we’re still in the midst of a chip shortage, so don’t expect big Black Friday deals on things like game consoles. Those keep consistently selling out, so if you want one and see one, buy it right away. Don’t wait.
Figure Out When Deals Start
People pay the most attention to the big door crasher sales on Black Friday. But lots of retailers start running deals days before. Keep in mind that some deals are in-store only while others are online only.
Want to be tipped off to deals early? Subscribe to retailer newsletters and social media feeds. Here’s a pro tip: set up a burner email address to do this, since you probably don’t want that stuff in your regular email account.
About Those Door Crashers . . .
If there are 200 people in line all going for the limited-to-50 door crasher sale, we all know the odds aren’t great. So pay attention to the less prominently advertised but still very good deals. It pays to go for the discounted-to-$15 PlayStation games while everyone else is competing for one of ten actual PlayStations.
Do Early Research
Assuming you have your list of things you want to buy, figure out how much they cost at all your stores and websites of choice. This way you’ll be able to compare the normal price vs. the discounted price yourself.
You also want to understand return policies, restocking fees, and price-matching policies. Beyond the obvious—you may want to return items or try to price match—it’s worth noting that some stores change these policies specifically for Black Friday. For example, last year, Walmart suspended price matching for Black Friday shopping.
People who write out a physical budget, even a very simple one, are more likely to stick to it. And there are lots of tempting offers out there.
Understand ‘Derivative’ Models
The classic example of a derivative model is a TV that’s made for Black Friday and sold at no other time. If the regular TV model is called something like the TV BRAND Dreamweaver 2500, then the derivative model will be called something like TV BRAND Dreamweaver 2500-F.
Why? Well, the derivative model will be priced hundreds of dollars lower than the regular brand, so it looks like you’re getting a good deal. But the derivative model will also lack a bunch of the features of the regular model. For example, the regular model might have four HDMI ports, a USB-C port, and a subscription to Netflix, whereas the derivative model will only have a single HDMI port.
This isn’t to say derivative models are necessarily bad. Consumer Reports has comparison-tested both regular models and their derivatives, and they’ve found that when it comes to main features like picture quality, the difference isn’t noticeable. It is to say that you should pay close attention to what you’re researching and what you’re buying.
Keep an eye out for discounted gift cards. These are one of the best deals out there.