(NerdWallet) — Black Friday sales are everywhere. Judging by retailers’ ads peppered with phrases like “must-have deals” and “epic can’t-miss finds,” you’d believe that every deal is too good to pass up.
But what does a Black Friday deal should be pursued? Reduced product price, affordability and accessibility are key elements.
Here’s what to consider before you buy.
The product is sold at the best price
Prices fluctuate throughout the year, so it’s hard to tell if the deal on offer is really the best of the best. Most people couldn’t tell exactly how much a particular fryer was selling for two weeks ago or two months ago and whether that was any different than today’s price.
“The things you buy every week, you notice the price going up. If it’s something you buy, maybe once a year or infrequently, like a pair of shoes, you don’t know what the normal price is or what the last price was,” says Martin Block, professor emeritus of integrated marketing communications at Medill . program at Northwestern University.
What can you do to become a better judge? Start tracking prices now, says John Boyd, co-founder of ShopSavvy, a price comparison app. Using an app to examine a product’s price history can help you see retailers’ marketing tactics.
“Sometimes it’s really hard to spot a good sale because you’re just bombarded with, ‘Oh, we have this great sale and it’s X or Y percent off,’ and there’s no context,” says Boyd.
Check out the prices in the days leading up to Black Friday, November 25 this year. ShopSavvy and other shopping tools like PayPal Honey can also alert you when prices drop on certain items and compare prices across retailers so you can find the best deals.
It’s in stock
Sometimes getting a gift on the list is more important than getting a big discount. The 2021 holiday shopping season proved that deals are not guaranteed to last, with widespread supply chain disruptions and increased demand leading to product shortages and delivery delays. Many experts believe that supply problems will not be as widespread this year. However, popular items can still fly off the shelves.
“Certain toys, like consoles and certain games, are more likely to sell out quickly,” says G. Tony Bell, associate professor of supply chain management at Rutgers Business School. “So I would say definitely buy early. The price advantage of buying later rather than earlier will be minimal at best.”
Buying early can be the right move, even if the item you want drops significantly in price after you buy.
“Most stores will either let you return it or give you a credit if it goes on sale within a certain number of days,” says Debra Redway, a certified financial planner and associate professor at Arizona State University’s WP Carey School of Business.
Explore the options for returns, exchanges and exchanges with retailers price adjustment policy before you buy so you know what to expect.
It fits your budget
Most importantly, a Black Friday deal should fit within your budget. A TV that is in stock and on sale at 99% off is still not worth buying if the other 1% is out of your price range.
As Bell simply says, “Buy what you can afford.”
Bell warns against taking out new loans for Black Friday shopping – such as credit cards or installment loans, known as buy now pay later plans — because of possible interest charges or the impact on your credit score if you are unable to repay.
And this is a real possibility: according to A 2022 Holiday Shopping Report from NerdWallet, 31% of holiday shoppers who used a credit card to buy gifts in 2021 still have debt.
“Make a list of who you want to buy for for the holidays and setting a budget before you go shopping, it really helps control your spending this holiday season,” Radway says.
Keep in mind, though, that it’s entirely possible to miss out on Black Friday sales. Your loved ones may appreciate something homemade, such as cookies or a heartfelt card, just as much as a flashy new gift from the store. And you can save money. That’s a pretty sweet deal.