How to Prepare for Black Friday: Step-by-Step Guide

The day after Thanksgiving is no longer about eating leftovers and relaxing with family. Better known as Black Friday, November 27th kick-starts the gift-buying season, as retailers knock down prices on items from clothing to tech.

Most sales start at midnight or 8 a.m., although the time doors are set to open is creeping earlier and earlier each year, with some retailers even launching their offers at the start of the week.

If you’d prefer to avoid the mayhem while still taking advantage of sales, your best bet is to devise a Black Friday shopping strategy. Here are three tricks of the trade on how to prepare for Black Friday that will help you save time, money, and headaches.

Step 1: Game Plan Before Black Friday

When mapping out your game plan for the day-of, take the time to look through Black Friday ads as they come out. Many retailers start posting what items will be on sale early November.

Be sure to check out NerdWallet's up-to-the-minute list of “leaked” Black Friday discounts. The site details deals from department stores and consumer electronics to health and beauty, and sports and outdoors. NerdWallet’s review of each retailer also saves you time by noting which sales are available before Black Friday, as well as which retailers are offering their sales online.

Pro Tip: Amazon is throwing shoppers a helping hand by extending their Black Friday deals throughout the entire month of November—which means sales prices can already be found on their website. Shoppers can visit Amazon’s Black Friday headquarters to find both month-long sales and daily deals on electronics, video games, DVDs and more.

Know What to Spend on and What to Skip

Not all Black Friday deals are created equal. NerdWallet asked experts to share their shopping smarts on which products are discount-duds versus those that offer savings too good to pass up.

What Black Friday deals are worth buying:

  • Previous models of Apple products
  • Gaming system bundles
  • Electronics (TVs, tablets, and smartphones)
  • Video games, CDs, DVDs
  • Home appliances
  • Travel deals
  • Online doorbusters

Which Black Friday deals you should skip:

  • Toys
  • Christmas decorations
  • Bedding
  • Outdoor essentials
  • Winter clothing
  • Mail-in rebates

Related: It’s Worth It to Pay More for These 5 Items

Step 2: Download Apps to Find and Compare Black Friday Deals

After downloading the right apps, you can save time by comparing prices on the go. Here are some of our favorites:

  • ShopSavvy: With ShopSavvy, all you do is scan the barcode on any item. The app will instantly compare the price to those offered online and at nearby stores, which gives you peace of mind that you’re getting the best deal on any given product.

  • Black Friday App: If you don’t want to carry paper ads and coupons from store to store, the Black Friday app allows you to fit them in your pocket. The app also includes all relevant sale hours and store information, which come in handy if you need to price match.

  • Nifti: If you’re wondering if that flat screen TV really is a good deal, Nifti tracks prices based on historical sales data to tell you if the Black Friday price is really worth it.

Pro Tip: Check store policies on price matching before you shop! Price matching is one of the best kept money-saving secrets on Black Friday. Some retailers match competitor pricing, allowing you to cut down on the number of stores you visit, saving both gas and time. 

Step 3: Play Your Cards Right

If you’re planning to lean heavily on your credit card for Black Friday sales, here are a few important tips you can’t afford to miss:

1. Shop with a Rewards Credit Card to Rack Up Serious Points

One of the most important things you can do to make the most of this holiday shopping season is select a card that provides a steady return on your spending in the form of points, miles, or cash back. After all, if you’re already shelling out big bucks, you might as well get rewarded for it!

2. Look into Your Credit Card Issuer’s Extended Warranty Policy

Lots of people buy electronics at a deep discounts on Black Friday. To compensate for their reduced profit margins, some sneaky retailers will push for you to buy an extended warranty to protect your purchase. However, these warranties are usually rife with exclusions and restrictions.

What most shoppers don’t realize is that it’s highly likely their credit card already has it covered! In fact, almost every major credit network—Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover—offers some kind of extended warranty on most purchases made with the card. Just note that each card provides slightly different benefits, so placing a quick call to your card’s customer service line to see what it covers before you start shopping is a smart idea.

3. Know That Overspending Can Affect Your Score

That special mix of holiday cheer and the chance to save can be a powerful force but remain cautious of overspending. Using more than 30% of the available credit on any of your cards at any time during the month could do damage to your credit score. So, if you’re starting to get close to that threshold, make a payment as soon as you can.

4. Use Your Gift Cards

MarketWatch reports that $750 million in gift cards were unused in 2014—chances are, you’ve got one or two lying around as well. While you may have left your gift cards unused for a number of reasons, from not liking the store to forgetting you had it around, the unspent cash could help you cross a few items off of your shopping list without denting your wallet.

5. Buy Discounted Gift Cards to Save at Stores You Love

With all those unused gift cards lying around, it was only a matter of time until someone figured out a way to get them into eager hands. Sites such as Card Cash, Raise, and Card Pool allow savvy shoppers to buy gift cards for up to 35% off the standard price! Just be sure you’ve double checked the terms and conditions prior to purchasing.

Pro Tip: An often-overlooked way to save money on holiday gifts is purchasing an item in bulk. Whether purchasing a case of wine or a set of products, such as one of Sephora’s holiday gift sets, buying in bulk gives you a lower price per unit. Then, simply break up the products and repackage into smaller gifts or gift bags. Not only does buying in bulk allow you to take advantage of a better per-unit cost, but it's also a big time saver that lets you cross multiple names off your gift list in a single transaction.

Remember, You Can Save by Staying Home or Shopping Online

The best way to save money on Black Friday is pretty simple: Just stay home and spend time with family and friends. Not only do you get to avoid the crowds and chow down on great Thanksgiving leftovers, but you’ll also get to enjoy the satisfied feeling of knowing your credit cards haven’t been pushed to their limit. After all, is saving 15% on a flat screen TV worth fighting crowds and spending hours elbow-to-elbow with strangers in line?

If you’re dying to shop post-Thanksgiving, you can sometimes find even better prices online than you can by visiting retail locations—and it eliminates all the hassle. While online shopping doesn’t offer the same feeling of instant gratification, there’s also less risk of impulse buying and overspending.

Visit our holiday guide for additional shopping, hosting and traveling tips.

Sign Up for HighYa Newsletter

Sign up for HighYa newsletter and get our best content delivered in your inbox as well as 3 free eBooks to help you save money and shop smarter. Enter your email below to get started!