What You Should and Shouldn’t Buy on Black Friday

With so much time and energy devoted to Black Friday, along with the hundreds of deals you see advertised, both online and in newspaper inserts, you probably think that retailers all over the country will be stocking their warehouses and slashing their prices. But is this really true?

As it turns out, the answer to this question—like so many others when it comes to consumer products—is: it depends.

This is because, although Black Friday is generally the biggest shopping day of the year and hallmarks the official start of the Holiday shopping season, there’s a lot of confusion surrounding the types of deals you can score. Why?

Because not all products go on sale on Black Friday, and among those that do, not all deals are created equal.

To help clear up any confusion though, and to help you become a more informed consumer, we’ll talk about 2 primary things in this article:

  • Which types of Black Friday deals offer you the most savings
  • How you can discern the difference between what you should and shouldn’t buy on Black Friday

Don’t Believe Black Friday Hype (Most of the Time)

When searching for Black Friday deals, almost every retailer will advertise fantastic deals on some of their hottest products. And nearly all of these will technically meet the definition of a “deal.” But here’s the catch: many of these deals may not save you any money.

What? Yep, it’s true. After all, retailers can’t slash prices on all their products, since they need to make money in order to continue doing business. Instead, what they’ll often do is change how they advertise some of their prices. Here’s a brief example:

A retailer might normally sell a flat-screen TV at $500 during the remainder of the year, which has an MSRP of $1,000. But when Black Friday rolls around, the company might change its marketing angle and advertise that “Prices are being slashed by 50%,” or something along those lines.

However it’s phrased, retailers can easily lead consumers to believe that they’re receiving an incredible bargain when they’re actually just paying regular prices.

As DailyFinance.com puts it, “There is a misconception that Black Friday is the day to score major savings. In many cases, that is just not true.” So what can you do to avoid spending more money than you need on Black Friday?

Knowing How to Shop on Black Friday

Before we get into what you should and shouldn’t buy on Black Friday, here’re some actionable methods you can use to shop smarter.

1. Understand That Not Every Deal Is a Doorbuster

As usual, retailers will offer steeply discounted doorbuster deals this year to lure you in the door, but these are usually short-lived and are a small part of the store’s overall marketing plan.

According to the Wall Street Journal, “Black Friday may be the best time to find incredibly deep discounts on some select items. But quantities are often limited, making the odds of getting those items slim.

Retailers use the offerings to get people through their doors, even at the cost of losing money on the sale, in the hopes of drumming up business for other products that aren't priced at such steep discounts.”

See Also: 40 Black Friday Shopping Tips for Scoring the Best Deals

2. If You Have Expensive Tastes, Don’t Expect a Lot of Deals

When it comes to Black Friday, it turns out that where you shop makes a difference in the types of deals you’ll receive.

This is because, if you’re accustomed to purchasing gifts from high-end retailers such as Saks or Nordstrom, you probably will find relatively few markdowns compared to the hundreds of discounts offered by Walmart, Target, Best Buy, and other more “mainstream” stores.

3. Do Your Research

US News claims that “Reaping the benefits of this ever-changing nature of Black Friday takes some planning. Long before you skip your stuffing or forgo your pumpkin pie to arrive at your favorite store and wait for hours in line, you should determine when and where the best deals will be.”

In order to accomplish this, they recommend analyzing advertisements (both online and off) to see which stores are offering the best deals, and which ones are offering bonuses, such as freebies. At this same time, you can clip any relevant coupons that you’ll need to cash in on these deals.

From there, US News recommends downloading a price comparison app, which can automatically alert you anytime a lower price is advertised online for a product you’re interested in.

Related: Best Black Friday Strategies from the Experts

Finally, you’ll need to decide whether you’re going to “go for the gold” and try to get your hands on a doorbuster item, or whether it’s just too much trouble this year.

Remember though, you’ll probably need to camp out and be one of the first few customers through the door in order to obtain these.

As we mentioned in the beginning, not all deals are what they’re advertised to be, so if you find a smoking deal, be sure to compare its current price with the pre-sale one. In many instances, you might find that they’re the same.

4. Know When Waiting Is the Best Option

Many retailers begin discounting their products in earnest after the Black Friday hype has passed, often as soon as Cyber Monday.

Although it was often true that retailers reserved some of their best sales exclusively for Black Friday in the past, this just isn’t the case in today’s marketplace.

As you can see from this handy DailyMail infographic, the best time to buy certain products may occur after (or in some instances, before) Black Friday, so it’s important that you know which items you need and which times are best for purchasing them.

With this fresh in your mind, let’s talk about specific product categories you can expect to score deals on during Black Friday, and which ones might end up costing you more.

Best Deals on Black Friday

Three Products You Should Buy on Black Friday

1. Televisions

Electronics are the darling of Black Friday deals, and televisions are the crown prince of electronics. In other words, whether it’s doorbusters or ongoing deals, it’s highly likely that you can find a quality (although maybe not name brand) TV for much lower than retail prices on Black Friday.

However, it almost goes without saying that TV deals are often the first to run out, so make this a priority if you’re in the market for one.

According to DealNews.com though, brand name smart TVs are typically not put on sale until after the Consumer Electronics Show in January, so if this is the type of TV you’re in the market for, you might want to hold off.

2. Electronics

Speaking of electronics, NerdWallet claims that other types of electronics, such as tablets (especially if it’s an older model), laptops, gaming consoles, and anything Apple-related, will likely experience steep discounts on Black Friday.

In fact, Black Friday is the only day of the year when Apple products go on sale, so if you need an iPhone, iPad, or any other device, this would be the day to do it.           

Kiplinger also recommends waiting until Black Friday to purchase wearable technology such as fitness bands and smartwatches. In some instances, you may have to wait in long lines or settle for last year’s model, but the steep savings might make it worth your while.

Again, electronics are by far the most popular types of products this time of year, so shop early or you might miss out.

3. Cookware & Appliances

Americans eat a lot during the Holidays. In fact, we collectively eat about 50 million pounds of turkey at Thanksgiving alone, so it only makes sense that cookware would go on sale at the same time.

However, you probably won’t find luxury brands included in most of these sales, but instead, lower-priced models that might be ideal for the student or young professional on your list.

Don’t go into Black Friday thinking that you’ll always find great deals on cutlery or high-end electronics, such as mixers or blenders.

Four Products You Shouldn’t Buy on Black Friday

1. Toys

If you remember Furby or Tickle Me Elmo from several years ago, the first thing that might come to mind is the furor they caused during their respective Holiday seasons and the grossly inflated prices that many people were willing to pay to have them under the Christmas tree.

In order to avoid putting yourself in a similar situation with 2014’s must-have toy, USA Today recommends purchasing them on the day before Thanksgiving in order to score the best deals.

2. Furniture

Whether it’s a love seat for your living room, a family-friendly table for the dining room, or outdoor furniture to use when you’re grilling, experts recommend not purchasing these items on Black Friday (or anytime during the Holiday shopping season for that matter).

Instead, the best time of year to purchase furniture is during the warm summer months, specifically during July and August as retailers begin preparing their fall inventory.

3. Jewelry & Watches

Looking for a new watch for the man in your life, or a new set of diamond studs for your wife? If so, Black Friday—and the Holiday season in general—is perhaps the worst time of year to purchase these items, since they tend to become pricier throughout the months leading up to Christmas.

4. Winter Clothing

Sure, you might feel silly putting on a big, heavy coat in the middle of spring or summer, but if you’re looking for big savings on last year’s winter gear, this is the time to try them on and buy.

On the other hand, Black Friday shoppers will find very few savings on coats and other winter clothing since it’s a cold time of year, which puts these types of products in much greater demand.

In fact, some retailers even attempt to mark up their winter gear this time of year in anticipation of the shopping rush.

For additional Black Friday tips, visit our Holiday shopping and hosting section.

Derek Lakin

With more than a decade of experience as a copywriter, Derek takes a detail-oriented, step-by-step approach to help you shop smarter. Whether it’s nutritional supplements or new scams, he believes an informed consumer is a happy customer.