Holiday shopping might be a lot different this year due to the coronavirus, but plenty of Americans are still planning to do some major spending over Thanksgiving weekend. According to a survey by RetailMeNot, Americans plan to spend an average of $908.53 between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday, with $249 earmarked for Black Friday specifically.
But one Black Friday caveat to keep in mind is that the deals aren’t always as great as they seem. So before you open your wallet, find out which items are worth buying on Black Friday and which ones you should avoid, according to retail experts.
What To Buy On Black Friday
Black Friday is an ideal time to stock up on items for your home, according to Sara Korab, retail trends director for Savings.com. She noted that retailers like The Home Depot started promoting their Black Friday sales on tools, home storage and home decor weeks earlier than they usually do. “Especially in 2020, when we’re spending so much more time at home, make a list of things that would make your time at home a little more enjoyable, and keep an eye out for those things when you’re Black Friday bargain hunting.”
If you’re a music lover, keep an eye out for the best deals on offerings from Bose, Sonos, Beats and others, said Nathan Burrow, deals expert for Wirecutter. “All speaker and headphone types will be discounted, whether you’re drowning out noisy neighbors with noise-canceling headphones or you’re an audiophile looking for high-end reference speakers.”
Cookware and small kitchen appliances
Burrow noted that there will likely be great deals on high-quality pots and pans from brands such as All-Clad and Tramontina, as well as Instant Pot and other kitchen appliances such as blenders. “We won’t see universal drops this year, which is something of a departure from past years (some baking gear is still not discounted to pre-coronavirus levels and other hot kitchen items haven’t dropped as readily as we’d like), but the deals will still be great for select kitchen staples,” he said.
Health, fitness and grooming tools
Items like razors, hair-styling tools, electric toothbrushes and fitness trackers will be great buys on Black Friday, according to Burrow. “You’ll have every opportunity to look great at your next distanced get-together or Zoom call, as personal care items like these see some of their very best prices during Black Friday and Cyber Monday.”
TVs are one of the hottest items that retailers offer deals on every Black Friday, and this year is shaping up to be no different, said Julie Ramhold, a consumer analyst with DealNews. For instance, her team has already seen a 55″ TCL Roku TV at Walmart for $148 and a 70″ LG 4K TV for $550. “And we still aren’t sure what deals exactly Target, Walmart and others will be rolling out specifically for Black Friday itself, so we’re expecting even more savings then.”
Ramhold said that every Black Friday, laptops drop to super low prices, with Chromebooks hitting $99 (if not less) and budget-friendly builds for around $250. “You can easily get a solid laptop under $500 during Black Friday, but if you’re hoping for a gaming laptop, be prepared to pay at least $550,” she noted.
Online mattress brands are known to offer lukewarm discounts throughout the year, but the real deals usually happen just before the holidays during Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, said Gabrielle Pastorek, retail analyst for Finder. “You’ll often find higher percentages or dollar amounts off of your purchase this time of year, as well as freebies like sheet sets or pillows,” she added.
Retailers such as Home Depot, Lowe’s and Best Buy tend to offer small discounts on select appliances throughout the year, but Pastorek said that the biggest sales usually coincide with Black Friday and Cyber Monday. “This is a good time of year to jump on those big purchases you may have been holding out on,” she said. Major stores also usually offer the biggest discounts when you buy multiple appliances, making Black Friday a great time to maximize savings on a home renovation, Pastorek noted.
Smart devices for the home are not only popular gift items, but you should be able to score them at a solid discount on Black Friday, according to money-saving expert Andrea Woroch. Look out for deals on items such as Google Home, Ring doorbells and Nest thermostats.
Though the deals on clothing aren’t always that great on Black Friday, Woroch said that retailers typically offer a doorbuster deal on select fashion merchandise like pajamas and slippers. “For instance, Walmart is offering a special buy on kids’ PJs during their Black Friday Deals for Days sale this Saturday, where you can snag a set for less than $5,” she said. Look for similar types of doorbusters across department stores such as Macy’s and Kohls.
Black Friday is one of the two times of year when you can find great deals on perfume and cologne, said Jeanette Pavini, a spokesperson for Coupons.com. (The other best time to buy? Right before Valentine’s Day).
What Not To Buy On Black Friday
Tiara Rea-Palmer, head of retail partnerships at CouponFollow, said you shouldn’t buy anything you need for Christmas on Black Friday since you can get it much cheaper in the days right before Christmas. “You’ll still get a great deal on wrapping paper or Christmas decorations like trees on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but waiting until the week before Christmas means you’ll see some serious clearance pricing,” she said. “And if you can buy the day after Christmas to save for next year, that’s even better, as some items will be discounted up to 80%.”
While there may be some good deals on the “it” toy on Black Friday, Korab said that you may want to purchase it ahead of time before it sells out. When it comes to other, less popular toys, wait to purchase those until about two weeks before Christmas. “Retailers will be looking to decrease their inventory, so you’ll be able to find the best deals around that time,” she said.
Though many name-brand televisions will be a steal on Black Friday, Burrow warned against purchasing off-brand versions. “The discounts will be abundant and tempting, but if you’re looking to replace your main TV and want something with up-to-date features, spend a little more to get a quality option or wait until January when traditional TV lows for those quality brands often occur,” he said.
There will be select great deals on Black Friday, but May and September offer a broader selection of sales on outdoor gear from more retailers, according to Burrow. “I also hate buying something just to wait to use it for months, which may be likely with cold weather looming for many.”
The latest Xbox and PlayStation consoles were just released this month, which means it’s highly unlikely we’ll see any deals for them around Black Friday, Ramhold said. “If you’re OK with paying full price, the only thing you’ll have to worry about is finding a console, as they’re expected to sell out at most stores.” And don’t be tempted by bundles, she warned; this year, those will likely go for list price.
Gift cards tend to be the go-to gifts from shoppers who wait until the last minute. Fortunately, that’s when the best deals occur. Ramhold said that December is when you can expect to see restaurants and retailers alike rolling out buy-one-get-one gift card deals. “These often require you spend a certain amount (usually $25 to $50) and then you receive a bonus card typically worth $5 to $10 (though sometimes they’re worth more) at no extra charge,” she explained.
Plenty of us have been stuck inside all year and want to get back into shape, but Black Friday isn’t the best time to buy fitness equipment such as weights, treadmills and yoga mats, according to Ramhold. Instead, wait until January: “Retailers know that consumers often have New Year’s resolutions around getting healthy and they price fitness equipment accordingly,” she said.
Pastorek said that Apple is known to be stingy on its Black Friday deals, sometimes forgoing the holiday sale tradition altogether. In fact, one of the only times of year to find discounts from Apple is in September after the company’s annual keynote, she explained. “If you want to buy someone AirPods, an Apple Watch or other Apple products for Christmas, your best bet is to shop at other stores such as Best Buy, Walmart, Staples and Newegg to find a deal.”
November through February is the most popular time of year for couples to get engaged, so rings are usually in high demand this time of year. You’ll usually find better deals on rings in the summer months, when business slows down for jewelers. “If you’re in a pinch and need a ring before the holidays, try shopping around online,” Pastorek said. “Online jewelers often have better deals than brick-and-mortar stores because they don’t have the overhead costs … and need to compete with bigger brick-and-mortar brand names.”
While some dealerships and used car lots will offer decent deals and incentives for Black Friday, you’re likely to find a better deal after Christmas during end-of-the-year sales, Pastorek said. In fact, vehicles that didn’t sell during Black Friday are likely to be marked down even further by December. “If you have your eye on a specific model, time your purchase right before a new release to get the best price.”
Since seasonal merchandise is priced highest at the start of the respective season and cold weather will start rolling in around Thanksgiving, Black Friday deals won’t be as amazing as you’d hope on winter apparel such as cold weather coats and snow boots. “You will likely see small sales on these items or a special buy on a select item, but beware of the quality,” Woroch said. “Some Black Friday doorbusters are made specifically for the discount event and any clothing doorbusters may be made of inferior quality to keep the price low.”
Wait until January to buy your bedding and linens. “January has been the month of the White Sale Season since 1878,” Pavini said. Plus, you can find significant markdowns on flannel sheets after the holidays.