OK, maybe Black Friday hype is not that extreme, but this is definitely the time of year when you fall into a frenzy , Black Friday ads well in advance, but running hyperbolic sales in the weeks leading up to the big day. ("Black-November Sale!" "Cyber-Saturday Sale!" "Please-For-One-Day-Shop-Somewhere-Besides-Amazon Sale!")
But how do you separate the hype from the reality? How do you make sure that any Black Friday deal – either on the day or leading up to it – is really a deal ? Start by asking yourself these questions:
The LOWEST PRICE EVER on a Flangie Whip Spinner ?! Hot dog!
Wait, what the heck is a Flangie Whip Spinner? You've just come out of it, and although you were not really shopping for one, just look at that price! You'd be crazy to buy one!
Stop. Deep breath. Many store slash prices on obscure products just to get you in the door. These so-called loss leaders may be great bargains, but it's still money you probably would not have otherwise.
Bottom line: Do not buy something just because it's a good deal. Buy it because it's something you need or want.
I'm a big proponent of buying last year's TV, last year's laptop, last year's phone – because you'll typically save big
Ah, but on Black Friday, some stores are getting out of stock at the same time. That's fine, as long as you do your homework. Make sure, for example, that you're looking at a few years out of date, with lower resolution or lesser speakers than its newer counterparts.
Bottom line: Research different models
The store with the biggest splashiest ad may not be the one with the lowest price. As always, it pays to shop around: Google or your preferred shopping-search engine and see.
To that end, I recommend PriceBlink, a browser add-on that can show you at-a-glance if a particular product is available for less elsewhere.
Remember, too, are manufacturers, and thus do not vary from one store to another – Apple products are a
Bottom line: Do not assume any one store has the best deal, regardless
What's the price history?
Probably the best way to tell a deal is to make a deal. For example, if you see a Fitbit Versa ($ 228 at Amazon) on sale for $ 179, you might think that's a pretty good savings, given that it lists for $ 199. But guess what? $ 169 – and probably will be back.
How can you investigate a product's price history? If you're shopping Amazon, I recommend CamelCamelCamel: Just type in a product name or paste in Amazon URL and it will give you a complete price history – including any given product's all-time low.
You should also check out Honey, a browser add-in that can not just be Amazon, but also Best Buy, Target, Walmart and other stories. (Alas, it goes back only six months, maximum, but it's still good to have data.) Honey so has a wish-list / price-drop feature similar to PriceBlink's, and there's a cashback component as well.
Bottom line: Do not assume that Black Friday prices are the lowest prices. Marketing claims notwithstanding, some stores offer better deals at other times of the year.
Originally published on Oct. 2009 16, 2017
Update, Oct. 30 : Updated for 2018.