1. Shop with discounted gift cards from Raise.com and save an extra 5-25% on top of Black Friday prices.
Once you know where you’ll be shopping, go to Raise.com and buy discounted gift cards. I purchased a $60 Macy’s gift card for $55.20, and while that 8% savings doesn’t seem like lot, when combined with Black Friday prices, the savings really add up!
You can even use the Raise app to purchase gift cards on the go. Perfect thing to occupy yourself as you stand in that gigantic Black Friday checkout line. Buy the gift card in exactly the amount you need and redeem with the instantly delivered digital gift card code. If you’re not using Raise.com, I can’t even…
2. Use the Amazon Shopping app to do real-time price checks.
Did you know over 17% of items on Black Friday will actually cost MORE than their current selling price on Amazon.com? Don’t get suckered. When the big day arrives, use the Amazon app (iOS) (Android) to pull up the Amazon price of any item, and never overpay again.
3. Skip the cart and carry a reusable bag so it’s easier to maneuver through crowds.
Shopping carts on Black Friday are a rookie mistake, but the handheld carts are too small and trolling the aisles with merchandise hanging out of my purse isn’t ideal.
Keep your mobility and avoid looking like a thief by bringing an oversized reusable shopping bag. IKEA bags are perfect, and you can pick up two of them on Amazon for $5.74 with Prime shipping.
4. Make your shopping list in order of importance.
Prioritize your shopping list with your must-have items at the top. Then plan your trip in a way that gives you the best chance of getting everything before stock runs out.
Here’s when stores opened in 2015:
9 pm on Thanksgiving: Toys R Us
10 pm on Thanksgiving: Walmart
Midnight on Thanksgiving: Banana Republic, Best Buy, Express, Game Shop, Gap, Kohl’s, Old Navy
4 am: Air Force and Army Exchange Service, JCPenny, Michaels, Sears
5am: Academy Sports, A.C. Moore, Babies R Us, Cabelas, Gordmans, Sam’s Club
6am: Office Max, Bass Pro Shops, Kmart, Pep Boys, Staples
7am: BJ’s, Half Price Books
5. Restrict your list to no more than 7 items per store.
Don’t overdo it! Do not try and tackle your entire holiday list on one day. Make the most of your Thanksgiving weekend by getting in and out of stores quickly, then heading home for a nap or out to breakfast to celebrate your success.
6. Sign up for store emails at least 14 days before Black Friday.
Once you have your list made, sign up to receive emails from the stores where you plan to shop. To be safe, it’s best to sign up two weeks before Black Friday. But many stores will even send you instant coupons like this 15% off $100+ purchase coupon for Macy’s.
7. Use a price-protection credit card to get Black Friday prices before sales are live.
Chase, Citi and Discover all offer price-protection credit cards you can use on Black Friday. These cards essentially let you get price adjustments straight from the bank.
If you buy something with your credit card, then find a lower price within 60-90 days, your credit card company will refund the difference.
So instead of waiting in line for that TV at Best Buy, once you see the leaked Black Friday ad on KCL go buy the TV with your credit card and submit the claim to the issuer on Black Friday.
Chase doesn’t cover seasonal sales, which may rule out Black Friday sales, but Discover and Citi don’t mention any limits, which means you have price protection on doorbusters and other Black Friday deals. If you want to grab one of these cards, here are three good ones. Keep in mind cards have a cap of around $2,500 worth of annual price adjustments.
8. Sign up for Paribus for automatic price adjustments.
Paribus really wants to do all your heavy-lifting when it comes to getting a price adjustment after you make a purchase.
Sign up for Paribus and they’ll troll your inbox or your credit card statement, track your purchases, alert you of price drops AND file the request on your behalf! They keep a 25% cut of your savings in exchange for the work, but you don’t lift a finger.
Paribus will work to get you money back from these merchants*. And, if you want even greater coverage, sign up for one of the price-protection credit cards I mentioned above and sync up the card with Paribus for fully automated price adjustment refunds!
*Paribus can no longer request price adjustments from Amazon.com. They still track your Amazon purchases and get Amazon price adjustments if you’ve linked your price protection credit card.
9. Scout out the store the day before Thanksgiving.
If you’re serious about efficiency, scope out your store the day before Thanksgiving. Not only might you see setup going on for doorbuster deals, you can also find the second location of each hot doorbuster item.
If wireless Beats headphones are the hot item at Target, expect that on Black Friday, there’ll be an independent display near the store’s entrance. But there will also be inventory in the electronics department. If you know where to find them, you can skip the mayhem at the door and make a beeline to get your headphones elsewhere.
10. Try and limit yourself to two stores…lol.
Listen, I’m not naive enough to believe you’re going to take my advice on this, but when you find you’ve blown your holiday budget, filled your minivan with bags of toys you hadn’t planned to buy, and endured a lecture from your significant other as a result, don’t forget that I told you so.
Only the truly crazy drive to more than two stores on Black Friday. I get tired just thinking about it.
11. Get in line early for free stuff.
Last year Kohl’s offered free movie tickets to the first 100 people in line. PetSmart offered a free paw print ornament and a movie rental to the first 100 customers. Michaels gave out gift cards to the first 21 customers. Other stores like JCPenney and Kmart handed out perks for being at the front of the line, and drugstores (Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aid) used their own rewards programs to hand out freebies to the first people in line.
12. Shop with a friend so you can split up and grab the items you’re looking for.
Quantities are limited so it’s smart to split up your lists so you can divide and conquer. One of you take apparel, the other toys, and the third electronics. Then meet back somewhere where it’s calm (like the pet aisle) to separate your purchases before you head to the register.
13. Leave your kids at home. And your husband.
And not because it should count toward your “me time” quota, but because you need to move fast, and neither of them fit into your IKEA bag.
14. Shop the brands that rarely go on sale.
Black Friday is a great time to save on brands that are stingy with sales during the rest of the year. Think: brands like Vitamix, Oakley, Apple or BOB Stroller. Last year, we saw the BOB Revolution SE Single Stroller (reg $459.99) for $275.99. Sales on BOB Strollers are super rare! If you must have new Apple products, expect gift card sales on all the hottest new phones, watches and tablets on Black Friday. But, between you and me, last year’s models are a better bargain.
15. Join free loyalty programs before you go shopping.
Rack up points on your Black Friday purchases! Some of the best store loyalty programs are at Kohl’s (save 5% + extra coupons in the mail!), and JCPenney (extra 2.5% back on all purchases).
16. Read the return policy before making a purchase.
The phrase you’re looking for is “restocking fee.” Most stores offer generous return policies on Black Friday–with return windows running through January. What you need to watch out for are restocking fees, particularly on electronics at stores like Sears.
For example, Sears charges a restocking fee of 15% on consumer electronics, patio furniture, gazebos, canopies, pergolas, air conditioners, dehumidifiers, space heaters and grills if the packaging is open or the item has been used.
17. Don’t waste your time price matching on Black Friday.
Next to nobody price matches on Black Friday. Price match leaders like Walmart, Target and Best Buy each have a disclaimer excluding Black Friday sales from price matching.
Target: “Price matches and adjustments will not be allowed for prices from Thanksgiving Day through the Monday after Thanksgiving, whether offered by Target or a competitor.”
Walmart: “…This does not apply to Clearance, Special buy, Value of the Day or deep discounts like Thanksgiving, Black Friday or Cyber Monday… Walmart.com will not price match items on Walmart.com or to other retailers between Thanksgiving and Cyber-Monday.”
Best Buy: “… and [excluding] items for sale Thanksgiving Day through the Monday after Thanksgiving, whether offered by Best Buy or a competitor.”
Amazon used to price match, but this year they’ve scaled back and now they only price match TVs. Regarding Black Friday, their policy states “Amazon TV Low Price Guarantee: This guarantee will not apply to limited time promotions or clearances (including Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Prime Day).”
Kohl’s price match policy doesn’t exclude Black Friday specifically, but my call to customer service let me know that they don’t plan to price match on Black Friday, and the policy will be updated before Black Friday. Even if they did, their price match policy excludes such a huge list of brands, it’d be near impossible to find an eligible product anyway.
18. Download the BFAds app to keep all the ads with you.
Don’t hassle with paper copies of the weekly ads. Instead, make sure your phone is charged and take the BFAds app with you to the store to verify prices and promotions as you shop.
19. Avoid the main aisles when navigating the store.
Most deals are on the perimeter of the store so that’s where everyone congregates. Save time and avoid the crowds by cruising the lesser-traveled aisles, sans shopping cart.
20. Get twice the deals by shopping Thanksgiving Thursday too.
Ugh, shopping on Thanksgiving…I know. We aren’t saying everyone should abandon American tradition, turkey and pumpkin pie in order to get a good deal. We are saying some of you said you’d never shop at midnight on Black Friday and look at you now…
Truth is there are some sweet deals to be had on Thanksgiving, and it’s my job to tell you about them. Now, you go have the ethics debate and decide whatcha gonna do.
21. Expect everything but the doorbusters to be available online.
Know what’s great? In the past two years, we’ve seen a huge increase in the portion of Black Friday advertised sales available online. Unless you’re going for the hottest doorbusters, you’re not gonna need to leave your house for hot Black Friday prices.
Keep in mind that while some Black Friday circulars will note which items will be available in-store only, in past years even some of those items have popped up online at the last minute. Stick close to KCL: download our free app (iOS) (Android) join our email, and sign up for text alerts for the hottest online deals.
22. Look for doorbuster guarantees in the ad.
Some stores (like Walmart and Sears) guarantee that during a certain time frame, ALL customers can get an advertised price on certain items. Walmart is famous for their 1-Hour guaranteed doorbusters. Meaning, if your store ran out of one of the guaranteed items during the 6-7pm (Thursday evening) time frame, you could buy a voucher at the guaranteed price and then pick up your item before Christmas. Here’s the list of items from Walmart’s 1-Hour guarantee last year:
- iPad Air 2 Gold 16GB Wi-Fi for $399 ($100 discount)
- Beats Studio Headphones for $169 ($130.95 discount)
- LG 55” Class Smart 4K UHD TV for $698 ($300 discount)
- Xbox One 500GB Gears of War Bundle with a $30 Walmart Gift Card for $299 ($50 discount)
- 15” HP Touch Laptop for $249 (special price)
Sears is another store that offered doorbuster guarantees last year. If one of their doorbusters wasn’t in stock, you’d get it at the doorbuster price, delivered to your house, or you could pick it up in-store before Christmas Day. If the item still wasn’t available, you could get a $50 Sears gift card in addition to the item at the doorbuster price whenever it was in stock.
23. Stock up on items you can use as wedding gifts in 2017. And birthdays. And baby showers.
This is my favorite thing to do on Black Friday. In fact, I built my gift stockpile for birthdays and weddings this way. You can find small appliances at Macy’s, JCPenney and Walmart.
24. Don’t shop Amazon without CamelCamelCamel.com.
Amazon is one of the best places to shop on Black Friday. They have insane lightning deals and steep price drops. But, sometimes Amazon inflates its “regular prices” making it near-impossible to tell if something is a really good deal.
CamelCamelCamel tracks Amazon prices so you can see how today’s Amazon price compares to the rest of the year. Just enter the Amazon URL to see a graph of price historicity. You can even sign up for price-drop alerts.
25. Walmart is the most dangerous place to shop on Black Friday. (We’re talking crimes committed.)
According to the website BlackFridayDeathCount.com, seven people have been killed by doorbuster stampedes and confrontations on Black Friday. Another 98 have been injured.
Target and Kohl’s have definitely had incidents, but Walmart gets the prize for most Black Friday assaults, deaths and overall mayhem (like crowds of people fighting over $2 waffle makers or $1.28 towels). In 2008, a customer died in a stampede of people at a Walmart in New York. In 2011, a woman used pepper spray on a crowd in Los Angeles. And in 2013, a man was stabbed in a Walmart parking lot in Virginia. Why? He got into a fight with another man over a parking space.
Stay calm and be safe this holiday season, no matter where you shop.
26. If you’re shopping at Target, avoid wearing red.
If you think this tip is dumb, I dare you to wear red just once and see what happens.
27. JCPenney and Kohl’s are your best bet for Black Friday shopping.
When I study Black Friday strictly by the numbers, the two stores that come out on top with the highest average savings are JCPenney and Kohl’s. The median discount on Black Friday 2015 was 60-65%. That’s huge! With a broad selection of merchandise across top categories including appliances, electronics, apparel, jewelry and toys, I often put these stores at the top of my Black Friday list.
28. Costco and Sam’s Club are the worst.
Traditionally people want to find deals on electronics (like computers) and toys on Black Friday. Costco and Sam’s Club don’t even have noteworthy sales on toys at all. Black Friday is the time of year that laptops reach the lowest prices of the year. So you’ll want to shop somewhere that offers the steepest discounts. (Office Depot/Max is where you should buy your computer. See #30.)
29. JCPenney is best for clothes.
Last year we saw men’s outerwear advertised at 50-75% off, along with 60% off most clothing categories. Some of the hottest deals from last year were:
- Style & Co women’s boots — $19.99 (reg. $59-$69)
- St. John’s Bay women’s sweaters — $9.99 (reg. $30-$34)
- Stafford’s Men’s dress shirts — $9.99 (reg. $36)
- Arizona Kids denim — $11.99 (reg. $30)
30. Office Depot/Max is best for computers.
Office Depot/Max boasted a 55-70% discount on computers and tablets last year on Black Friday. Brands included Dell, HP and Toshiba–perfect entry-level PCs:
- NuVision 10.1″ HD Android tablet — $49.99 (reg. $119.99)
- Dell Inspiron 15 3000 Series laptop — $199 (reg. $349.99)
- Toshiba Satellite CL45 45″ laptop with Intel inside — $119.99 (reg. $249.99)
- HP 15.6″ laptop with Intel Core i5 processor — $329.99 (reg. $549.99)
31. Kohl’s is best for toys.
Last year we saw over a 50% discount on brands like Playskool, Fisher-Price, Little Tikes, Matchbox, Tonka and more at Kohl’s. I purchased four toys, all of which were more than 50% off:
- Barbie Fashionista — $5.99
- Hot Wheels Fast Blast — $9.99
- Nerf Alpha Trooper — $17.99
- Big Wheels tricycle — $24.99
32. Macy’s is best for small appliances.
Based on what I saw last year, I have high hopes for Macy’s. Last year I got a slow cooker, electric skillet and blender for $7.99 each ($19.99 sale price + $12 rebate). That was over 75% less than their $39.99-$49.99 retail price. The sale only lasted until 1pm Friday.
- Bella panini maker — $7.99
- Bella 5 quart slow cooker — $7.99
- Bella rotating waffler — $7.99
- Bella stainless steel toaster — $7.99
33. Drugstores are best for stocking stuffers.
Walgreens, Rite Aid and CVS are little known hotspots for deals on Black Friday. Their sales are legit on their own, but the coolest part is that unlike many other Black Friday retailers, drugstores accept loads of coupons on top of Black Friday sale prices. Download the KCL app and we’ll find the coupons for you. Here are a few deals Walgreens ran last year:
- Free Scunci hair elastics at Walgreens
- Free Russel Stover candy bags at Rite Aid
- Free Phillips earbuds at Rite Aid
- MONEYMAKER Covergirl lip gloss at CVS
34. Set a budget and stick to it. Even consider carrying only cash.
If you know you’re a sucker for an impulse buy, live dangerously and just take cash.
35. Don’t leave your house unless you’ll be saving at least $50.
Don’t get swept up in a hot deal if you’re only saving ten bucks. That’s barely worth the fuel cost, let alone the lack of sleep and shopping stress. My rule of thumb is I won’t leave the house if I’m not gonna save at least $50.
So if all I want is the hot FurReal pet that’s on sale for $40 instead of $80 on Black Friday, I’ll wait for another sale online or maybe I’ll buy it in December. I’ll probably end up paying a few dollars more than I would have on Black Friday, but I’ll have saved my time and sanity–both which are worth a lot.
I know it’s hard, but use some gosh darn self-restraint.