Black Friday, the Friday after Thanksgiving, has become synonymous with sales and good deals. But occasionally the day is associated with fights, long lines and arguments over who grabbed what first. But is it worth it to spend the time and effort it takes to shop on Black Friday? And, whether it's in-person or online shopping, how do you know you're really getting the best deal possible?
Matilda Littler, a 27 year old who uses her Instagram account, A Millennial Saver, to offer followers financial advice and tips on how to save money, says planning ahead for spending is the best way to know if Black Friday deals will be worth it to you.
"I always do a majority (if not all) of my Christmas shopping on Black Friday weekend," Littler tells Yahoo Life, "as I find a lot of stores participate with discount codes."
"Before Black Friday, I ask my family and friends what they want for Christmas so I'm buying something I know they want and not wasting money," she continues. "I then create a folder on my internet browser with links to what they want and, on Black Friday, I'll shop around for that item to look for the best deal."
But Rachel Barry, a 36-year-old mom of two who blogs at Pretty in Baby Food, says she doesn't think Black Friday shopping is a must-do anymore.
"Before I had kids over seven years ago, I would go out shopping on Black Friday every year," says Barry. "It was kinda like the thrill of the chase trying to snag deals. After a while, I discovered that most items on sale during Black Friday could be found on sale at almost the same price at other times during the year as well."
Greg Wilson is a chartered financial analyst and owner of ChaChingQueen.com. "Last year saw an estimated $40 billion spent on Black Friday," he says. "On average, Americans saved 24% during Black Friday sales. This is despite retailers attempting to expand and smooth out the spending event through the year with events like Amazon Prime Days, Amazon Early Access, Target Deal Days and Walmart Rollback Deals."
While everyone may not agree on the worthwhile factor of Black Friday shopping, one thing experts agree on is that it's a good idea to shop around for the best price before making a purchase.
"If you're after one item, put the item name into google and go to the 'shopping' section in the search bar to have a look at the site offering the best price," Littler says.
However, she cautions consumers to pay close attention to prices while they are shopping around. "I've noticed that Amazon can raise their prices in the build-up to Black Friday and then reduce them back to normal prices for the weekend," Littler explains. "CamelCamelCamel is a free Amazon price tracker, so you can check the price of an item over a period of time and check you're actually getting a bargain."
So, if Black Friday isn't a must-do anymore, how can consumers shop savvy throughout the year?
Trae Bodge, a lifestyle journalist and television commentator who has specialized in smart shopping for over a decade, says deal websites are your friend.
"It just takes a minute to look for a coupon or cash back offer, especially if you are browsing online," she shares.
Bodge and Littler both say the browser extension Honey is one of their favorite tools to use. Littler says Honey searches for coupon codes when she's ready to check out, and has saved her a lot of money over the years.
"Look at historical pricing to see if you should buy something now or wait," adds Bodge. "An easy way to do this is to use [Honey]."
"Once it's installed on your phone or laptop, as you browse, a pop-up will appear with information on pricing history, which is so helpful," she continues. "If you decide to wait, you can also add the item to [a list] which will let you know if the item goes on sale."
"For example, a lot of Shop Rites offer a free holiday turkey or ham if you purchase a certain amount during a certain time," Barry continues. "Make your credit card work for you. Make use of it and shop when you can maximize your credit card rewards."
Ultimately, whether or not Black Friday shopping is worth it is a personal decision. Just because an item seems like a good deal, doesn't mean it actually is. Take inventory of needs and wants ahead of big sales to ensure the good deals being offered are actually for items that are actually on your holiday shopping list — it's easy to get distracted by discounts on items you truly don't need.
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