The National Retail Federation expects us to spend as much as $720.89 billion this holiday season. That’s a lot of dough.
But the annual shopping kickoff isn’t necessarily just about buying holiday gifts. A savvy consumer can boost the bottom line year-round, rather than just the holiday budget, by taking advantage of great deals on Black Friday.
(That is, if they are great deals. More on that below.)
Here are seven non-Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa reasons to stock up on Black Friday, followed by some smart consumer tactics for shopping on Nov. 23:
Shower gifts are in your future.
If you’ve received save-the-date cards for 2019, Black Friday is all about the affordable presents. Towels, luxurious sheets, small appliances, cookware, and other gift-able items will be available at prices that are sometimes startling.
Some people are nervous about going off the bridal registry. Others figure that they’d really rather not pay $40 for a butter dish. Follow your conscience.
Note: Items like these also make good housewarming presents and are great holiday gifts for a college student who will be moving into off-campus housing or will graduate in June and move into his first apartment.
Your child gets invited to lots of parties.
It’s always a good idea to have an evergreen gift closet, and if you’re a parent then that closet should contain some presents for children. Let’s assume your kids get invited to a dozen parties in the coming year (it might be fewer, but it might also be more). Do the math: 12 presents times retail prices equals a real blow to your budget.
Check the ads for half-price board games, loss-leader stuffed animals, and other items that match your child(ren)’s demographics. Then congratulate yourself as the party invites roll in throughout 2019: I’ve already done most (or all) of the shopping!
Incidentally, if you see something your own kid would love on his next birthday, buy it and hide it.
You like to celebrate grownup natal days, too.
Your mom might say she doesn’t need anything for her birthday, but she sure was happy with those Dearfoam slippers last year – and you were happy, too, because you got them at 50 percent off on Black Friday.
If your BFF is a reader, bookshops and department stores will discount some (or lots of) titles on Black Friday. For the foodie spouse or sibling, you’ll find sale prices on utensils, spices, teas, and other related items. And so on and so on.
Your gift closet looks sparse.
As noted above, having a certain number of gift-able items (preferably bought on sale) on hand keeps you from having to go shopping at the last minute (and usually paying full retail). While some of the best gift-closet shopping happens at post-holiday clearance sales, those Black Friday doorbuster prices will help you plump up your stash.
Bonus: The selection is better at the start of the holiday shopping season rather than at its close.
You need something.
Two of the four burners on your stove are on the fritz, and the oven’s a bit balky. Go to a site like BFAds.net and look for the best prices on a replacement cooker.
Is one of your winter boots letting in the slush and cold? Check the ads for footwear.
Or maybe you’ve been saving to replace that old, battered sofa. If so, you might find a couch on Black Friday for less than you thought you’d have to pay. (Sure, couches are available at thrift shops and on Craigslist. But with concerns about bedbug and/or flea infestations, as well as odors — cigarettes, pets — that aren’t apparent at the time of purchase, some people aren’t willing to buy soft furnishings secondhand.)
- Read more: 10 Things Not to Buy Used
You want something (useful).
Been curious about the Instant Pot since the appliance first hit the market? It will be a loss leader at more than one retailer on Black Friday.
If you’re a DIYer, places like Harbor Freight and Ace Hardware will have some screamin’ deals on products that will make future projects easier.
The desk chair in your home office is OK, but you tried out a fellow freelancer’s ergonomically correct model and your lower back fell deeply in love.
Sometimes a want can be a need. Use your best judgment, but watch the rationalizations.
You want something non-essential (but really cool/fun/comfy).
As long as the old TV or smartphone or recliner still works, getting a new one isn’t actually a need. But if you’ve budgeted for the purchase, then go ahead and treat yourself.
We’re super-serious about that “budgeting” part. Don’t get into the habit of dipping into savings on the grounds that missing a deal is like losing money. It isn’t.
Tips for Getting the Most Out of Black Friday Deals
Before you buy, make sure this really is the best price for your proposed purchase. If you’ve been saving for a big-ticket item, you’ll already have a good idea of what that stove or generator should cost you. If not, then use a price comparison website like PriceGrabber.com or NexTag.com to make sure that your “deal” is worth pursuing.
Cash in rewards points whenever possible. If you’re buying from a big-box store or major retailer (including Amazon), then you can get gift card from a rewards credit card or a program like Swagbucks or MyPoints. It’s a little late in the game to bring this up, obviously. However, if the card or program has an e-gift card option that delivers within a day or two, order them right now. If not, keep this option in mind for next year and cash in earlier.
Use gift cards someone else gave you. So Grandma sent you a Barnes & Noble gift card last month for your birthday, or maybe you were awarded $50 in Amazon scrip as Employee of the Month. Does it feel like a bummer to use this on someone else? Look at it as a way of stretching your giving dollars (maybe you’ll be able to buy your girlfriend a nicer gift than you thought you could afford), or as a boost to your budget at large (one or more gifts you won’t have to pay for out of pocket).
Order discounted gift cards. Again, it’s a little close to Black Friday. But some gift card resellers have e-card options that show up as soon as you buy them.
Ask yourself whether you should even be shopping. That’s the most important caveat of all. For example, if you’ve got student loans and a starter salary, buying gifts for every shirt-tail relative could mean incurring a bunch more debt.
No matter what the reason, if this is a financially tough year you might have to trim your gift list or even declare a gift-free holiday. Instead of shopping, write heartfelt letters about what the recipients mean to you and how you’d give the world if you could – except that you can’t. (People who love you will understand.)
Or utilize tactics like making presents from supplies you already have, re-gifting, or offering to help relatives and friends with holiday tasks. For more ideas along those lines, see this article by Money360 founder Trent Hamm.
And if we’re talking about buying things for yourself on Black Friday, be extra-ruthless about nonessential purchases. A new pair of shoes because your old ones are so run-down they’re giving you backaches? Good idea. A new smartphone because your current one is just so 2018? Nothing smart about that.
Whether it’s something for your loved ones or a bauble you’ve been eyeing, keep this thought uppermost on Black Friday: If you can’t afford it, then it isn’t a good deal.
The holidays are about celebrating religious beliefs or culture of origin and spending time with people you love. Don’t go into debt to show how generous and successful you are.
Use the Black Friday deals, and subsequent price dips, to make best use of your available shopping funds. And if you don’t have any shopping funds? There’s always those heartfelt letters.
Award-winning journalist and veteran personal finance writer Donna Freedman is the author of “Your Playbook for Tough Times: Living Large on Small Change, for the Short Term or the Long Haul” and “Your Playbook for Tough Times, Vol. 2: Needs AND Wants Edition.”
More by Donna Freedman: