Black Friday: Here’s how to tell if a deal is too good to pass up

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Black Friday sales are everywhere. Judging by retailer ads filled with terms like “must-have deals” and “can’t-miss epic finds,” you’d be led to believe that every deal is too good to pass up.

But what makes a Black Friday deal really worth pursuing? The reduced price, availability and affordability of an item are key.

Here’s what to consider before buying.

Start tracking prices now

Prices fluctuate throughout the year, making it difficult to determine if the deal on offer is actually the best of the best. Most people couldn’t tell exactly how much a particular air fryer sold for two weeks ago or two months ago, and if that differed from the current price.

“Things you buy every week, you notice the price going up. Or if it’s something you buy maybe once a year or not very often, like a pair of shoes, you don’t know what price is normal or what was the last time,” said Martin Block, professor emeritus of the Medill Integrated Marketing Communications Program at Northwestern University.

What can you do to become a better judge? Start tracking prices now, said John Boyd, co-founder of ShopSavvy, a price comparison app. Using an app to explore a product’s price history can help you see through retailers’ marketing tactics.

“Sometimes a good sale is really hard to detect because you’re just bombarded with, ‘Oh, we’ve got this super sale and it’s X percent or Y percent off,’ and there’s no context of the everything,” Boyd said.


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Familiarize yourself with the prices in the days leading up to Black Friday, November 25 this year. Shopping tools like ShopSavvy and PayPal Honey can also alert you to price drops for specific items and compare prices between retailers so you can find the best deals.

It’s popular and in stock

Sometimes getting the freebie on your list is more important than getting the biggest discount. The 2021 holiday shopping season proved that deals aren’t guaranteed to last: supply chain issues and increased demand has resulted in stock-outs and shipping delays. Many experts believe that supply problems will not be as widespread this year. However, popular items could still fly off the shelves.

“Some toys, for example consoles and some games more than likely will sell out quickly,” said G. Tony Bell, assistant professor in the supply chain management department at Rutgers Business School. “So I would say, definitely buy early. The price advantage of buying later than buying sooner will be minimal at best.”

Buying early could be the right decision, even if the price of the product you want drops significantly after purchase.

“Most stores will allow you to return or give you credit if it goes on sale within a certain number of days,” said Debra Radway, a certified financial planner and associate professor at the WP Carey School of Business in Washington. Arizona State University.

Explore retailers’ return, exchange, and price adjustment policies before shopping so you know what to expect.

“Buy what you can afford”

More importantly, a Black Friday deal should fit your budget. A TV in stock and on sale at 99% off is still not worth buying if the remaining 1% is out of your price range.

As Bell simply puts it: “Buy what you can afford.”

Bell warns against giving new credit for Black Friday purchases, such as credit cards or installment loans known as buy-it-now, pay-later plans, due to fees potential interest or the impact on your credit score if you are unable to repay.

And it’s a real possibility: According to a 2022 holiday shopping report from NerdWallet, 31% of holiday shoppers who used a credit card to buy gifts in 2021 are still in debt.

“Making a list of who you want to shop for, for the holidays, and budgeting before you go shopping will really help you control your spending this holiday season,” Radway said.

However, keep in mind that it’s okay to ignore Black Friday sales altogether. Your loved ones may appreciate something homemade, like cookies or a heartfelt card, just as much as a flashy new gift from a store. And you save money. It’s a good thing.

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