The Truth About Black Friday Sales

Are you missing out on the best deals by waiting for Black Friday?

I had finally found THE COAT. It was sleek, sophisticated, fit me perfectly, was the most gorgeous cobalt blue color, and IT WAS ON SALE! About a month before Black Friday, it was 30% off, and I knew it was the one. So in all my infinite shopping wisdom, I was sure that on the biggest shopping day of the year it would be even more discounted, and I would score my dream coat for a screaming deal.

As soon as the sale launched, I was on the website and ready to purchase. But guess what? It was only 25% off and SOLD. OUT. It sold out long before the sale even started, and I missed out.

I have a long, long history with Black Friday. It started in late high school. Each of the adults got our own newspaper, and we spread them across the floor as we scoured the ads. Obviously I was looking at clothes, shoes, and accessories I wanted for Christmas. As a newlywed, my sister-in-law was more interested in home goods. My parents mostly looked for fun, and if they saw something good in one of the ads, they asked one of us to snag it (because they were smart enough to sleep in).

One Black Friday in college I was working at a department store and had to be at work at 4 a.m. (this was when stores opened at 5 a.m.), and I got to participate on both ends. I got to use my employee discount plus the newspaper coupons. I had already put everything I wanted on hold and purchased it after my shift.

Over the years I set my alarm and braved the crowds to get screaming deals on my favorite things. When Black Friday became an online thing, I stopped waking up early and started staying up until midnight to shop, which was soooo much better. Thank you, Al Gore, for inventing the Internet. As a mom and wife, now I’m on the hunt for kitchen electronics and stuff for my kids as well.

In the last few years I realized something. Aside from the random, crazy door busters, most clothes, shoes and accessories go on sale for LESS than the Black Friday sales in the weeks leading up to the big day. I do most of my best fall and winter shopping in the weeks before the big day, and come the big event, I always check the prices on my recent purchases to see if I could have done better, and the answer has generally been no. I got much better deals leading up to Black Friday than what was available on the day of the sale.

What does that mean? It means now is the time to start watching for your favorite things and purchasing, because the sales are already on! This morning, I ordered that same perfect coat in a punch-you-in-the-face pink color and a cobalt blue color for 40% off! Sizes are already disappearing quickly, and by the time Black Friday happens, that coat will be long gone. Fingers crossed it’s a hue and not a shade. Bold pink is hard to shop for online. I have this coat in four colors, so I already know it’s worth every. single. penny.

Retailers like Ann Taylor, Loft, Boden (who doesn’t do sales all the time), Banana Republic (cardmembers get an ADDITIONAL 20% OFF), White House Black Market, and others are having big sales right now, and sizes are still stocked. You will likely get a better selection and the same prices. There will probably be 1-2 collections that will come out between now and then, but for the current stuff, it likely won’t get any better. I mean, 30-50% off the new collections is about as good as it gets.

Do You Buy Anything on Black Friday?

I still check out Black Friday sales online just in case something I bought did get discounted more, and because it’s fun. Some stores will do a price adjustment for you if you come later in the day when the rush has died down. During the crazy busy times the answer will be no every time. And at some stores there will be a specific no price adjustments policy for Black Friday prices. You’ll also be able to get a sale price on the newest collections that were just released.

Retailers like Nordstrom, who don’t have a sale 5 out of 7 days a week, will have sales, but they won’t be site-wide like other retailers. Select items will be discounted. I definitely check out those sales, and in those cases, I go for the big ticket items: bags, boots and outerwear. Yes, you can find $20 tees and $35 flannels, but the savings isn’t that great. On the other hand, scoring those buttery soft boots for 30-40% off could save you hundreds, and you will wear them for years and years. Buying your dream designer bag the one time a year it goes on sale will be a purchase you will enjoy for a very long time.

So what should you buy on Black Friday?

There are clothes, shoes and accessories that will be good deals, and I mentioned those above. Other things that are great deals, like kids toys, electronics, and kitchen gadgets are great things to think about buying. One of the big deals each year is the Instant Pot. I actually have two because I use them so much, often at the same time. The lid on one of mine is busted, so we are watching prices right now and planning to get a new one on Black Friday. Two years ago my husband got me a beautiful set of Wusthof steak knives in a sleek, engraved, wooden storage box. He found those at Williams Sonoma.

I also buy our ski gear for the upcoming season. I see what my kids need for the upcoming year and buy that. I get an especially great deal on the ski coats. This year one of my 12-year-old boys has grown about 8 inches, and when I pulled out his ski base layer to wear for soccer, it looked like baby clothes. So that is on the list.

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The key to getting the best deals

It’s so easy to get caught up in the sale mentality. I wrote about this in the How to Shop Outlets like a Pro post. Don’t assume that because it’s on sale and it’s Black Friday that it’s a great deal. That item might go on sale like that several times a year, and you could wait to buy it when your budget isn’t being squeezed as tightly as Santa’s pants. If there are specific things you are looking for, start watching the prices. See what normal sales look like. Everyone gets so excited about Amazon lightning deals, and some of them are fantastic, but some of them are the normal sale price you see about half the year.

Have a list. Know what you want or you will a. buy things you don’t want or need, b. get overwhelmed and quit or c. overspend and hate yourself in the morning. I keep a list on my phone of gift ideas, and when one of my kids mentions a want, I add it to the list.

Shop online. The online sales now start on Thanksgiving. While your turkey is roasting, or while the kids are doing the dishes (uh, because they should), check out your favorite retailers for the items on your list. And can I just add this: please don’t go shopping in the stores on Thanksgiving. Those people deserve to be celebrating with their families too. I find it abhorrent that retailers are ruining this holiday for their employees and for us. If you want to hit the stores at 12:01 a.m. Friday, go right ahead, but otherwise, let’s send the message that we don’t support this by withholding our dollars at the brick and mortar locations.

Chill out. This is not life or death, people. It’s things. It’s just stuff, and if someone gets the last one right before you do, oh well. It’s easy to get caught up in the frenzy and the competitiveness, but it’s not worth being rude, getting upset, or even worse, a fight. It’s not the apocalypse and we aren’t fighting for food or medicine or survival. IT’S JUST STUFF. I know you want to surprise your kid with the ungettable unaffordable thing for a magical Christmas, but it’s not important enough to ruin your day or anyone else’s. In fact, in our family we focus on experience gifts, some of which are free. You can read about that here, here, and here.

Set a budget and stick to it. All of these great deals do you no good if you are paying exorbitant interest because you can’t afford to pay it off. We keep a separate savings account for Christmas, and each time my husband gets paid, a specific amount goes into that account. We have several of these accounts for various things like vacations, sports fees, etc., and that way we don’t take a major hit to our account all at once. The money is already set aside, and we pay off the credit card with no problem.

Start shopping now. See what is out there that matches your list, and then you can quickly check the price on Black Friday to see if it’s in your price range and worth purchasing.

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4 thoughts on “The Truth About Black Friday Sales”

  1. Hi April, how did you make out with the J Crew coats? My Jcrew doesn’t carry the Lady Day coats so I ordered the blue one online & had it shipped to the store. I went to pick it up today & tried it on but was unimpressed, I thought the cobalt was a little dull. I also wasn’t feeling the style- just didn’t work for me. Hope you had better luck with the pink!

    1. Patricia, I love the blue on. The pink is definitely electric, but I’m still trying to decide if it’s a hue or a shade. It might be slightly off, or it might work for both. It has brown buttons, so if it works I’ll change for black buttons. The style is perfect for my pear shape body and style.

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