Why and how I start preparing for Black Friday months in advance

*Last updated on October 21, 2021

As I have mentioned before, Black Friday is my favorite day of the year. There are few things that bring me greater joy than saving money and getting a good deal. After many years of practice, I have learned that a little bit of preparation for Black Friday goes a long way. In fact, I usually start planning for Black Friday 2-3 months in advance. In this post I explain why and how I start preparing for Black Friday months in advance.

Black Friday
Black Friday

This year, Black Friday falls on November 26th. However, you are likely aware that Black Friday has morphed over the past several years from a single day of deals to a full week of deals and discounts. In fact, for the past few years almost all of my ‘Black Friday’ shopping has happened in the very early morning hours of Thanksgiving Day, but you can often get good deals earlier in the week.

This year, the sales are poised to begin even earlier. Concerns about shipping and supply chain problems means that there might be limited stock of many popular items this year. Some experts recommend beginning your shopping earlier than usual this year- especially if there are any must-have items on your shopping list. This, of course, comes with some risk. It is possible that these items (if they do not run out of stock) will be offered at a lower price point closer to Black Friday. Making a decision about when is the best time to buy a certain item is a bit more unclear than it has been in years past.

The good news is that most Black Friday deals are offered online and you don’t have to set foot in a physical store to take advantage of them. I will usually still go shopping in stores with my mom on Black Friday, but that is primarily because it is one of our favorite traditions and for me is associated with nostalgia and Christmas cheer. It is much less stressful than in years past because most of the items I planned to purchase were secured online the previous day.

I have developed several strategies to make my Black Friday shopping more successful. A few years ago when we were buying a lot of new tech (primarily Google and Nest devices) for the new house, I saved almost $600 between various retailers. Below are my tips for getting the most out of Black Friday:

#1: Make a list 

The most effective thing you can do to prepare for Black Friday is to make a list. I use an Amazon wish list to keep track of all of the items that we want/need. There are so many deals available from seemingly endless retailers that it can be overwhelming to try to navigate deals online or in stores without some direction. This list helps me to identify what items focus on when the deals go live.

Because most of my family members and close friends also maintain Amazon wish lists, I also review their lists prior to Black Friday to see if I can score any good deals on gifts. 

Not everything on your list will be on sale for Black Friday, but this list also helps you look for other deals on items throughout the holiday season. Last year we weren’t able to find a good deal on a dehumidifier or on the smart lock we wanted for the new house.

Take a break from regular shopping
Take a break from regular shopping

#2: Go on a shopping fast

Another way that I prepare for Black Friday months in advance is to go on a ‘shopping fast.’ ‘Shopping fasts’ are trendy, but also useful. I recommend not purchasing any retail items (especially tech) for 2-3 months prior to Black Friday. After a few years of me saying that I should have waited until Black Friday to make a purchase (that I made a few weeks or months prior to Black Friday), Brian actually put a reminder in our family Google calendar on October 1st to ‘stop buying stuff.’

The other benefit of the ‘shopping fast’ is psychological. Because I haven’t purchased anything in a few months, I tend to be even more excited about my Black Friday purchases. I also feel a bit of pride that I was able to post-phone my purchases so that I could save some serious money. 

#3: Review the leaked ads

One of my favorite things to do in the weeks leading up to Black Friday is to view the ‘leaked’ Black Friday ads. If you didn’t know, you don’t have to go purchase a paper on Thanksgiving morning to find the Black Friday ads. Instead, most major retailers will ‘leak’ their ads 2-3 weeks ahead of Black Friday. My favorite place to find the leaked ads is bestblackfriday.com. There are several other websites that have essentially the same information if you do a quick web search.

What you will find when reviewing ads is that for the most in-demand items, the largest retailers will offer essentially the same deals. For instance, when we wanted to purchase a Nest doorbell last year, they were exactly the same sale price at Best Buy, Amazon, Target, Walmart, Kohls, etc. But some retailers offer additional perks that make buying items from them more advantageous.

This isn’t true for all items, however. Some retailers will offer items with slightly different specifications or model numbers. Comparing ads (or reviewing the articles on Black Friday websites focused on exactly this issue) will help you navigate which deal best meets your needs. This is especially true for TVs and computers.

#4: Shop at Kohls

As I mentioned above, for the most popular items, the discounts are usually the same across major big box stores. Because of this, some retailers will offer additional perks to attract customers. For instance, if you are a Target credit card holder, Target might have a slight advantage over other retailers offering the same price because you get an additional 5% discount. Best Buy is appealing if you are a member of their rewards program because you can earn rewards for your Black Friday purchases.

None of these perks, however, even come close to those offered by Kohls. If you aren’t familiar with the Kohl’s Cash promotion, it is a credit-earning promotion based on spending. Usually on Black Friday, Kohl’s runs a $10 Kohls’ Cash for every $50 spent promotion. You can earn Kohl’s Cash with your Black Friday shopping and then can spend the earned credit the following week. 

This promotion can really add up. One year, we spent $1,300 at Kohl’s on Black Friday. Most of this was on the Nest and Google tech that I mentioned above as well as several Christmas gifts (and I really wanted an Instapot). You might not think of Kohl’s as a place to purchase technology, but they have a decent inventory of some of the most popular products online. So, in addition to saving over $500 on the standard deals (which we would have saved if we purchased the same items at just about any other retailer) we also earned $360 Kohl’s Cash. $360! A few days later, I was able to purchase additional Nest items and gifts with that credit that were essentially free.

What my Black Friday shopping looks like
What my Black Friday shopping looks like

#5: Stay up

If you do find a really great deal that is only offered at a one or two retailers, or if an item is in limited supply, it might be worth losing a bit of sleep to take advantage of the deal as soon as it goes live. Most of the major retailers will post their Black Friday sales online in the early hours of Thanksgiving morning. You can check the various Black Friday websites for specific information about when each retailer’s deals go live.

This has become my new routine. I have a list of items and I know what is the greatest priority. I also do some research to have an idea of what products are in high demand and limited supply. A few years ago, I wanted to get a Nintendo DS for my niece. The best deal was offered only at Walmart and Best Buy.

I am a Best Buy rewards member and wanted to purchase the item there, but I knew there was an extremely limited supply of this item. Because Walmart’s sale went live two hours before Best Buy’s sale, I actually purchased the item at Walmart as soon as it went live. Luckily I was also able to purchase the item at Best Buy a few hours later. I returned the one to Walmart, but both retailers sold out of the item in under 15 minutes. The comments from shoppers on the Black Friday websites reflected their frustration when they woke up on Thanksgiving morning to find this deal sold out at both retailers. 

Although this is the only time this has happened for an item that I was interested in purchasing, it true for a few products each year. It is best to have an idea of what items might be difficult to get so that you can plan appropriately.

Good luck

I hope sharing my experiences and tips will help you to have a successful and productive Black Friday shopping experience. I know many people dread the commercialism and crowded stores, but the truth is that you can score some amazing deals if you are willing to put in a bit of work. 

If you like shopping for deals as much as me, you should read my posts on warehouse and clearance outlet stores you didn’t know about and the best furniture outlet stores outside of North Carolina.

Good luck! Let me know how your Black Friday shopping experience goes in the comments!

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