Black Friday Shopping, the Frugal Way

Posted by on Nov 8, 2015 in Smart Shopper | 46 comments

Black Friday

Image courtesy of Iamnee at

Black Friday, that big hyped-up super savings day (maybe), once a one-day event exclusive to the States now also takes place in Canada, South America, the UK and Europe.

Retailers, knowing when they have a good thing going kept pushing the days so that Black Friday has become Black Friday Week, starting the Monday before. In 2005 online retailers decided they wanted a share of the pie and got into the act with Cyber Monday which has now also turned into Cyber Week.

So what does this mean for the consumer? To find the answer to that, you first have to know what you’re dealing with.

For sure, there are great deals to be had but always keep in mind that retailers are in business to make a profit. Since profits don’t go down during these ‘big sale’ events, you’ve got to ask, “What’s going on?” Answer – retailers have gotten trickier so that the deals you think you’re getting may not actually be such great bargains.

Black Friday Tricks:

Before you get caught up in the hype and the ‘wow’ factor, let’s take a look at some Black Friday Tricks:

  • Be skeptical and don’t believe everything you read or hear – Black Friday ads list quite a few products that have the same selling price as before the ‘BIG’ sales event. Just because it’s advertised in a flyer doesn’t mean the price has been cut.
  • Some retailers jack up prices prior to Black Friday, then put them ‘on sale’ on Black Friday. Of course, this means you really end up paying the regular retail price.
  • That super great deal may actually be left over from last year’s inventory. Nothing wrong with that if the product meets your requirements and the price is right. However, it should be something you’re aware of (just ask), if only to negotiate a better deal because they probably won’t want it back in inventory for another year.
  • Manufacturers often make special Black Friday products using cheaper components, leaving out some features, changing the size somewhat or otherwise putting out an inferior product that looks very much like the more expensive item.
  • The manufacturer’s suggested list price is often inflated and very few stores ever use that amount, other than to make you think you’re getting a fantastic deal. Totally ignore the MSLP.
  • You won’t get the best deal buying Apple products at the Apple store. Those items are among the most popular items sold so retailers slash the Apple prices to get customers into their store. It’s a well-known fact that the first store a customer enters is more than likely the store where they will spend the most money. Retailers are willing to lose on these popular items knowing they’ll more than make up for it in other ways.
  • Doorbusters, Instore Specials, Limited Time Offers, Etc. These specials will be staggered – and announced – throughout the day.  All day long you’ll hear announcements like “Shoppers, we will be offering 40% (or more) off ………. in only 30 minutes.” Of course they’re counting on shoppers to pick up one, two, or more items while waiting for this ‘big savings opportunity’.

  • Black Friday doesn’t always offer the best prices. For clothes and beauty products, Cyber Monday offers better deals. As for toys, Black Friday will offer some good sales. but for most toys the first couple of weeks of December will offer greater bargains.

Your Black Friday Savings Strategy:

Sales go in cycles and repeat, offering the same products at regular intervals. This also holds true for Black Friday Sales. Checking the 2014 ads will provide a good overview of what you can expect in 2015.

  • In Canada you can click on 2014 Canada Ads  For 2015 advance Black Friday ads click on 2015 Canada Ads Not all stores will have advance ads but keep checking the 2015 site because they keep updating.
  • In the USA you can click on 2014 Black Friday Ads  For 2015 advance Black Friday ads click on 2015 USA Ads  The same as for Canada – keep checking the site to receive updated information.

Knowledge: The most important thing you can do to save big is to go armed with knowledge. Decide what you want to buy and do an online check for the brand and model number and the features that are important to you, especially for the ‘big ticket’ items.

  • Model Number. Look up the product you want, listing all the details – brand, colour, features, size, price, etc. and make note of the model number. At the store ensure that the product you want is the same as the product featured. Check the product number carefully because an inferior product’s number may differ by just one number or letter.

Store Policies: These should be checkout out well before the Black Friday sales begin since every store has its own policies, some of which may be changed during the Black Friday promotions. Know the ones for the stores you plan to visit ahead of time by calling or going to the store’s customer service department. Be sure to ask about policies in place during the Black Friday sales and that you receive clear and definite answers.

  • Return Policy. The most important one is the return policy, especially if you’re buying Christmas gifts. You don’t want to be stuck with a gift that doesn’t measure up. Or how about that tacky impulse buy you really don’t want? Being able to return stuff you don’t want allows greater leeway when shopping. You won’t need to waste time inspecting each item in the store. With a good return policy you’ll be able to do that at home. 

Many electronic items normally have short return periods – 14 to 30 days – which won’t be much good if you’re buying for Christmas. Some products have a restocking fee. Other products can’t be returned. To find out about any store’s return policy – for instore or online shopping – google the name of the store adding ‘return policy’ in the search bar.

  • Raincheck Policy. Do they provide rainchecks for all advertised products if not available? What about for doorbusters? Does the raincheck come with an additional discount? Stores often get around this by offering products or models not normally sold by them which then don’t qualify for a raincheck. Check carefully before the big sales – the information you receive may decide where you go to shop.

  • Scanning Code of Practice. Does the store have a scanning code of practice? Another important one. With all the in-store activity going on prior to opening, it’s very possible for staff to miss changing some prices. Knowing the scanning code of practice may help you pick up some additional savings.

  • Price Match. What is their price match policy? Does it count during Black Friday Sales?

Some stores not only match prices on identical products but will beat the best price by an additional 10% of the difference. Check for the price-match policy the same way as for returns – by googling the store and adding ‘price-match policy’.

  • Retail Map. During any big sales event, many products are moved to more visible locations in the store. Black Friday is no exception – don’t count on being able to quickly run to the regular department to grab that fantastic bargain. Ask ahead of time if the store provides retail maps to indicate where the items will be located within the store. If they do provide them, ask when and where to pick one up.

I had planned to cover all the Black Friday information here but discovered there is way too much information for one post. We’ll carry on next week and discuss things like the Black Friday shopping strategy, some little known shopping (and extra saving) secrets,  in-store vs online shopping, and more. All the information needed to help you save the most.

Please share your Black Friday money-saving tips in the comments below. I’ll include them in next week’s post – more knowledge, more savings. Thanks 😀 

Talk to you again next week,


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  1. Black Friday? I think I’d rather go to the other extreme, thank you very much. Indeed, I encourage one and all to
    (a) reject consumerist culture in general,
    (b) buy only what you need, and
    (c) keep your possessions to a minimum and not accumulate stuff.

    The best way to spend Black Friday is at home, sitting by the fire, and with a pot of coffee at the ready – those are my plans, anyway. 🙂

    • Andy – your way of spending Black Friday is may favourite way to spend winter – if you have that you don’t need the fluff. We have an airtight woodstove with glass window in the door. I know I’m not supposed to use the stove this way because it’s not meant for cooking but I sit in front of my stove with a good book or some magazines while the soup and /or coffee is perking away – best life ever.

  2. I love these tips, especially the first one about the flyers! I avoid stores like the plague on black Friday, but I’m sure I could use these tips during the whole season. I love to know the insider secrets!

    • Meredith, the big thing is – watch the stores and don’t believe everything (anything?) they say. I read somewhere that even the way the store is painted or the music they play have an effect on how much money shoppers spend. That’s one good reason to never enter a store without a list and to stick to that list.

  3. I don’t participate in black Friday shopping, but if I did I would use these tips. That’s a very smart idea to compare the 2014 ads to the 2015 ads. That way you’ll actually be able to see if you are getting deals.

    • Jason, when it comes to getting deals on Black Friday you have to pull out your own little bag of tricks to counteract the retail ones. Course it isn’t just at Black Friday that they practice theirs – need to watch everytime you enter a store – sale or not.

  4. I do not do much shopping on Black Friday, might be the fact I was in retail so much in the past I hate the day.
    You made some wonderful points, especially about how products might not be the same models, or have the same features are when they are sold on other days.
    I will forward this to my sister, as she will be up at 4 AM that day to get those deals.

    • William, thanks for forwarding this to your sister – who knows, she may decide it will be so much nicer to sleep in than to get shoved by the crowds. Although some people really like the challenge – I just hope they’ll take the time to do their homework so they end up with a good deal and not a dud.

  5. I am not a big shopper Lenie and when I do it is usually at a time when I suspect that others are doing other things. I do not find it amazing that the first store is the one where most spend the most as it is exactly my MO.

    • Tim, my favourite ways to shop – online and early morning when no one else is out…….and never pay full price.

  6. I’m shuddering as I remember seven years in retail management and the horror of Black Fridays! Some retailers I worked for saved actual deals until that day, but the prices were rarely one day only. It was usually the start of the pre-Christmas sales cycle and was already built into the company’s budgets. This was 30 years ago, so maybe things have changed–NOT.

    To my shock, I did once get a Black Friday deal in an Apple store. In 2011 I bought my MacBook Pro–got $100 off and a free printer. I have never seen them have a deal like that again. Maybe they sold too much. HA!

    Shared on Twitter and will share on Facebook later today! Too much good information not to pass it on.

    • Rose, if there is one thing I’m hoping to get across to readers is that a lot of them wouldn’t be buying what they do if it wasn’t for the hyped up marketing. Retailers have this “miss out now and you’ll regret it for ever” approach down pat and people gobble it up, unfortunately among them many who have to make every penny count. They could end up with a useless product and that irks me…a lot.

      • You are spot on, Lenie! I am, perhaps, a cheapo, but all those years in retail taught me not to pay full price!

        Shared on FB this morning.

        • Never cheapo – always FRUGAL

          Thanks for the share.

  7. I avoid Black Friday like the Plague. There’s nothing I want enough to brave such crowds, but I can get why others will go to great lengths to get a good deal, it’s just not for me. I tend to wait for Cyber Monday and have found some good deals on Amazon that way. Shopping online appeals to me much more than the hectic shopping season that is the month before Christmas.

    • Jeri, I think soon only the diehards will continue to shop the brick and mortar stores on Black Friday. There are people who really enjoy getting into the spirit of the`big adventure`and those are the ones that will sleep on the sidewalk the night before etc. Like you I much prefer the online shopping, especially when you know many of the instore deals being offered really aren`t such great deals at all.

  8. These are such smart tips Lenie – especially your point about carefully scrutinizing the items on sale.

    When I was in college I worked part-time at a department store and the BIG sale of the year was in August. For a week before the sale customers (we called the rag-pickers behind their backs) dug through the merchandise planning their attack strategy and then would start lining up at the doors hours before the store opened on the first day of the sale. What they didn’t know was the night before we unloaded all of the boxes of leftover stuff from previous sales and mixed it in with the newer items. Gosh I still cringe just thinking about what it was like those first few minutes after they opened the doors. This craziness is SO much better online than in person!!!

    • Marquita – thanks for sharing the ‘rag-picker’ story. I feel bad about people who have to make every penny count who buy something only to discover after a couple of weeks that the item was not what it was supposed to be. I do prefer to shop online from stores who have a good shipping and return policy. It seems with those policies in place they’re more careful about what they sell because I’ve only ever had to return something once and that process was so easy. Thanks for the comment.

  9. Hi Lenie,

    This is a great topic. Who doesn’t love getting a bargain? I’m not a big advocate of Black Friday any more. Before online shopping, I was one of those shoppers who would set the alarm and be there when the doors opened!

    I’d always have a friend and a plan. I can still remember my husband and my in-laws chiding me for participating but the deals that I used to get were amazing! I always told them that by the time the “amateurs” got to the stores, I’d be long home.

    Now, it’s definitely Cyber Monday/week for me Then again, I’m always on the watch for a good bargain and I love shopping online. My mom thinks I’m fearless. 🙂 I’ve been known to buy major appliances from the comfort of my home office.

    Great advice about having a stratgy!

    • Sherryl, I think it won’t be long before online shopping will overtake the instore deals and I’m not talking just Cyber Monday. All you need to know is if the online store has a good shipping and return policy – if so you’re as safe buying from them as you would be instore (and no salesman trying to upsell you). I’ll bet your husband was surprised when the courier delivered that large appliance to your door lol.
      I do like what you said about a friend and a plan. If you prepare ahead of time you can save on Black Friday but you need to do your homework.

  10. Lenie, I agree that you are correct in your assessment. For me I hate Cyber Monday as I do put up special sales that the supplier does not participate. I decided one year to not do Cyber Monday and see if my sales were any different and turns out I lost more money on cyber Monday because I attracted a different crowd. So it may be a great idea for the consumer but for my point of view selling to corporations, they are not looking for a bargain on a certain date. I am pretty much the same way. If I do not need it Black Friday or Cyber Monday is not going to make me go out and buy.

    • Arleen, you’d be surprised how many people do buy just because it’s Black Friday. Last year I thought I’d get a few Christmas gifts for the grandchildren on Cyber Monday but that was a waste of time – never ordered a thing. ended up going instore shopping early December where I picked up some dandy stuff.

  11. Lenie — very helpful post, as usual. I shop for the holidays year-round. I know what my friends and family like so if I see a bargain in July, I’ll buy it. I don’t usually buy gifts of clothing that are sized because that can be tricky. I keep a notebook of the gifts I’ve bought and the name of the recipient next to it. I check it from time to time just to make sure I’m not doubling up on someone! The other benefit of shopping year-round is that you don’t get caught up in the Christmas crush of shoppers.

    • Jeannette, I like your shopping style – that’s for me and know something? I’ll bet when all is said and done you probably save more on your purchases doing it your way than most people do on Black Friday. Lots of them shop simply because it’s BLACK FRIDAY, OH WOW.

  12. Hi Lenie, I’ve never been a fan of Black Friday. Too many people, too much pushing and shoving. And sleeping on a sidewalk in the cold to get a discount on a TV, just to finally get to to the door and they’re solid out, forget it! Especially now with online shopping and it is sent right to your home. Thanks for the great buying advice though. Helpful either way. 🙂

    • Susan, wouldn’t that be horrid, sleeping on the sidewalk not knowing who’s sleeping in the spot next to you YUK. You’re right about the buying information though, retailers have their little bag of tricks of year round – you just have to stay alert.

  13. Your articles are full of information – you break it down for those of us who have little or no understanding of your content.

    Black Friday was a big hit in the UK last year; people literally stepping over those who had fallen down, arguments galore, chaos – you name it, it was there!

    A bargain is only a bargain, if it was a purchase you had planned. I have been caught a number if times buying an item because it was cheap. From now on I will only look at items I want or need.

    • Phoenicia, I cannot see how anyone can enjoy shopping in the chaos you described. I’ve seen pictures like that on the news, horrid. I don’t like shopping at the best of times but when I do go I prefer to go when most are still sleeping.

  14. I always love your frugal posts Lenie and this is no exception. Mentioning Apple struck a chord with me as it is SO hard to get a price break on their electronic products. But I really liked the website links you gave for the adds from last year and this. Personally I never shop on BlackFriday -well sometimes on line.

    • Kathy, I think if you pick a favourite online store and keep an eye on it, you will probably find some good promotions on Apple products – not the day they come out with a new gadget though. Then it seems everyone goes crazy – just like Black Friday – it’s all the hype.

  15. Lenie, thank you for the comprehensive guide to black Friday. I’ve actually never shopped during that day, but my husband was suckered into buying an x-box a few years ago. I’ve gotten really savvy to retailers raising prices just so they can lower them. I used to love to shop at outlets until I realized what they sell at the outlets is a cheaper knock-off of the regular store merchandise. Buyer beware in most situations! If a deal seems to good to be true, at least 75% of the time it is.

    • Erica, buyer beware says it all but then that is true all year round. That’s why I prefer armchair and thrift store shopping – you only buy online if they have a super return policy and the thrift store no one is shoving you around while you check things out. Much better.

  16. Lenie, this is so helpful. I never knew most of the facts you gave about Black Friday. Gee, who would think that retailers would ever try and take advantage of consumers? 🙂
    The marking up prices and selling inferior brands, that stinks. It made me think of a article I read about candles sold at the discount stores Ross and Marshals. The candles they sell are inferior to ones sold in department stores, they have some type of inexpensive fillers. I’ve saved your post to my desktop so I have the tips close by. Thank you

    • Pamela, those candles sold at dollar/discount stores should have a warning label. Quite a few contain lead and others contain chemicals you really don’t want in your house. Some of those store practices do stink but they don’t just happen during Black Friday – retailers trick us in so many ways that you can save a fortune just by being aware of that.

  17. Interesting information and tips, Lenie. Personally am not into sales for the sake of bargains. Only buy what I need and if it’s possible to find those items on sale it’s fantastic. Consequently at the moment it’s best to wait to buy clothes and shoes until after Christmas. If I do, I get minimum 50% discount

    • Thanks for that tip Catarina – I know that buying winter clothes and footwear is a much better buy in Feb/Mar when they need to clear out the shelves.

  18. Great tips! I like “To find out about any store’s return policy – for instore or online shopping – google the name of the store adding ‘return policy’ in the search bar. ” I never thought of that, but it make sense, I will use it next time I need to know the return policy before buying something. As always, I learned a lot.

    • Sabrina, you can use the same search technique for any of the store’s policies. It would be nice if they would just have all of them in one place (some do, most don’t). For instore shopping it’s also a good idea to carry a copy with you when you shop. Sometimes it seems the customers know more than the store managers.

  19. Good tips Lenie. Black Friday sales get so hyped that people often get caught up in the buying frenzy and may not be getting as good as deal as they think. I personally tend to stay away from Black Friday shopping, but I might watch the flyers if there is something in particular I am looking for. Last year, I bought a new camera in a Black Friday Week Sale. It was something I planned to buy anyway at a good price.

    • Donna, I personally think that extending Black Friday to almost a month is going to do a lot for cutting back on the hype. How can you possibly keep people excited for almost a month. There is also the convenience of online shopping – Cyber month – which I think will eventually replace the Brick and Mortar stores’ Black Friday. It will be interesting to see what the 2015 stats will show.

  20. Lenie, I don’t participate in Black Friday events. I like other strategies year round – like knowing when appliances go on sale or when beds are best to buy. I refuse to participate in stores anywhere. I do watch my emails for online shopping on this crazy day. Look forward to your next tips!

    • Patricia – I am so with you. I do most of my shopping from my armchair or for groceries early in the morning before anyone else realizes the store is open. But there are still millions (really) who go all out for Black Friday shopping and they may as well know what to watch for. The big Black Friday winners are the retailers.

  21. Interesting that the first store a customer enters is more than likely the store where they will spend the most money. I didn’t know that. I’m one of those people who sometimes shops quickly and other times don’t buy the first thing in case I see something I like better later, of course sometimes going back to the first place to find it gone. The item, not the place. Good suggestions to avoid being too impressed by the not-so-special specials.

    • Beth, I’ve been working on next week’s post and realize that if you want to really save money during these Black Friday sales- all month long now – you have to have a strategy. But it is interesting trying to think of ways to outsmart the retail industry.

  22. As always, Lenie, you have provided a tremendous service to those who otherwise might be “hapless” consumers. Educational reading and enjoyable too!

    • Hi Ramona, so nice to hear from you. Thanks for the comment, appreciate it.

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