Has Black Friday lost its appeal? It might seem that way—who wants to elbow their way through crowds when you can shop on Monday from the comfort of your éclair-shaped sofa?—but if you look at the numbers, that’s not the case. According to RetailMeNot, 78 percent of Americans will take advantage of the discounts sometime between Thanksgiving night and Cyber Monday. There are still plenty of great deals to uncover; you just have to know how to find them.
That’s where Sara Skirboll comes in. She is the shopping and trends expert at RetailMeNot, and when it comes to navigating the frequent chaos that is a Black Friday sale, we trust her years of expertise. We chatted with her about which items are worth navigating checkout lines for, what big mistakes people make, and everything else you need to know to ensure your spree goes off without a hitch.
Do: Buy Into the Tech Hype
That category (along with small cookware appliances and travel) is the one with the best deals. So Skirboll recommends heading to the electronics section first; the discounts average around 25 percent off and sell out the fastest.
Don’t: Waste Your Time on Sheets
Furniture, toys, bedding, and fitness equipment won’t have super-impressive sales. “White sales are held in January, when all linens, sheets, bedding, and towels will be heavily discounted,” shares Skirboll. As for big-ticket indoor furniture, the best time to buy is in January, July, and August—start putting together a wish list now to be prepared for when those bargains hit.
Do: Wait It Out
Hold off till Cyber Monday for things like clothing, laptops, and smart home devices. Not only will you avoid losing your morning to fitting room lines, but you’ll benefit from discounts of up to 50 percent from your favorite fashion brands—and obviously tech giants like Google and Amazon always have their best deals online. Same goes if you’ve been eyeing a recently launched collection from a trendy company.
Don’t: Go Without a Plan
“Have a gift idea list ready of what you’d like to purchase for whom, and set a budget to make sure you don’t spend money on unnecessary things,” says Skirboll. She also suggests doing a bit of research beforehand to compare prices among competitors (retailers will often announce some or most of their sales leading up to Black Friday).
Do: Head Out Early—Within Reason
Save yourself the precoffee jaunt to the store unless you’ve been eyeing an in-store-only door-buster deal at a place like Walmart or Target; Skirboll says most discounts happen throughout the day, to account for changing merchandise inventory. But you should still shop earlier rather than later. Nothing’s worse than finally finding that dinnerware set you’ve been lusting after at 40 percent off…only to realize that the supply has been thoroughly combed over and it’s totally sold out.
Don’t: Be Swayed by the Promise of a “Good Deal”
According to Skirboll, this is the biggest mistake Black Friday shoppers make. “Sometimes, retailers will bump up the original price to make the deal look more significant,” she points out. “Remember that Black Friday is not just one day—it’s turned into a full season.”
Do: Ditch the Distractions
This means kids and shopping carts; the former will inevitably slow you down, and the latter may encourage you throw in unnecessary last-minute purchases. After all, the faster you can get through your list and back to the pumpkin pie leftovers, the better.
See more advice for navigating Thanksgiving:
7 Thanksgiving Appetizers That Might Just Steal the Turkey’s Spotlight
5 Realistic Tips to Get Through the Holiday Season Without a Hangover
6 Services That Basically Host Thanksgiving for You