How to shop smart on Black Friday

Tips for spotting real deals and spending safely


Tymit Team

London, UK

Lockdown means the high street is a no go, so this Black Friday is shaping up to be a big one for online shopping.

Loads of retailers have been running promotions since the start of November, trying to offload as much of the stock they’ve built up over the year as possible.

And while this does mean you could be in for some serious bargains, there’s also a few reasons to press pause on the Black Friday hype and think about some of the ways you can shop smarter.

Are Black Friday deals even worth it?

Your inbox and feeds might be clogged up with promotions telling you it’s time to spend, spend, spend, but are the deals they’re pushing really all that good?

It turns out when you take a closer look, a lot of Black Friday ‘special offers’ aren’t that special.

Which? has got some pretty eye-opening stats on this. They tracked the prices of a bunch of popular products in the six months before and after Black Friday 2018, and what they found might surprise you:

  • 95% of the products were available at the same price or cheaper in the six months after Black Friday.
  • 61% of the could be picked up for the same price or less in the 6 months leading up to it.
  • And only 5% of the products they watched hit their lowest price on Black Friday itself.

So, on the face of it, Black Friday may not be all that it’s cracked up to be. But there are still bargains to bag. It’s just a case of finding them.

How to tell if a Black Friday deal is real

How do you cut through that Black Friday buzz and figure out if something is worth your cash? We’re not going to lie, it can be tricky and a bit of a slog. But if you want to make sure you’re really on to a good deal, there are a couple things you should do.

Shop around

All the hype around Black Friday is designed to push our buttons, from the urgent-sounding emails to the flashing web banners. That’s why it’s so easy to whack a load of stuff in your basket and head to the checkout without doing much of a double take.

But taking a second look at your bargains is exactly what you should be doing. It might sound a bit ‘Online Shopping 101’, but checking the price of a product on lots of different sites is the best place to start.

Surprisingly, 13% of shoppers don’t do this on Black Friday, taking the AMAZING bargains at face value.

Nose about a bit, though, and you’ll probably find that plenty of stores are selling what you want at the same price, but only one of them is claiming it’s the deal of the century. You may still be happy to part with the cash, but at least you’re going in with your eyes open.

Approach ‘was’ with caution

‘Was’ and ‘now’ stickers are usually the tell-tale signs of a bargain, but they should be treated with a bit more caution around this time of year.

In retail-speak the ‘was’ figure is known as the ‘anchor price’, and these can at times be a bit misleading. Sellers might hike the cost of a product in the run up to Black Friday, inflating its anchor. All so they can slash it and start bigging up their cut-price deals.

That’s why you might find a certain product has been for sale at the same low price for most of the year. And how do you do that, exactly? Read on.

Use price history sites and apps

If you know exactly what you want and aren’t just browsing for a bargain, you should definitely do a little digging with price history apps or sites.

They’re super easy to use and will help you check the price of a product over time. So you’ll be able to tell if the deals that caught your eye are actually worth a look.

Here are a few suggestions to get started:

  • CamelCamelCamel is a free-to-use, Amazon-only price tracker. You can use it to monitor product prices on Amazon and alert you when they drop. It even offers a browser extension to make the whole process that bit easier.
  • Available online and as an app, PriceSpy offers price comparison for tons of products all over the web. You can use their handy filters to search by price, product reviews, seller ratings and more.
  • Honey is an extension for your web browser. It’s free to sign up, and you can use it to both check price history and hunt for coupons from thousands of retailers.

Read the fine print

You may see some retailers stick a load of fine print at the bottom of a promotion or hide it at the very end of a product listing. While it won’t be the most exciting read, it can still be worth a look, because it might just reveal if you’re getting a good deal or not.

You could find a note explaining that your must-have purchase was being sold at its ‘was price’ for just a few short weeks before Black Friday.

Or you might find info on its recommended retail price 💡, which you can check against the manufacturer’s and see if you really should spend now.

The important thing here is that you don’t immediately take the headline price at face value and do a little bit more digging.

What should you buy on Black Friday?

It’s obvious there are loads of tricks of the trade retailers use to make deals seem better than they actually are, so you might think you’re best off avoiding Black Friday completely.

But that’s not 100% right either. There’s plenty of research being done every year on where bargain hunters should focus.

Finder says the biggest discounts can be found in fashion, followed by videogames, while household appliances see the smallest price decreases of any category.

This year, we’re told to expect big savings on tech, so if phones, laptops and other electronics are on your shopping list, Black Friday through to Cyber Monday could be the right time to buy.

This doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to find any good deals on home appliances or other stuff – just that real bargains are found more often in some categories, like fashion and tech, than others.

How to avoid overspending on Black Friday

So, there are good deals out there. But with big retailers trying their hardest to whip us all into a spending frenzy, blowing your budget can be easily done. But there are a few things you can do to make sure you don’t overspend on Black Friday. You may even want to take a look at our handy guide for fighting the urge to splurge.

Be clear on ‘want’ vs ‘need’

Cut-price deals can be tempting. So tempting they might make us think we need something that’s really just a nice-to-have. But having a clear idea of what your priority purchases are will help keep your spending in check.

You may have to replace something pretty essential soon, like a laptop, so that could wind up in the ‘need pile’ for Black Friday. An eighth pair of trainers? That’s a judgment call ⚖️ only you can make.

Make a list, set a budget and stick to them

Sensible suggestions like these are timeless classics. Put it all down on paper, be honest about what you need and what you can afford to spend, and then stick to it. Nothing more to it than that, really.

Keep on top of any ‘buy now, pay later’ spending

There are plenty of positives about shopping with BNPL services, like the flexibility of paying in instalments and upfront costs, but there are also some serious drawbacks. BNPL makes it just a bit too easy to whack a load of stuff in your basket, whisk through the checkout and make thinking about it tomorrow’s problem.

What’s pretty shocking is that 50% of people don’t see BNPL spending as ‘real debt’. But we definitely do have a four-letter word for when you buy something now and pay for it later…

The point is not to lose the run of your BNPL spending, because it can come back to haunt you.

Think before you buy

We’ve covered, ‘Do I really need this?’ The next important question is, ‘Can I afford this?’ Taking a moment before you click the pay button is a good way to stop yourself from impulse buying and staying within your budget.

You can’t exactly ‘sleep on it’ for fast-expiring Black Friday deals, but you can definitely walk away from the screen and give it a few minutes’ thought. 💭

We have a tool at Tymit to help our customers do exactly this: they can punch in a purchase amount to our simulator and see exactly how that spending is going to affect their future bills. If you don’t have access to a handy simulator like this, do it the old-fashioned way. Pen + Paper + Calculator.

How to shop safely on Black Friday

You’ve found a deal. A real one. It’s something you really need (or just want, because it’s been a tough year) and you’re ready to pay…

Hold the phone.

Just a few more things to tick off the checklist.

Know your online shopping rights

More of us will be shopping online this year than ever before, so it’s a good idea to brush up on your rights before you go whipping out your wallet. The team at MoneySavingExpert has done an amazing job of putting together an easy-to-read list of all your on- and offline rights when it comes to retail, and you can find it here.

If you don’t have the time to get stuck into the detail, this little nugget is worth remembering: in most cases you have the right to cancel your order and get a refund – even if your only reason is that you’ve changed your mind. Thanks, Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013!

Check the returns and delivery policies

We’ve already mentioned returns, but it’s always worth checking out a retailer's policy 📄 before buying. They'll sometimes extend their returns policy or change their returns process nearer to the holidays.

Same goes for delivery. You should always get the delivery date before you purchase to avoid being disappointed, and it’s worth remembering it’s the sellers responsibility to make sure you get your stuff. So, if something goes missing or turns up in bad nick, you don’t have to waste your time complaining to the delivery company. It’s the retailer’s problem to fix.

Pay by credit card

It’s a fact - you’re way more protected if you pay for your shopping using a credit card. And that’s because the Consumer Credit Act says your credit card provider has to protect purchase from £100 up to £30,000 for free.

The whole idea behind it is to stop people having to pay off debt for something they either never received or was faulty to begin with. So, if a purchase doesn’t work out for these reasons, you can make a claim under Section 75. Just one of the many ways shopping with credit can trump debit.

Be on the lookout for scams

Black Friday is a holiday for scammers too.

Setting up fake websites to snare consumers in a spending frenzy is just the tip of the iceberg. You should always try and buy from reputable sites and remember that if something seems too good to be true, that’s because it probably is. And never open any fishy emails.

Smarter Spending

We have one final tip you may want to think over. If you’re certain you want to spend on Black Friday, give how you’re paying for it some thought.

Leaning towards putting it on your credit card? The traditional kind are expensive, they don’t give you a plan to pay back your balance, and it’s pretty hard to figure out what exactly it is you’re being charged for.

But when you can choose to pay in instalments, you see upfront what it’s going to cost you. Tymit even helps you figure out if you can afford something in the first place.

Read up on our pocket-friendly features or download the app for a closer look.

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