Take a deep breath. Black Friday is coming.
Ah yes, the biggest shopping day of the year is almost upon us. You always hear stories about people waking up insanely early, shoving people out of their way or skipping out of Thanksgiving dinner early just to get a jump on their holiday shopping.
Of course, major retailers make their Black Friday deals sound really awesome when they give previews weeks in advance of the big day, but do they really live up to the hype? Can you actually save more money by shopping on Black Friday than during other times of the year? Here's what you may want to keep in mind before you head out to shop.
1. Black Friday isn't about you
Let's make one thing clear from the get-go. Though you might be tempted to think that major retailers are being extremely nice and generous by offering such low, low prices, everything they do is to make money for themselves on Black Friday. There's nothing wrong with that; that's just the way it is. That means stores will sell a few items at a loss to get shoppers through the door, but through clever floor design, the store will guide you to more expensive, even full-price items. An analysis of Black Friday shopping by credit card company MasterCard shows that 70 percent of consumer spending occurs at the first two stores a shopper visits, so retailers are doing everything they can to entice customers to visit their stores first, be it with earlier store hours, doorbuster deals or seemingly crazy savings.
2. Quantities are very limited
Even if a sale price really is amazing, very few people will actually be able to walk out of the store with that deal. "Doorbuster" has become the new word for "limited quantity." "If you're looking for that ultimate score, the half-price big screen TV, if you're not the 24th person in the line, 'good luck,'" Marshal Cohen, chief retail analyst at NPD Group, told CNNMoney.
3. The quality of the items might not be great
Though you'll certainly find a lot of major brands on sale on Black Friday, you're probably going to find many more products of questionable quality. "Black Friday is about cheap stuff at cheap prices, and I mean cheap in every connotation of the word," deal tracker Dan de Grandpre told The New York Times. You should also beware of items you've never heard of, because you might be tempted to buy something at a seemingly great deal since you don't actually know how much it's worth, according to The Atlantic. This sort of thing can happen even with high-quality, brand name items, too.
4. You can get most deals online
Gone are the days when waking up at 2 a.m. and waiting in line outside of a store for four hours was the only option to score some good deals on Black Friday. This is the 21st century, people, and we have the technology to get low prices from the comfort of our own homes by shopping online. Retailers know the competition is intense on Black Friday, so many of them offer deals akin to what's being offered in brick and mortar stores, Walter Loeb, a retail analyst and president of Loeb Associates, told CNNMoney. Target, Sam's Club and Best Buy are just a few of the major retailers offering Black Friday savings online, some even before the Friday after Thanksgiving hits. Cyber Monday is just around the corner on Dec. 1, too.
5. It depends on where you shop
Though it seems like nearly every major retailer nationwide gets in on the Black Friday action, each one does it differently. You're going to be able to save much more money at some stores over others. Personal finance research website WalletHub recently conducted a survey of the best and worst stores for Black Friday deals. WalletHub looked at scans of Black Friday ads from 22 of the nation's biggest retailers and compared the prices to regular prices of these items. According to the survey, it looks like you'll save the most at department stores, with consumers that shop at JCPenney, Macy's and Sears saving an average of more than 50 percent. However, at large retailers with already discounted merchandise, it doesn't look like you'll save as much, since Big Lots and Costco ranked the lowest on the list with an average of about 25 percent and 21 percent savings per consumer, respectively.
6. It might not actually be the best day for holiday shopping
Everyone wants to take advantage of the deals on Black Friday and get all of their holiday shopping done in one fell swoop. However, it might not be the best time to get low prices on a variety of products. For instance, the latest holiday toys are most likely at their highest prices during this time because these are the items everyone wants to buy, so retailers have no incentive to make the prices cheaper. It's best to wait until after Christmas to purchase toys. You should wait until December to buy some items, such as luxury goods, because this is when stores try to sell their overstock. You'll get better deals on consumer electronics in early December, too, Oren Etzioni, a computer science professor at the University of Washington and the founder of travel deal website Farecast, found after a price analysis in 2011, as reported by The New York Times.
7. Shoppers are increasingly skeptical of deals
Perhaps after personal experience or hearing horror stories from friends, consumers aren't so sure about Black Friday anymore. A recent survey from the National Retail Federation found that 31.6 percent of shoppers want to wait to see what the Black Friday deals are before they head to the stores, which is a 2 percent increase from last year. Consumers want more than just discounts to convince them to spend money on Black Friday, said NRF's President and CEO Matthew Shay in a statement.
Seeing as how there might be more personal benefits to staying home on Black Friday than actually shopping, the consumers of today might be right.