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How Not to Overspend This Black Friday

In a year characterized by an unremitting and unfortunate strangeness, it’s no surprise that Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2020 fit right in. Black Friday “preview” promotions started weeks early in mid-October, hot on the heels of Amazon Prime Day, which had been bumped from its traditional mid-July time slot to Oct. 13 and 14. Retailers began a rotating slate of sales, trumpeting that the best Black Friday deals were actually the early deals.

The same retailers have largely canceled in-store sales on Thanksgiving (and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention discourages them anyway), pushing most shopping online. As a result, you might be experiencing sale exhaustion. If you’re interested in the best deals Wirecutter finds, sign up for the Daily Deals newsletter or bookmark the Deals page.

Lots of things will go on sale during Black Friday, but there’s no bargain in buying something on sale that you never needed in the first place. Make a list of the items you’re looking for so you don’t get sucked in by countdown timers and you-need-this-now marketing language intended to create pressure. Though Black Friday might be known for mega-discounts on electronics (and there will definitely be doorbuster TV sales and no shortage of Alexa and Nest deals), you can also find much more than that at best-ever prices. It’s a good time to grab discounted items to make your winter more comfortable (like heated blankets and mattress pads), household essentials like bath towels and personal-grooming products like electric toothbrushes and hair trimmers.

Whether you’re a laissez-faire browser or a compulsive researcher, going into Black Friday with a plan will help you get the most out of your holiday shopping. Having an idea of what you want and your budget is essential, but you need the facts to support your decision.

Use free price-tracking software to help you determine whether that deal you spot is actually an awesome price (and not just an inflated before price to make the sale price look better). Drop an Amazon link into CamelCamelCamel and it spits out price history for the product nearly immediately. Add the most you’re willing to pay for each product to your list so you’ve set some mental guardrails.

If you don’t want to do the legwork, the Wirecutter Deals team will be doing it for you, highlighting the truly excellent deals and providing you with different ways to get them from a variety of retailers.

A byproduct of the holiday gift shopping season is the sheer number of items on sale and the stores selling them, which can be overwhelming. But that also gives shoppers the freedom to focus on the businesses they want to support. Whether you’re earning cash back through a credit card or getting a bundled gift card as a bonus, there may be a strategic reason to choose one retailer over another. And there will be ample opportunity to support businesses that you want to see succeed.

Cyber Monday often brings sitewide sales, which means if you have budgeted in some serendipity, you don’t necessarily have to scour for a specific product on sale from a store you love because it’s all on sale.

Because of Covid-19 concerns, many people won’t see their families in person on Thanksgiving this year. Don’t let the pressure of holiday shopping distract you from a family Zoom call or a chill-at-home vacation day. If we’ve learned anything this year, it’s that the old rules don’t apply, so don’t be surprised to see deals past Black Friday and Cyber Monday, especially on items like mattresses and linens, which are traditionally big from mid-January through Presidents’ Day.

The sales can wait, and if recent weeks have taught us anything, it’s that those deals will very likely hang around or pop back up later. Many of the deals that were supposedly exclusive to Prime Day resurfaced shortly after the mid-October event, and we’ve seen notable price drops on Black Friday staples like vacuums, kitchen appliances and smart devices in the weeks leading up to Black Friday, too. We expect many of those deals will linger, so you can balance all the demands on your attention and still shop at your own pace.

Interested in learning more about the best things to buy and how to use them? Visit Wirecutter, where you can read the latest reviews and find daily deals.

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