How to Be Frugal on Black Friday

On the day after Thanksgiving, also known as Black Friday, retail stores entice customers with special offers and deep discounts on gifts for the holidays. If youve been putting off doing your Christmas shopping, you might decide that it would be a good idea to take advantage of Black Friday sales and snatch up as many coveted items as you can at one time. But be carefulthough the goal is to save money, it can be easy to fall into the trap of spending much more than you intended during the frantic holiday rush. For this reason, its important to keep a few guidelines in mind before you set off on your Black Friday shopping spree.


[Edit]Planning Ahead

  1. Set out with a goal in mind. Before you pull on your scarf and mittens and prepare to wait in line for hours first thing in the morning, have a clear idea of what youre shopping for and whether its worth it. If youve already got a Christmas list for reference and youre trying to check off items at bargain prices, Black Friday sales may save you a substantial amount of money. If youre simply intoxicated by the idea of discounted goods, however, or youre just shopping to see whats out there, you may end up parting with more money than you planned to.[1]
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    • Black Friday sales are most favorable to shoppers when they can identify a few things they need, that they can score for significantly less, and only buy these items.
    • If theres nothing you absolutely have to have, and youre feeling tempted to shop purely for its own sake, you may be better off finding something else to do with your time.[2]
  2. Preview Black Friday deals. Traditionally, Black Friday sales ads have run in the newspaper on Thanksgiving day. Nowadays, though, it may be possible to take a look at upcoming specials through store websites or even smartphone apps a few days in advance. Browse through early listings to see how things are being priced, and whether a particular store has what youre looking for on sale.[3]
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    • Being able to look at products and prices in advance will help you calculate a realistic shopping budget, another must for saving during the Black Friday frenzy.
    • Go through reputable channels (such as official sites like Macys and Brookstone, or bargain shopping apps like Flipp and Slice) to guarantee that the sales you find are legit.[4]
  3. Look over merchandise before you buy it. If youve scanned through previews of Black Friday sales and something has caught your eye, take a scouting trip to the store thats selling it and give it a closer look. This way, youll be able to inspect the product for quality and see if it suits your budget and personal tastes before committing yourself to buying it. Some basic recon will also familiarize with where to find the item before the store is overrun with swarming crowds.[5]
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    • Browsing before doing the bulk of your shopping can provide an opportunity to learn about exclusive in-store deals.
    • Devise a battle plan by plotting your path through a store that you expect to be busy.
  4. Limit yourself to a handful of stores. Instead of just darting aimlessly from one sale to another, come up with a few stores in particular to visit. In the interest of time and expense, try to keep this number around five or six at most. Settle on stores that stock a wide range of items to get as much done in as few locations as you can, or stores that provide specialty products you cant get anywhere else.
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    • If possible, have a shopping buddy to go deal-hunting with. The two of you can split up and cover more ground, getting to hot items faster and eliminating the need to trek all over town.[6]

[Edit]Getting Organized

  1. Set a budget. Decide on a realistic amount that youre willing and able to spend. Dont deviate from this figure. Youll be much more careful about comparing prices and making necessary compromises if you know you cant exceed a strict total. Having a fixed budget in mind might also force you to get more creative about picking out gifts, which means you could end up with more items than you originally expected for the same amount.[7]
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    • Make sure your primary finances are in order before you set aside money for shopping.[8]
    • Be conservative. Its always better to spend less now and not have to worry about financial security later on.
  2. Make a list of must-have items. Write down everything you know you need and prioritize necessities over casual purchases before you start looking at other things. For instance, if your daughter has asked for a new winter coat, and you want to get your best friend a toaster as a housewarming gift, pick these items out first. After your main shopping is done, you can start browsing freely if you have some spending money leftover.[9]
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    • If youre not shopping for anything in particular, think of what you could personally use in your wardrobe or around the house.
    • Write down the price beside each item on your list and make sure it corresponds with your budget.
  3. Compare prices. Dont take sale advertisements at face value. You can find some remarkable bargains on Black Friday, but you might be able to track down an even better one somewhere else. Pore over newspaper ads, mailer promotions, store websites and shopping apps to find out who is offering what for how much. That way, youll know exactly where to go once its time to get shopping.
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    • For the sake of business, most stores are willing to match low prices with competitors, saving you money and the need for an extra trip uptown.[10]
    • Pay attention to less obvious stores that might be offering deals on the same products. For instance, you can find a variety of name-brand goods at drugstores, which are likely to be less crowded than mall shops and more popular destinations.[11]
  4. Collect coupons. Check the mail around Thanksgiving and sign up for store newsletters for a chance to receive coupons that could save you even more on Black Friday purchases. Coupons are an often overlooked way to be thrifty, and, when combined with slashed rates on promotional items, can help keep a little bit of extra money in your pocket. Tuck some coupons in your wallet or checkbook before you head out for your first stop of the day.[12]
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    • To prevent overspending, only use coupons for the limited number of stores you decided on ahead of time.
    • In addition to coupons, there are websites where you can go to buy discounted gift cards that will allow you to save a few more bucks on Black Friday purchases.

[Edit]Showing Restraint

  1. Stay home. One option for Black Friday shopping that a lot of people tend to forget about is simply not participating. Decide whether saving $30 or $40 is worth the tedium, exhaustion and stress of surrendering your whole day for a chance to make mad grabs at the local mall. Remember, your time is valuable too. The hours you give up waiting in line or fighting your way through angry mobs could be spent enjoying the holidays with your loved ones.[13]
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    • If you just cant let a bargain pass you by, avoid the chaos and capitalize on Black Friday savings by doing your shopping online through participating sites. Its a win-win situations.
    • Keep in mind whats really important during the holidays: warmth, comfort, and making loving memories with the people you care about.
  2. Avoid the temptation to impulse-buy. Sure, that all-in-one coffee maker/juicer/smoothie machine might look nifty, but is it something you really need? If an item isnt on your list, and you cant justify buying it, keep moving. The irony of Black Friday is that prices are often so low that people are tricked into buying things they have no real use for. In doing so, they end up spending more than they would have on a typical outing.[14]
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    • Stay focused and practice a little self-control when you run into attractive but unnecessary deals.
    • Having concrete items and figures in mind, like making a list or setting a budget, can keep you from dropping money on extra purchases you may regret later.
  3. Stick to advertised deals. The items that comprise your shopping list should all come from Black Friday savings offers. The whole point of Black Friday shopping is to secure goods at markdown, so ignore non-sale items for now. The more you spend on regularly-priced goods, the less youll have available to buy more of the things that end up saving you money. If youre not careful, youll just end up racking up added expenses that set you back, defeating the purpose of the commercial holiday.[15]
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    • Sometimes, stores will advertise products at prices that arent much lower than what they ordinarily cost. Take advantage of the biggest discounts you can and bypass the rest.[16]
    • You can always come back later and buy other items with the money you saved doing your Black Friday shopping.
  4. Look into each stores return policy. Hold onto your receipts in case you decide to bring something back and be aware of how individual stores handle returns and exchanges. It may be that you give someone something they already have, or you get home only to be confronted with immediate buyers remorse. In these cases, making use of returns can put some of that hard-earned holiday cash back in your hands.[17]
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    • Stash your receipts in your wallet or pocketbook to help you keep up with them, or file them away in a separate folder back home.
    • Some return policies may be subject to change on Black Friday. Be sure to read the fine print and dont miss your window to take an unwanted item back.


  • Keep an eye on sales advertised in the weeks leading up to and following Thanksgiving to see how much shopping you can get done before and after the rush.
  • Once you get home, look over everything youve bought and decide whether its all worth keeping or whether there are some items youd be willing to return.
  • Stores are opening earlier than ever for Black Friday. If you dont want to miss out, plan to do your shopping as early as the midnight after Thanksgiving day.
  • Eat before you set out so that you dont have to negotiate busy restaurants and food courts in the middle of the day.
  • Wait for other commercial holidays, such as Cyber Monday, to look for deals on electronic goods.
  • Return unwanted items for store credit. You may be able to find something else on your list without an additional trip or transaction.


  • Guard your wallet, shopping bags and other belongings closely. Its common for thieves to prey on distracted Black Friday shoppers.
  • Be wary of free offers. These usually come with unadvertised payment plans or some other catch.