Ultimate Guide To Identifying Black Friday Deals Vs. Scams

Black Friday

No one wakes up at 2 am to navigate dark parking lots and crazed, half-tired, hung over, exhausted women out looking for a great deal on the IT toy or electronic of the year on Black Friday because it is fun. That’s right; it’s not fun. It’s actually anything but fun, but no one wants to miss a deal. Massive televisions for less than $150, savings on new computers that mean you can buy two for the price of one and expensive toys that are, for one night only, less expensive than ever before; it’s savings.

The average family has a $700 Christmas budget. I have no idea how this is possible. I maintain that someone, somewhere wrote this down incorrectly. I just don’t see how anyone can get away with only spending $700 on Christmas when I can think of several items that are more than that alone that will show up at our house this holiday season. It’s just not something that’s feasible to me (and I’m not wealthy). Maybe that’s why so many people want to save big and shop on Black Friday so that it helps their budget stretch and expand.

Listen; Walmart is a crazy and insane place to shop at 11 am on a Tuesday, so I cannot even imagine what it must be like on Black Friday. With that in mind, however, people are really looking for serious savings so that they can stretch their holiday dollar as far as possible. Your kids want these things, your home needs these things; and the sales are only good for so long.


It turns out that sometimes the biggest sales of the year are not actually great sales. I know, I know; sit down. This is a lot to take in. The idea that you’ve been waking up in the middle of the night to go shopping in the freezing cold weather hours before any self-respecting Starbucks is actually open and willing to serve you coffee for years for no apparent reason is a lot to digest – add to that the fact that you probably haven’t even digested your lunch yet and it’s just tragic.

Before you go into full on panic mode, let’s just clarify that some deals are not good deals. Some are just not bargains. Putting a red sign with an exclamation point in front of an item on Black Friday does not make it a bargain. However, many things for sale on this big shopping day are bargains. You need not stay home, safe and sound and warm in your bed when you could get up and freeze to death in the middle of the night for a new television. All you have to do is learn which Black Friday deals are good ones and which are not.

Prepare yourself, friends.

Cheap Sometimes Just Means Cheap

I am a huge advocate of saying that I’d rather pay more now for a quality product than repeatedly pay for the same item over and over again as I am forced to replace it as it breaks down. I know that there are people out there who judge me and shake their heads at me when I show up in a pair of Christian Louboutins or carrying a Louis Vuitton handbag. Yes, I like nice things. Yes, I know they are expensive. But, I will say it again like I’ve said it a thousand times before; I’d rather pay $700 for a pair of nude heels in a classic shape now and wear them for the next 20 years knowing that they still look brand new and gorgeous every time I put them on than spend $100 on a cheap trendy pair right now that I will replace twice a year or more for the rest of my life.

Do the math – cheap heels wear and tear and break down after a few months when you wear them regularly. You spend $100 on a pair of shoes twice a year for 20 years and you just spent $4,000 on a pair of shoes. Maybe you think there is no way you will wear the same pair of shoes for 20 years since there isn’t a chance they’ll still be stylish after that many years. Let me tell you how wrong you are; my favorite pair of heels is a pair of black Jimmy Choos with closed, pointed toes and a closed back. They are classic pumps I wear 3 or more times every single week. I’ve had them a decade, and they still look amazing and brand new. I will wear them the rest of my life because the style never goes out. If I wear them for 20 years, I’ve spent $700 on one pair of shoes that I’ve worn the entire time to your $4,000 and 40 pair of shoes. Who is the real winner here?

Quality is always better than quantity, and that is something you have to remember on Black Friday. It turns out that many retailers like to make you think that you are getting a good deal on an amazing product, but you are not. For example, you want a new laptop and you know that it’s going to cost you at least $500. Then you see one on  Black Friday that’s got everything you want but it’s only $100. Chances are really good that it’s a similar computer with a slower processor. Televisions might have fewer pixels but they are big and cheap and people don’t realize that they are getting what they pay for; a cheap item for a cheap price.

Learn to Spot the Duds

It’s so important that you learn to spot the duds when shopping on Black Friday. If you know that someone on your shopping list wants something and you see it at a great deal on Black Friday, go ahead and do a full comparison. Chances are good that you will see why the sale product is so cheap in comparison to the one on your loved one’s Christmas list. It’s not the same item. It’s similar, but it has less of this or that and it really is only worth the price you paid. Here are a few examples of things that you should look for to weed out the duds on Black Friday.

  1. Original price – Many manufacturers will do something very tricky to make it look like the sales price is much less expensive on Black Friday. They will put the MSRP price on the product. That’s a suggested price. For example, the MSRP on a doll might be $99 and the actual price that it’s listed for in the store is always $59 and it’s on sale this Black Friday for $55. You’re in line for a doll you think is saving you $44 but it’s actually only saving you $4.
  2. Look at items now – Before you head out to do your Black Friday shopping, start looking at prices of items you want to pick up now. You might find that the price they are today is very similar to the price that they are on Black Friday. However, most people don’t spend any time looking at prices before the holiday, just on the holiday so that they know what they want to purchase the following day.
  3. Skip the door busters – Yes, I know that these are a great deal. However, experts recommend that you skip them when it’s time to check out since they are usually not good deals. They’re usually made with fewer good items and more lackluster items. So if you decide to get a tv make sure to check out if it comes with a hdmi cable over cat6 and check how many ports it comes with to avoid buying a cheap tv that isn’t worth it. 
  4. Skip the seasonal items – You might think that you’re getting a great deal on those new boots, but you’re not. Retailers know that seasonal items are things shoppers can only get a certain time of the year, so they make it a point to go ahead and offer ‘fake’ discounts on them now so you will buy them knowing that they will not be available later. The price on these items will fall as the season goes on.
  5. Check last year’s sales ads – I bet you anything that half of what you see on the Black Friday shopping list this year is what was on there last year, and I also bet that the prices on these items do not change much over the course of the next few weeks. Go ahead and forgo these items now and wait for the prices to drop again as the holiday approaches. Cookware, bedding and toys tend to be in this category of sales ‘offerings’.
  6. Check the model number – Let’s say that your husband really wants a new laptop and gives you the one he wants for Christmas so that you know what to buy. Then you find one and you’re sure it’s the same one. Check the model number; if it’s not the same one, it’s an inferior one and you should avoid this at all costs. That’s how retailers do it. They make sure everything looks the same, and then they work very hard to pretend it is, even when it has a slower processor, fewer gigs or whatever else it is that your husband probably really wants in his new computer.

Let me give you an example of something that I recently noticed when I was shopping the Black Friday ads. My kids love their power wheel cars, and we learned a long time ago after we bought our oldest daughter her first one that you cannot buy a 6v power wheel. It does not drive quickly, it dies even faster and it will not move an inch in grass or dirt, and it barely moves on the driveway. Our kids have had much better luck with their Escalade and their Corvette, which are 12v powerwheels.

Our middle daughter wants a Range Rover this year; so we looked at it. I saw one in a Black Friday add recently for less than half price and got very excited. That’s when I noticed that the very fine print mentioned that it’s a 6v. If I did not know any better, I’d purchase it and realize that it’s a huge dud. However, I know better, so I know that it is not a good product already and I’d rather spend more for the one that my kids can run like maniacs through our yard, on the driveway and everywhere in between.

You have to know what to look for; that’s how you avoid Black Friday duds.

Photo by Getty Images


Leave a Reply