Black Friday Shopping: What Makes a Good Deal?

Black Friday deals are everywhere, so how do you know if a deal is worth it? Consider the discount, availability and affordability.

NEW YORK — Black Friday sales are everywhere. Judging by the retailers’ ads, which are filled with phrases like “must-have deals” and “epic finds not to be missed,” one would think that every deal is too good to pass up .

But what actually makes one Black Friday offer worth pursuing? The discounted price, availability and affordability of an item are key elements.

Here’s what to consider before you buy.


Prices fluctuate throughout the year, making it difficult to tell if what’s on offer is actually the best of the best. Most people couldn’t tell exactly how much a particular air fryer sold two weeks or two months ago and if that’s any different from today’s price.

“With things you buy every week, you notice that the price goes up. If it’s something you buy maybe once a year or not very often, like a pair of shoes, you don’t know what price is normal or what it was last time,” says Martin Block, professor emeritus of integrated marketing communications from Medill program at Northwestern University.

What can you do to become a better judge? Start tracking prices now, says John Boyd, co-founder of ShopSavvy, a price comparison app. Using an app to explore a product’s price history can help you understand retailers’ marketing tactics.

“Sometimes a good sale is really hard to spot because you’re just bombarded with, ‘Oh, we’ve got this great sale and it’s X percent or Y percent off,’ and there’s no context at all,” says Boyd.

Familiarize yourself with the prices in the days leading up to Black Friday, November 25th this year. ShopSavvy and other shopping tools like PayPal Honey can also alert you to price drops on specific items and compare merchant prices to find the best deals.


Sometimes having the gift on your list is more important than getting the biggest discount. The 2021 holiday shopping season has proven that deals are not guaranteed to last: Widespread supply chain issues and rising demand led to stock shortages and delivery delays. Many experts believe that supply problems will not be as widespread this year. However, popular items could still fly off the shelves.

“Certain toys, such as consoles and certain games, are likely to sell out quickly,” says G. Tony Bell, assistant professor in the Department of Supply Chain Management at Rutgers Business School. “So I would say definitely buy early. The price advantage of a later purchase over an earlier purchase will be minimal at best.”

Buying early could be the right move, even if the product you want drops significantly in price after purchase.

“Most stores will either let you return it or give you a credit if it goes up for sale within a certain number of days,” says Debra Radway, board-certified financial planner and associate professor at Arizona State University’s WP Carey School of Business.

Before you shop, find out about retailers’ return, exchange, and price adjustment policies so you know what to expect.


Most importantly, a Black Friday deal should fit your budget. A TV that’s in stock and on sale at 99% off is still not worth it if the remaining 1% is outside your price range.

As Bell puts it simply, “Buy what you can afford.”

Bell warns against taking on new loans for Black Friday purchases — like credit cards or installment loans known as “buy now, pay later” plans — because of the potential interest costs or the impact on your credit score if you can’t repay.

And that’s a real possibility: According to a 2022 Holiday Shopping Report by NerdWallet, 31% of holiday shoppers who used a credit card to buy gifts in 2021 still have debt.

“By making a list of who you want to shop for and setting a budget before you go shopping, you can really control your spending during the holiday season,” says Radway.

However, remember that it’s okay to skip Black Friday sales altogether. Your loved ones may appreciate something homemade like cookies or a heartfelt card just as much as an eye-catching new gift from a store. And you can save some money. That’s a pretty sweet deal.

This column was provided to The Associated Press by personal finance website NerdWallet. Lauren Schwahn is a writer at NerdWallet. Black Friday Shopping: What Makes a Good Deal?

Laura Coffey

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