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Black Friday 2021: 8 tips to help you score the best deals

It is never too early to start preparing for amazing savings.
Woman on her laptop, laying in her bed, shopping Black Friday deals
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Black Friday is one of the biggest shopping days of the year — and it can get a little intense. Between lines wrapped around stores before sunrise and frantic races to product displays, Black Friday is not for the faint of heart if you're going the in-store route this year.

If you're not prepared, at least. It just takes a little bit of pre-planning your trip, which can save you time and money in the long run.

To prepare you for the big day, we have broken down the basics of what you can expect on Black Friday, plus expert-advice for how to best prepare before you start to shop — whether you're braving the crowd or staying in this year. Arm yourself with this information and enter the holiday shopping sales with confidence that you will be getting the best deals.

When is Black Friday 2021?

Black Friday happens on the Friday after Thanksgiving. This year, it falls on Nov. 26.

What time do Black Friday sales usually start?

Despite the holiday being named Black Friday, in recent years, many retailers actually start their deals on Thanksgiving Day — or sometimes even earlier. Though several retailers this year have vowed to remain closed on Thanksgiving Day this year.

Retailers have yet to share exact hours, but they are expected to soon. Below are the big names we're keeping our eyes on:

  • Amazon: Famous for its Black Friday deals, Amazon is known for starting their discounts early. To help you save big for the holidays, their Black Friday sales have in the past included daily discounts, lightning deals and more.
  • Walmart: From toys to home goods, Walmart is known for their deep discounts on Black Friday.
  • Best Buy: Best Buy is a Black Friday fan-favorite and consistently has great deals on top electronics.
  • Kohl's: Kohl’s not only has a reputation of having amazing online Black Friday sales, but they also often start their deals early. In the past, Kohl's has been known to reduce free shipping minimums, offer thousands of discounts and even offer $15 Kohl's Cash for every $50 spent.
  • Target: In the days and hours leading up to Black Friday, Target does not shy away from offering amazing savings.
  • Macy's: Macy’s has a long history of being one of the best holiday shopping destinations, and that reputation does not seem to be changing. With free shipping promotions and great deals on products every Black Friday, keep your eyes peeled for this year's announcements.

Why is the shopping holiday called Black Friday?

The Friday after Thanksgiving has been known as the unofficial start to the holiday shopping season since the first modern Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1924. The term "Black Friday," however, did not arise until the 1960s when police officers in Philadelphia complained about the traffic and congestion caused by holiday shoppers.

Retailers, however, did not appreciate the negative connotation associated with the name "Black Friday," so they changed the meaning of the name to reflect the financial successes of that day. Traditionally, accountants used red ink to show negative amounts and black ink to show positive amounts, so retailers used this habit to rebrand Black Friday. The new meaning behind the name is that Black Friday is the day when retailers finally begin to turn a profit for the year.

Black Friday 2021 tips

1. Do research beforehand

Before jumping headfirst into Black Friday, doing some research on which products you are interested in buying can go a long way. Waiting until Black Friday sales begin is a recipe for disaster, so craft a strategy ahead of time to ensure you do not miss out on a deal.

While Black Friday ads haven't come out yet, you can start by identifying stores you want to shop at and products you want, deciding on your ideal price and the maximum you are willing to pay.

2. Compare and review prices

With so many deals, it can often be challenging to find the right store to buy the products you have in mind. ShopSavvy, Rakuten, Shopbrain and store-specific apps are great ways to compare prices between stores, get coupons and monitor how prices fluctuate leading up to Black Friday. According to The Wall Street Journal, it is not uncommon for retailers to increase prices leading up to Black Friday to make discounts look that much more impressive, so keep an eye out for changes.

Some stores also offer a price-match system, so do your research ahead of time and come prepared with Black Friday ads ready.

3. Go scouting on Wednesday

While a lot of shoppers might opt to stay home this Black Friday due to COVID-19 concerns, if you do plan to shop in stores, familiarize yourself with the layout ahead of time. The last thing you want to do is get lost in the Black Friday rush, so get to know the store, which aisles you want to target and find the fastest route to items you're interested in.

4. Start shopping early

Every year Black Friday seems to start earlier and earlier with doorbuster deals beginning hours, sometimes days, before. To make sure you can buy all the products you have your eyes on, get a head start by shopping early — especially since there are expected shipping delays and supply issues this year.

“Shoppers who do all their purchasing before Black Friday are more likely to find items in stock, and they have the best chance of getting their purchases shipped in a timely fashion,” Michael Bonebright, consumer analyst at comparison shopping site, told Consumer Reports.

5. Act fast

When it comes to Black Friday, the early bird really does get the worm. Often, the best deals are only available for a limited time and in limited quantities, and if the discount is good, supplies won't last long. If you see a good deal on a product you want, jump on it before it is too late!

6. Use a different browser

“A website can detect previous visits and browsing patterns from your cookies and couple those data points against internal records to determine how much it thinks you're willing to pay,” Mike Catania, chief technology officer of coupon website, previously told TODAY.

So, when it comes time to buy on Black Friday, Catania recommends using Chrome and an incognito window to privately browse and avoid those price adjustments.

7. Read return policies

While Black Friday can come with big savings, it can also mean small fine print with details many tend to skim over. During Black Friday sales, refunds and returns, especially with coronavirus as we saw in 2020, is a special case. Before you make a purchase, take your time and check to see if it is returnable and refundable.

8. Sign up for email lists

One of the best ways to get early access to coupons, sales and promotions is to sign up for Black Friday shopping alerts. Consumer Reports also recommends signing up for store loyalty programs to get deals and rewards only available to members. Along the same lines, social media is a great way to find out about exclusive deals and promotions, so actively check Instagram, Facebook and Twitter for updates.

And check back with Shop TODAY for more information as Black Friday draws closer.

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