With Thanksgiving coming up next week, a lot of people are thinking about family visits, travel plans (or lack thereof due to COVID), and all of the wonderful Black Friday deals that are up for grabs. But how do you know when to actually make the purchase, and how do you know if it’s really a good deal or not? This isn’t my typical post that discusses marketing and social media for small businesses, but I do see some marketing-related misconceptions that a lot of people have relating to the deals that happen at this time of year. So, here’s a couple of tips that might help to make your purchase decisions a bit easier.

Deals Aren’t Just on Black Friday Anymore

Something you might have noticed over the past few years is the fact that Black Friday deals are showing up sooner and sooner. There are several reasons behind that, such as inventory management, competition, and the convenience factor of the internet. It’s gotten to the point that we were seeing Black Friday deals start to pop up at the very beginning of November, and even lasting well into December (with the “while supplies last” asterisk, of course). So, this brings a big question up for a lot of people: are all of these early deals actually good, or should I wait until the actual day to make the purchase?

Believe it or not, this is a good problem to have! The fact that you have more options, and more possibilities of when and how to buy means that competition is up, so the prices are down. As far as whether or not to wait, so far, most analysts and deal seekers have found that it’s pretty rare that the deals on Black Friday itself are any better than the promotions leading up to it. Plus, if there are some stores that aren’t making their best deals go live until Black Friday, they almost always announce the deals and when they’re available beforehand, so you can plan accordingly. Some doorbuster deals on certain items can be the exception, but those tend to be pretty hard to get a hold of if you’re not actively watching and waiting for it.

Value > Deals

If you’re still having trouble deciding, here’s a different way of thinking about the situation. Don’t think about how good of a deal you’re getting; instead, think about the value that you’re getting from your purchase. If you see a deal come along for something that you want/need, and you perceive the price as good, that already means that you think the deal is a good value to you. A core principle of business is that guaranteed value now is almost always better than the possibility of value later. Plus, there’s a very good possibility that you’re not the only one looking to get your hands on the thing you’re shopping for, and inventories tend to go down way faster on Black Friday itself, so going for it when you know you can get it isn’t a bad idea. 

If you do think that there’s a chance that a better deal comes up later, check the store’s policy on returns for special discounts. Most stores will tend to have a no-returns policy on Black Friday deals, but if they don’t, you can have a bit more peace of mind, knowing that you could potentially take advantage of a better deal later if it comes up.

But is it really a good deal?

But how can you know if what you’re getting is actually a good deal? Fortunately, there are tools for that! One of my favorite websites for this time of year is CamelCamelCamel. It allows you to look up the history of the prices on Amazon, so that you can see if the deal you’re considering is actually a rare, big discount, or if it’s just a small drop that happens on a regular basis anyway. For other sites, Honey is a free browser extension that can show you the past few months of pricing history You can find similar tools for more specialized items that you might be looking for, by searching in Google for the item’s name or type, along with “price history”.

Don’t Just Look at the Latest Version

The last tip I’ll leave you with is to make sure that you aren’t only looking at the latest and greatest when searching for deals. A store with good marketing/sales teams will almost always put the hottest items on smaller discounts, but invest big into advertising them. Meanwhile, the previous versions of those items will typically be on way bigger discounts. So, if you’re looking for a new gadget, appliance, or just about anything that has updated over the years with new versions, make sure to check and see what kind of deals there are on the older versions. Especially if you don’t need the newest features on the latest model, this can be a great way to maximize value.