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Should You Shop Early Sales or Wait for Black Friday?

GeekMom

This year emails with subjects like “shop Black Friday early!” are dropping in your inbox faster than your cousin grabbing all the rolls at Thanksgiving dinner. So should you shop now or wait a few weeks?

What do I know? Maybe nothing. But I do love a sale and practically consider price-hunting a sport. I’ve been bringing you the best of Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals on GeekMom since 2010. Which means I have a good sense of the history of how these things go, and I think the answer to when to buy this year is “it depends on what you’re shopping for.”

Electronics

Getting a good deal on Black Friday has always been complicated. Some sales are, in fact, true sales and absolutely worth it. Other times, they are products—this is often the case with electronics—that have been produced for Black Friday sales, have slightly different features from the “same” item you could have found a month earlier, or have their prices otherwise artificially fiddled to make it seem like a better deal than it is. That said, electronics are the big star of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. If you’re looking for a new TV, laptop, earbuds, a phone, smart home devices, or similar, I would wait. The days of having to get up at 3 a.m. to score are gone. Black Friday can easily be done from your sofa, and those deals will be there.

Beauty products

The other category I’d hold back on is beauty products. Black Friday is a great season to stock up. Ulta is running “early black Friday” sales each week through November 18 with up to 40% off select items and brands. At 40% off, it’s probably worth it. Less than that, think twice. But take a look at last year’s Ulta ad to get an idea of what the Black Friday offerings have been in the past to see if you think it’s time to buy. Also remember that the beauty—ha—of Black Friday is special edition boxed sets that let you try new things in sample sizes or offer bundles at killer prices. Those aren’t out yet.

Sephora is not known for Black Friday sales on the level of Ulta’s offerings, but they do have a “Sephora Sales Event” going on right now, and if you’re a Beauty Insider member, it may be more worth it. The promo code TIMETOSAVE will get you an additional 10-30% off depending on your membership level through November 6. (You can get the same deal at Sephora in Kohl’s with the code SCSAVE.)

Apparel

This one’s the biggest mystery. It’s also a broad category, from a $10 pack of underwear to far more expensive designer goods. The history here is uneven, which means if you see a deal that you feel is a good one, go ahead and take it. It might be the best that number gets.

When it comes to clothes, I’m a big fan of the more sustainable option of secondhand shopping, and the internet has made thrifting and consignment shopping a breeze, even for higher-end goods. ThredUp has been running a series of sales—today it’s up to 60% off “almost everything” with code BOOO. Mercari and Poshmark sellers sometimes offer BF and CM sales, but sellers often complain on forums that sales are slow during those times because everyone is distracted by traditional sales. If you’re looking for higher end, The RealReal has 20% off with code REAL right now, but they have run some pretty big BF and CM sales in the past. Of course, this type of shopping means there’s usually only one of an item, so if you see something here you love, you definitely should move sooner rather than wait.

Other considerations

When you’re buying from Amazon, always remember to check the item against camelcamelcamel.com to see if you’re really getting a good price or if it can wait.

Not sure if a given store has a good price on an item or the same thing everyone else is offering? Google the item and check the sidebar. For example, I’m considering replacing my food processor. A search for Cuisinart Custom 14-cup food processor shows me that the price is usually between $223 and $256, and I can see the current prices at a handful of retailers. (One is well below that $223 today, so I just might have to go for it!)

Seeing that list can also lead you to a site where you know or discover there’s an additional discount. I use the Rakuten Chrome plug-in the most to get additional cash back, but Swagbucks, Capital One Shopping, and Retail Me Not all offer similar plug-ins that can help you find coupon codes and get cash back rewards for your shopping. I’ve saved thousands of dollars with these. Also remember to check your credit card’s special offers section for cash back bonuses at specific retailers if that’s a feature your card offers.

If there is something you absolutely must have, there is the possibility that stock could run low, though we’re certainly not seeing the inventory problems in most categories that we did the last couple of years. We’re also still seeing a lot of shipping delays, and that will only get worse in the holiday season. So if there is an item that will ruin your holiday if it’s not in a gift-wrapped box, you may want to snag it early.

Don’t forget to watch those return policies. Some stores make it easy; others quite the opposite. Know what you’ll be stuck with if you change your mind or find a better deal later.

American consumer debt is up, particularly from the measure of early-stage delinquencies. Ordinarily I’d expect this to mean an increase in sales to appeal to shoppers, but at the same time, even in the face of inflation, consumer spending rose 0.7% in the US in September, which means people are still willing to spend. That matches up with last year’s results, which was record BF spending alongside growing inflation.

Absolutely don’t go into debt for holiday shopping. Set a budget and spend what you can reasonably afford—and that includes on yourself. (Because who doesn’t do some personal shopping in between the gift buying?) But with a little light hunting, you can save a lot.

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