Buy This, Not That on Black Friday
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BUY IT: SMARTWATCHES
Target, Best Buy, and Kohl's love pushing smartwatches around this time of year. The newest Fitbit smartwatches — Ionic and Versa — have been around a while, but could drop from their $200-plus prices to between $160 and $190 for Black Friday (not including bundled gift cards and store credit). The LG Watch Style went for $100 last year and could go for $80 in 2018, but the more traditional-looking Fossil will also dip below $100.
FORGET IT: JEWELRY
Any piece of jewelry marked down during a Black Friday sale, just before engagement season, was either marked up extravagantly from the start or contains an undesirable stone. Most jewelry deals don't fall on Black Friday itself, but throughout the month of December, which sees more deals than either January or February.
BUY IT: LEGO
On "Brick Friday," Lego takes up to half off and provides a perk with some orders: Last year, Lego offered a free nutcracker with orders of at least $99, while the Lego Holiday Ornament with gold bricks returned for $6, DealNews reports. This year, Barnes & Noble could knock 30 to 50 percent off certain sets for the holidays, while Target (20 to 25 percent off) and Amazon (up to 30 percent) also offer steep discounts.
FORGET IT: TOYS
If a toy is a must-have, snag it immediately before it sells out. If you think a toy will last, NerdWallet says it's best to wait until closer to Christmas to buy dolls, action figures, and playsets. In past years, certain toys have been on sale for as much as half off in the final days before Christmas.
BUY IT: ONLINE DOORBUSTERS
FORGET IT: FINAL SALE ITEMS
Oh, you're going to be tempted to clean out that Sears or Lowe's that's going out of business, but don't do it. You're likely closing the door on returns and saddling a gift recipient with something they may or may not want.
BUY IT: DESIGNER BRANDS
FORGET IT: SHOES
You don't buy shoes by the holiday: You buy them by the season. The holiday season is a largely lousy time to buy shoes, with limited sales falling on Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday. It's a really bad time to buy a great set of boots — that's what the after-holiday sales and winter clearances are for.
BUY IT: SMALL KITCHEN APPLIANCES
FORGET IT: BIG APPLIANCES
The appliance industry is known for its "three-day weekend sales" on Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Presidents' Day. New Year's Day sometimes falls into that group, but with sales clustered around those holidays, you get a broader choice of deals than whatever model is on sale for Black Friday.
BUY IT: 'DERIVATIVE' TVS
TV manufacturers will often create models specifically for Black Friday that have fewer HDMI inputs or simpler remotes. Depending on the manufacturer, it may be worth your time. Consumer Reports' James Wilcox says a 55-inch Samsung derivative the group tested last year around this time was about $170 cheaper than the TV it was based on and performed equally well in the group's tests.
FORGET IT: 1080p TVs
The price of 4K TVs is almost on par with its older siblings, but Samsung just went and launched an 8K screen. Technology is only advancing, and the lure of a $300 55-inch TV really isn't great enough to warrant a step back when the next generation is roughly $79 more without a Black Friday discount.
BUY IT: COMPUTER ACCESSORIES
External storage, memory cards, cables, keyboards, headphones, and the like all tend to get marked down on Cyber Monday, The National Retail Federation's BlackFriday.com notes. But Best Buy tends to discount those items (such as 200-gigabyte MicroSD cards) on Black Friday as well, and they're far less popular than the big-ticket items at the busiest portions of the day, Slickdeals says.
FORGET IT: HIGH-END LAPTOPS
There will be deals on low-end laptops and smaller models. In fact, Chromebooks will sell for less than $100, while Intel Core i5 laptops go for $300 to $500. But if you need a brawnier machine for games or design, you already know that this isn't the time of year to buy them. Instead, shop in July and September, when they'll have their prices cut as part of back to school sales.
BUY IT: STREAMING SERVICE
You'll see discounts on streaming players themselves around this time of year, but occasionally a streaming service such as Hulu will cut subscriptions by $2 a month on Black Friday or Cyber Monday. Video game service Jump On Demand offered a discount last year as well, but keep an eye on streaming subscription prices overall while doing Black Friday shopping.
FORGET IT: ONLINE SUBSCRIPTIONS
Services such as Audible, Udemy, Lynda, and Rosetta Stone all tend to offer discounts around Cyber Monday, as BlackFriday.com points out. Considering you can give them to someone for an entire year, discounted audiobooks and translations seem like just the right gift for that person who really misses getting magazines — but you may have to wait until Monday to snag a deal.
BUY IT: OLDER SMARTPHONE MODELS
FORGET IT: IPHONES
BUY IT: OLD VIDEO GAME CONSOLES
FORGET IT: USED VIDEO GAME CONSOLES
Don't. The Xbox One X, PlayStation Pro, and Switch have been out for more than a year. Older versions of the One and PS4 will be bundled with games and available on the cheap. There is absolutely no need to buy used or refurbished at this time of year.
BUY IT: VIDEO GAME CONSOLE BUNDLES
When retailers can't drop the price of a console further, they'll just bundle discounted accessories and games with it. An Xbox One S with a game will go for about $180 this year, Nintendo Switch bundles, meanwhile, look as if they'll start around $330.
FORGET IT: NEW VIDEO GAME CONSOLES
BUY IT: NON-IPHONE APPLE PRODUCTS
FORGET IT: FURNITURE
Black Friday Arrives at just the wrong time for furniture deals. Furniture companies release products in February, which brings clearance sales in January. That month sees the best furniture prices of the year, so it doesn't pay to get stuck with a limited Black Friday selection.
BUY IT: ROBOT VACUUMS
With prices as high as $900, robot vacuums are a splurge. But mid-range models such as the Roomba 600-series and Neato Botvac D3 vacuums will see prices cut nearly in half to $200 to $300. New models such as the Roomba i7 won't get a discount, but the Roomba 900-series could go as low as $500 (about 30 percent off).
FORGET IT: BEDDING
BUY IT: SMART LIGHTS
FORGET IT: OUTDOOR ITEMS
BUY IT: SMART THERMOSTATS
FORGET IT: CALENDARS
You're right: A calendar does make an excellent stocking stuffer for the tech-averse. But if you're selling calendars in the digital world and still have inventory by Jan. 1, you're going to start making deals by Jan. 2.
BUY IT: FITNESS TRACKERS
Those New Year's resolutions are looming, but smart watches and other advancements are putting the squeeze on fitness trackers. The cheapest versions are available for as little as $5, but the discontinued Fitbit Blaze ($75 to $100) and current Garmin trackers (as little as $30) could see deep discounts. The best deals of all may be reserved for Fitbits such as the Flex 2, which could drop to $40 at Micro Center and other stores.
FORGET IT: FITNESS EQUIPMENT
A few deals might show up, but folks who sell fitness equipment keep roughly the same schedule as gyms. When the New Year hits and all the resolutions are made, that's when it's time to make deals.
BUY IT: ANDROID DEVICES
FORGET IT: OFF-BRAND MODELS
The TV or laptop made by that company you never heard of may not be the most dependable item for your money. Check with a reputable source (PCMag, CNET, Consumer Reports) before buying, and don't let a low price woo you into a bad deal.
BUY IT: DIGITAL CAMERAS
Cameras will be on sale from Canon and Nikon, but the most popular camera deals will come from GoPro, TechRadar predicts. While the new GoPro Hero 7 Black won't get a steep discount, the older GoPro Hero 6 Black and GoPro Hero 5 Black will see significant price drops. Look for bundles with $50 to $75 gift cards and keep an eye out for $25 bags.
FORGET IT: TOOLS
You might be able to find a great deal on hand tools or tool sets here or there on Black Friday, but those sales are just primers. From October through December, hammers, wrenches, and other hand tools can all be found on sale as stores clear the year's inventory. If you want specialty tools such as indoor woodworking tools, however, those sales don't happen until February or March, Popular Mechanics says.
BUY IT: AMAZON PRODUCTS
Amazon's biggest discounts come at the expense of its own products such as the Kindle, Fire tablets, and Echo speakers. It's all to get you into the system to pay more. Once you get one — a $30 Echo Dot, a Kindle Paperwhite at a $40 discount, a Fire HD tablet for $80 off — you're more likely to join its Prime service, buy its ebooks, stream its movies, install its smart home devices, and basically owe your soul to the company store.
FORGET IT: AIRFARE AND VACATION PACKAGES
Don't get us wrong, there are some hotel, airfare, and cruise deals kicking around on Black Friday. But if you want to take advantage of the winter travel "dark weeks" in mid-January and early February, DealNews says you really should start looking in mid-November. If that $360 Mexican cruise, $200 flight to Europe, or $30 room on the Vegas strip doesn't pan out, wait until January when the holidays are over, spring break is still a long way off, and airlines and travel sites will want to fill seats and tours in the new year.
BUY IT: DVDs AND BLU-RAYS
Yes, both are still being sold and, yes, you can actually get $2 DVDs and $4 Blu-ray discs on Black Friday. Considering how much debt it takes to keep certain streaming services afloat, maybe having a backup plan isn't such a bad idea.
FORGET IT: GIFT CARDS
Don't pay full price for a gift card. Black Friday may have a few gift card deals, but retailers won't offer much of a discount when they're already dropping prices. Retailers chop the price of gift cards dramatically in December with the knowledge there's very little time left to shop with them. Some stores even throw them in with a minimum purchase.
BUY IT: VIDEO GAMES
You won't always get the newest titles at the best cost, but SlickDeals says to expect Best Buy to knock $20 off the price of "Call of Duty: WWII." Meanwhile, various PlayStation and Xbox games tend to get the $15 treatment at Walmart and Target on Black Friday.
FORGET IT: MAIL-IN REBATES
What's the point of braving Black Friday if you're just going to pay full price, albeit temporarily? Some kitchen appliances, electronics, and other popular items may require a mail-in rebate to get the advertised price, which means Macy's customers shelled out $10 to $12 last year for "free" rebate items.
BUY IT: SMART SPEAKERS
FORGET IT: WINTER CLOTHES
The big sales on jeans come in October after the back-to-school sales end, while jackets, sweaters, boots, and other winter items don't get really deep discounts until January or February. Outerwear may sell for a 50 percent discount before the holidays, but it'll get an even steeper cut after New Year's Day.
BUY IT: SMARTPHONE PLAN
Mobile carriers such as T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon know that people are shopping for smartphones around this time of year and like to offer their best possible deals. TechRadar notes that most carriers will offer incentives to sign contracts before the end of the year, so it isn't a bad time to get someone a new plan.
FORGET IT: HOLIDAY DECORATIONS
For really obvious reasons, Dec. 26 and onward is when you'll get the best deal on Christmas decorations, wrapping paper, tinsel, and other seasonal baubles. Black Friday will offer "deals" on trees and wrapping paper, but it's a buyer's market after the holidays.
BUY IT: ROKU DEVICE
Like the Amazon, Apple, and Google equivalents, the device itself is just the gateway to more pay services. Roku players offer thousands of streaming channels, and Black Friday sales will knock the price of the entry-level model — the 1080p Roku Express — to a scant $20. A 4K model such as the Premiere and Premiere+ (a Walmart exclusive) will go for $40 and $50, respectively.
FORGET IT: BEAUTY SUPPLIES
BUY IT: TABLETS
FORGET IT: CHOCOLATES AND FLOWERS
Yes, this is a Black Friday category and, yes, companies such as 1-800-Flowers will offer deals for the occasion. That said, there's really no reason to seek deals on perishables this early in the holiday season.
BUY IT: HEADPHONES
This is the one time Apple reliably drops prices on Beats headphones, but other noise-canceling and wireless headphones get deals around this time as well. This is why DealNews suggests looking for discounts on not only Audeze and Sennheiser headphones ($275 or less) and budget headphones (as little as $10), but Apple AirPods as well ($130).