Black Friday ads and promotions are designed to create urgency among holiday shoppers. The annual sales event does bring some of the "lowest prices of the year" on many popular gifts -- but not as many as you might think. Some seasonal goodies and other items will see bigger price cuts down the line. Use this guide to zero in on the products worth an early start on Black Friday and those you can pass on by.
TV sales helped make Black Friday such a huge event in the first place. This year ultra-HD 4K TVs are seeing unprecedented price drops and, in the face of this new technology, HDTVs with 1080p resolution will be marked even lower than past Black Fridays. Many of the best deals are expected on off-brand TVs, but discounts on popular name brands are popping up as well. For instance, a Samsung 50-inch 4K smart TV will be available for $398 at Walmart, Target, and Best Buy. That's $175 off the current low price.
This one is tricky. Black Friday sales inevitably include toys, but the price reductions generally aren't the biggest of the year. For toys, there's a sweet spot smack in the middle of December when prices generally undercut those on Thanksgiving weekend. Remember, though, that the hottest toys may sell out in the interim.
If a store is closed on Thanksgiving Day or the line is sure to be miles long line, browse online. Some stores that close on Thanksgiving are releasing online doorbusters (hello, Office Depot), while other retailers are offering many of the same deals available in stores for those who prefer to shop from the comfort of home that day.
Forget about shopping for gift cards during Black Friday. Major savings are rare at this time. Look for stores offering gift cards free to sweeten Black Friday sales -- for instance, Walmart is undercutting competitors by including a $30 gift card in a $250 PlayStation 4 Slim "Uncharted 4" video game bundle. But more gift card deals from retailers and restaurants typically pop up in December to woo last-minute shoppers. And after Christmas, sites such as Gift Card Granny are flooded with gift cards selling at a discount.
Prices rarely drop on designer brands, which is part of what makes them elite. Consumers who live near an outlet mall, however, may be in luck. Deals on designer brands the day after Thanksgiving will be on offer. For apparel and accessories that rarely go on sale, the discounted duds will be hard to pass up.
Buying clothing at the height of the season is never a good deal, and that includes sweaters, jackets, boots, and winter accessories on Black Friday. The challenge here is to ignore the hype and avoid falling into the trap of thinking that every Black Friday deal must be claimed. Wait for prices to drop to rock bottom in January and February.
As with most any technology product, there's a constant influx of updated gaming systems entering the market. As a result, older models will be heavily discounted on Black Friday. That goes even for the Xbox One S and PS4 Slim, which are fairly new, but Microsoft and Sony have already announced next-generation consoles. At Target, shoppers can grab an Xbox One S with "Battlefield 1" or "Minecraft" for $250, which is $50 off the regular price, plus get a free $40 Target gift card.
Black Friday may see some deals in this category, but not the best. Again, retailers count on consumers getting caught up in shopping mania and snagging one of those "Baby's First Christmas" collectibles. But the real bargains on these items surface later in December or even in January. The same goes for calendars, which make good stocking stuffers but will be at their lowest prices right at year's end or just after Jan. 1.
Traveling in the new year? Black Friday is a good time to book future lodging at a hotel or resort, especially in Las Vegas. These venues have posted discounts of 25 percent to more than 50 percent on Black Friday. Last year MGM Grand shaved 50 percent off many of its 4- and 5-star hotels, and other Vegas properties followed suit.
While booking hotels and resorts on Black Friday can get travelers a good rate, cruises and airfare aren't the best deals. Some price cuts on plane tickets are possible but haven't been noteworthy in past years. Cruise lines may give up a deposit or let kids sail free, but again, prior deals don't stand out in any way.
The right time to buy seasonal or holiday items is after the fact. Smart shoppers get in the habit of stocking up on Christmas decorations after the holiday to have new decor ready and waiting for the current year's celebrations. Anyone who failed to stock up last year should note what's needed, make do with what they have this season, and then buy after the holiday is over.
Shoppers seeking a new Apple product at a good price may not find deals on the most recent model. Still, excellent deals are out there on older versions of many Apple products and even some new releases. Just don't expect to find them at the Apple Store. Check sources such as Target, Best Buy, and Walmart. Deals sometimes come in the form of rebates, iTunes gift cards, and more.
The iconic consumer electronics company rarely mounts sales -- except on Black Friday. That said, the showing historically has been lackluster. Don't be drawn in. Instead, head to major retailers that carry consumer electronics, where products may be discounted or paired with a valuable gift card.
Past years have seen money-saving deals on tea and wine, product categories not typically associated with Black Friday. Big names such as Teavana and nationally distributed wine labels have joined the fray. If a tea or wine connoisseur is on this year's gift list, keep an eye out for compelling discounts, especially online.
Who doesn't want to wake up Christmas morning and find something sparkly under the tree? Demand for baubles climbs during the holiday season, which keeps prices high. Jewelers have little incentive to offer discounts to drum up business during the holiday rush, so don't expect many glittery promotions.
With all the holiday cooking coming up and the fact that cookware also makes a welcome gift, it's no surprise that cookware promotions are a regular Black Friday feature. KitchenAid mixers are always a hot item. KitchenAid Professional Plus 5-quart stand mixers will be available at Sears, for example, for the doorbuster price of $200 (a $50 savings).
Common sense, right? But somewhere between the door-busting and middle-of-the-night shopping, delirium sets in, and suddenly that big-screen TV that wasn't on the list but seems like a can't-miss deal winds up in your cart. As you navigate the jampacked stores, repeat this mantra: If you don't need it, don't buy it -- no matter how sweet the deal.