Do Black Friday Sales Save You Money?

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Black Friday has become as much of a holiday rite as Thanksgiving Day. After all, the day after Thanksgiving has been reported as the busiest shopping day of the year. Many stores earn a significant percentage of their annual sales revenues between this date and the end of the year.

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That's what's in it for retailers, but what about you, the average shopper? Will these sales save you money? It can depend on how you approach the "holiday" and your goals.

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History of Black Friday Sales

The first Black Friday sale took is said to have taken place in the 1960s in Philadelphia. The concept received its name from the Philadelphia Police Department in response to the excess traffic (and headaches) it caused on roadways and sidewalks. The shopping tradition spread across the U.S. from there, and it eventually reached all corners of the world.

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The extended hours that shoppers came to expect have expanded as well, from a little extra time at the end of the day to stores staying open until midnight or later on Thanksgiving Day to usher in Black Friday.

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Watch Out for Not-Really-Sales

In a perfect world, Black Friday sales would be a win/win for retailers and shoppers alike. But in reality, retailers might come out a little bit ahead. Take those famous "doorbusters" – seriously slashed prices on top-selling products if you can just get to the store on time to nab one. And therein lies the trick.

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Retailers tend to limit doorbuster products. They want to get you into the department store, mall or big box store, where you'll also purchase other products as long as you're there. They don't want to give away too many of those doorbuster items at 75 percent off.

Hiking their prices just before Black Friday is another common tactic used by retailers. A reasonably nice television might normally be priced at ​$2,000​. Then, in late October and early November, it's tagged at ​$3,000​. Along comes Black Friday. Now it's priced at ​$2,000​ and it becomes a must-buy doorbuster. You're saving $1,000...or are you?

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So, Will You Save Money?

Merchandise is typically discounted anywhere from ​20​ to ​37 percent​ on Black Friday, so you can pretty much rest assured that you'll spend at least a little less. Furniture, in particular, can be a good buy on Black Friday. Just keep in mind that the "20 percent off!" sign might not legitimately work out to 20 percent.

And a lot of saving money depends on a shopper's mindset. You might be so grateful to find that television that every other store is already out of that you're willing to spend more to grab it. And there go your Black Friday savings, at least to some extent.

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Other Options and Considerations

What's a shopper to do? Don't assume that deals aren't going to become available until the Friday after Thanksgiving. Some major shopping hubs, including Best Buy, J.C. Penney and Amazon, have indicated that they're going to start cutting their prices a little early to get a bit of a jump on Black Friday competition. Sales and slashed prices extend to online ordering.

You might want to begin planning as early as late summer or September. Create a list of the gifts you want to purchase, then make note of their existing prices at that time. You won't have to take that 20-percent-off sign at face value on Black Friday. You'll know whether you're honestly getting a deal or not.

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Consider also:How Much of My Income Should I Spend on Christmas?

Then again, you might want to skip Black Friday for some items if your nerves can withstand waiting until the eleventh hour to shop. Televisions, audio equipment and other technology products tend to be even cheaper a few days before Christmas. You'll get the best deals on clothing and footwear during the two weeks before Christmas as well. Retailers are counting down their clocks too. They don't want all those electronics still sitting on their shelves on Martin Luther King's birthday.

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