Black Friday no longer means just "the day after Thanksgiving that kicks off the holiday shopping season." Some now use it as a catch-all term that defines the entire shopping season, which might start as early as the beginning of the month and which in many cases involves retailers opening on Thanksgiving Day.
No matter how you define it, Black Friday is a time when a lot of people crack open their wallets. It's a season of deals, special offers, and chances to save. It's also a time when money-wasting mistakes can be made and retailers pull out all sorts of tried-and-true methods of getting you to spend.
These aren't scams. Instead, these are marketing tactics designed to part you from your money.
Big hype, small quantity
While it's less common now than it once was, sometimes retailers advertise deals that seem too good to be true. They are, in fact, true, but each store in a chain has only one, or at most a few, of the item in question. The first person in line may score the megadeal and the store relies on other people buying something else because they went through the trouble of going out and waiting in line to get into the store.
Retailers sometimes sell variations on popular models of electronics and appliances. The XLM3R2 might be a 60-inch TV with all the bells and whistles. A similar model -- maybe the XLM3R2Q -- looks the same but has a lower-quality picture, no built-in smart TV, and it's made with cheaper materials. But it sells for the same price.
It's very easy to end up with not the model you wanted. Make sure you check the actual specifications and not just the model number.
Thanksgiving Day incentives
Some of the best sales are on Thanksgiving Day. That's done because retailers are afraid that you will spend the bulk of your holiday dollars elsewhere before you even set foot in their store.
You have to consider whether saving some extra money is worth leaving a family holiday. Do you want to watch the football game with your relatives, or go stand in line at a big-box store?
Spending to save
Some retailers give discounts or cash back based on how much you spend. Getting $100 if you spend $500 is only a savings, however, if you actually buy something you want or need or that someone on your list wants or need. Be very careful when it comes to upping your budget so you can "save" more money.
Sales on things you probably don't need
A few years ago, a popular chain was selling $5 appliances that looked to be of reasonable quality. That led to many people buying toasters, coffee makers, and other items they really did not need.
Retailers want shoppers to spend more. Sometimes, if you need another smartphone charging cable, the prices can be alluring. If you don't, it's best to not buy one just because it's cheap.
Some retailers space out the availability of the hottest products to keep people coming back to the store for multiple visits. The retailer could offer to ship you an item as it comes into stock, but chains want you to come back and check the shelves because you're almost certain to buy more than you intended to.
Guard your money
Go into the holidays with a budget and a shopping list. You can include items you know you will soon need as potential purchases if you find them at the right price.
What you don't want to do is buy things you don't need or can't afford. You also want to avoid going into debt making purchases you can't actually afford.