Black Friday offers tremendous deals in a variety of categories.
If you want a really big television at a shockingly low price or even a coffee maker for less than $10, it might be worth fighting the crowds on the biggest shopping day of the year. Stores including Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT), Target (NYSE:TGT), and Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) pull out all the stops for Black Friday sales, which actually start on Thanksgiving evening.
Still, just because there are good deals offered during the traditional (though no longer actual) start of the holiday shopping season, it does not mean it's a great time to buy everything. There are whole categories to avoid on Black Friday and others you should be really careful about.
You can save big money by braving the Thanksgiving evening or early Friday morning crowds, but you still have to be selective. Of course, nothing is absolute and just because an item or category appears on this list does not mean you'll never find a deal for it during the big event.
That's what makes negotiating Black Friday and the shopping season tricky in general. But except for those exceptions, here are some areas to avoid:
Skip the winter clothing
In most of the country (sorry, Alaska), late November is not the heart of winter and brutal cold has not yet set in. It's a time of year in the northern states where snow may fall, but the real storms and truly low temperatures are still ahead of us.
Because of that, Black Friday only offers limited deals on winter clothing. That does not mean there won't be discounts. Stores will have select items on sale at least with modest markdowns because demand will be high, but the real savings on cold-weather items comes later.
"You'll see the best deals on these items during winter clearance sales in January through March," DealNews.com Spokesman Mark LoCastro told MarketWatch last year.
Buy jewelry early
If you're looking to lay a little bling on your significant other for the holidays, you'll want to get a jump on buying it. The best price for jewelry is actually Thanksgiving Day, according to nationally syndicated radio host Kim Komando. That's a very fine line distinction given that some stores actually kick off Black Friday events on Turkey Day, but the radio host said that there can be a major difference in pricing and availability if you act on the actual holiday, not the day after.
"Thanksgiving Day is the best day to buy jewelry. You should see discounts of up to 25% across 20% of available items," Komando wrote in her USA Today column.
She also noted that waiting for bigger sales later in the season likely won't work.
"If you wait until December, you won't find better deals, and there will be a lot more items out of stock," she wrote. "So don't wait."
Avoid the toys
This is a tough one for parents because the temptation is there to check off what the kids want as early as possible in the shopping season. This helps avoid missing out on a hot toy, which may save some drama on Christmas morning. That would be a mistake according to DealNews.com.
"To get the best price, skip Black Friday and focus your toy-hunting efforts on the first two weeks of December," wrote Jeff Somogyi.
The deal site analyzed last year's top 15 toys and found that nearly all of them, even if they were on sale during Black Friday, were offered at cheaper prices during the first two weeks of December.
"We saw the LEGO Ninjago Epic Dragon Battle set and Lalaloopsy Silly Hair doll each drop 27% in price, while the Furby doll fell 26% in price," he wrote.
Of course, waiting has its risks. Stores do run out of popular items, but the potential for big savings may outweigh the risk of kids having to wait on a rain check.
Wait for high-end tools
Though there will be deals on certain tool sets, specifically at the big box hardware stores, as well as select items at Target, Wal-Mart, and Amazon, the best deals on high-end brands are found in the spring and summer.
Brent Shelton, a spokesman for deal site FatWallet.com, told MarketWatch in 2014 that Sears offers Black Friday deals on its Craftsman brand, but "there is a wider selection of deals for some of the higher end brands like DeWalt and Milwaukee tools around Memorial Day and Father's Day."
FatWallet actually found in its 2014 Tools Buying Survey that Father's Day sales were ranked the best time of the year to find tool deals by a ratio of more than 2-to-1 over Black Friday.
Beware these traps
Black Friday is a day -- really, a day and a half now -- where the temptation to buy can be enormous. In addition to the broad categories above, here are a few other traps to avoid.
- Game consoles with bundled games: The best deals on the most popular consoles offer the systems at deal prices with at least one popular game (and sometimes more as part of the package).
- Skip high-end cameras: The best deals on DSLR cameras come in January when the 2016 models have been introduced and stores are eager to clear out older inventory.
- Don't buy Christmas decorations: If you want cheap lights and other items to decorate your house, the best deals are actually after Dec. 25 (like buying Halloween candy on Nov.1). If you need them for this year, wait as close to the actual day as you can.
- Bedding and blankets: The cheapest time to buy these is during the traditional "Whites Sales" in January and February.
Daniel Kline has no position in any stocks mentioned. He actually needs a new winter coat. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon.com. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.