10 ways to avoid the pitfalls of Black Friday

Several red balloons with percentage signs on, and a light box sign in the middle that reads Black Friday sale. Photo by Karolina Grabowska.
Hayley Tearall

Digital Content Producer

Wondering how to find Christmas bargains online? Here are ten top tips on avoiding the pitfalls of Black Friday and getting the best deal. 

What is Black Friday?

Black Friday marks the start of the Christmas shopping season. On Black Friday every year, many companies offer large discounts, bargains and deals ahead of Christmas Day.

When is Black Friday?

This year, Black Friday is on 24 November.

It might feel like a wise idea to make the most of what Black Friday has to offer in order to get the best deals around, but that’s not always the case.

Here are some ways to make sure you’re getting a good deal, and spending wisely, this Black Friday:

1. Shop around

Across the Black Friday sales, you’ll see many items advertised as the best deal ever’ or lowest price ever’. This might be true for that particular website (although research suggests prices often aren’t at their lowest on Black Friday at all), but it’s wise to search for the item across multiple websites and shops. That way, you can see if what you’re buying is actually the best deal, or if you could get it cheaper elsewhere.

2. Be aware of anchor prices

Shops often use a marketing technique called an anchor price’ to sell items. It’s called an anchor price’ because it involves including a higher number next to the current selling price, to make it feel like they’ve reduced the price by a lot and you’re getting a good deal. For example, if a TV was £500, now only £250’ your brain sees the £500 and thinks, Wow, that’s 50% off! £250 is a bargain.’

In reality, many shops increase the prices of their products in the lead up to Black Friday. Maybe the TV was priced at £300 all year, and they’ll price it up two weeks before to £500 just so they can claim it was £500’ in their Black Friday sales. It’s a clever way to trick people into thinking they’re getting an absolute bargain, when you actually might not be.

Be aware of anchor prices’ this Black Friday. Remember, even if an item is reduced by a lot, the higher was’ price might not reflect the actual value of the product. It’s also important to remember that even if you spend £250, that’s still £250! Don’t just buy something because it feels like a good deal – look around, compare prices, and don’t be fooled by what an item used to cost before Black Friday.

3. Read the reviews

Checking the reviews section is always a good way to make sure the product you’re interested in is as described. For example, is the quality as good as they’re claiming it to be? Is there a specific issue or problem that multiple people have reported happening? How are people’s experiences with customer service? Is the item new or refurbished?

The reviews section is the place to go for feedback and to see if there are any repeated problems multiple customers are facing, before you buy the product and experience that same problem. Of course, reviews aren’t foolproof, but checking reviews of a product across multiple sites may help you decide if that particular product is one you’d like to buy.

4. Avoid scams

It can be easy to fall prey to scams on a day like Black Friday, but here are a few things to look out for and avoid.

Firstly, if a product is much cheaper from one place compared to others, this is a red flag and indicates it could be fake, or even a scam. If a site asks you to pay using an insecure method or doesn’t offer a secure connection, this is best avoided. Secure methods of payment let you know your purchase is protected should anything go wrong.

If you’ve never heard of a site before, it’s a good idea to do some proper research on them to make sure they’re a real, trustworthy business. You can do this by looking for online reviews, checking if their website is secure, seeing if they provide any contact details or not, and checking to see if they have an authentic social media presence.

5. Check if your purchases are protected

Platforms such as online payments systems can offer more protection over your money in certain circumstances, and you’ll have different rights depending on the type of card you have used, so it’s worth looking into your rights before you make any big buys.

Online payments systems

If you pay using an online payments system, you’re likely to have more protection over your purchase. This might include being eligible for a refund if your item doesn’t arrive or is not as described (for example, is faulty, damaged or the wrong item is sent).

Paying by card

If paying by card, you may be eligible for a chargeback’, where you can get your money back by providing evidence to your bank that your items weren’t as described, never arrived, or you’ve asked for a refund but it’s not been processed. Every bank’s rules on chargebacks are slightly different, but it’s worth looking into to see how your purchases are protected depending on who you bank with. You may also be entitled to certain protection under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, too, so it’s worth looking into before buying anything.

6. Make the most of cashback

Cashback is a simple way to get money back for shopping online. By signing up to legitimate cashback sites, all you need to do is browse the cashback site for the shop you’re buying from, click through to it, and buy as normal. As a result, you’ll get free money into your account. This is just one easy way you can save a few quid this Black Friday.

Make sure that you only sign up to legitimate cashback sites and use them wisely. For example, don’t just buy from the shop that offers the biggest cashback, as you could still end up spending more overall. Cashback is simply a bonus.

7. Claim back the price difference on pre-Black Friday buys

If you’ve bought an item within the 30 days leading up to Black Friday and it’s now been priced down for the sales, you can actually request a partial refund, meaning you get back the extra you paid. There’s no legal requirement for shops to do this, but it could be worth the extra hassle as many will agree to do so.

8. Stick to your Black Friday budget

Before Black Friday, take a look at your finances. Create a budget that takes into account any essential bills or spending needs you already have, and then if you have money left over, consider the maximum amount you’d like to spend as part of Black Friday.

Prioritise the items you need most, and if it’s not on your list, stop and think about whether it’s actually something you need or want, and if it’s a good idea to buy it just because it’s Black Friday. Remember: just because they’re offering a lot of money off, it might not be the best deal, so consider whether you’re actually saving money or not by choosing to buy right now.

9. Don’t panic buy

The urgency of Black Friday can lead to impulse buys or panic, because the offers included are time-limited. However, now Black Friday is such a big thing in the UK, many sales start a week or two beforehand, and continue through to Cyber Monday or beyond. The reality is, it’s worth taking the time to do your research and not rushing into anything. You have plenty of time to make the most of the Black Friday sales, and if you miss them, there’ll always be another sale in future, like after Christmas or in the new year.

10. Remember, it’s not all about Christmas bargains

With Christmas coming up, it can be tempting to think about how many Christmas presents you can get for others in the Black Friday sales. If that’s comfortably affordable for you, then that’s wonderful, but if it’s too much of a stretch to buy lots of gifts this year, that is okay too.

It’s easy to get caught up in the Christmas spirit and even feel pressured to buy everyone gifts. But it’s okay to take a moment to reflect on this, and consider how you can be more mindful of what you’re spending this year. By pausing to think about what’s affordable for you, you can release yourself from the pressure of what you should’ be buying, and know that it’s not about the big items or how much they cost, but the thought that went into them. You might even want to consider how you could take a more sustainable approach to Christmas this year.

Of course, there’s more to Christmas than gifts anyway. Being able to spend time with our loved ones, sharing a meal together, and letting one another know you care goes deeper than material things. So if expensive gifts (or gifts in general) are out of your budget this year, remember that creating a day full of love doesn’t cost a thing.