Updated September 6, 2014

What Not to Buy on Black Friday

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The biggest shopping holiday of the year is upon us, as retailers like to remind us year after year. They keep telling us about pending specials and earlier start times (as early as Thanksgiving) to get us into the stores nearly a month before Christmas Day. While there are some great deals to be had on Black Friday, planning and patience could result in more money in your pocket by the end of the year. Some purchases are better left for December, or even for after the New Year.

Read on to see which items are not worth fighting the Black Friday crowds just to make progress on your holiday shopping list.

  • Some electronics: A staple of Black Friday, good deals on electronics do exist if you’re willing to be the first in line and can settle for an older model. But buyer beware: Just because stores have a huge list of advertised products doesn’t mean each price is a big discount or that it’s worth rolling out of bed early in the morning.

    What is worth buying: The early-bird specials. You can snag a cheap TV or laptop at a deep discount as long as you shop smartly. Educate yourself on the going rate of the electronics you’re looking to purchase before the big day so that you’re able to spot a truly great price.

  • Toys: When you’re playing Santa Claus, wait until December, when you’ll see deeper discounts. While Black Friday circulars will have a handful of significantly slashed prices on some of the toys on your kids’ or grandkids’ wish lists, those reduced numbers are there just to entice you into the store. The discounts will be wider as the holiday gets closer, so hold out a couple of weeks for the better deals on a broader range of items.

    What is worth buying: The “it” toys of the season. We have a shortened shopping season this year, and the price of disappointing Junior may be too steep to try to wait for a better sale on that one item he has been begging for and expects to get.

  • Holiday decorations: Retailers will mark down their holiday decorations when we’re in the midst of celebrating, but not by much. Wait until January, when they’re marked down to 25-50% off their original price, and stock up for next year. If you really feel a need to add to your holiday décor for this season, then hold out until at least December, when discounts will begin to increase.

    What is worth buying: Fake Christmas trees. Since these trees take up a fair amount of space in the seasonal aisles, stores have a limited supply and you may miss out if you wait too long.

  • Jewelry: One of the most popular holiday gifts is jewelry, which means there’s little incentive for retailers to reduce prices. So try to avoid purchasing necklaces and earrings for your special someone not just on Black Friday, but during the entire holiday season.

    What is worth buying: While we’re not advocating giving anyone a kitchen appliance for their sole gift, you can snag some great deals on small appliances and kitchen accessories this time of year, either for yourself or your favorite cook. Since the demand for these items isn’t very high as everyone jostles their way to the electronics store, avoid the lines and look for a replacement appliance or a completely new gadget for the kitchen.

Bottom Line: Create a List and a Check It Twice

The key to getting the best deals on Black Friday – and avoid getting suckered into paying more than you should on a gift – is research. Come up with a plan head of time by reading flyers early. Look at sites like BlackFriday.com and bfads.net that collect Black Friday advertisements for online viewing. Some ads are already posted.

Give yourself you plenty of time to compare prices, analyze discounts, and come up with a Black Friday game plan so you don’t get swept up in the moment. You don’t want to buy things you don’t need, particularly if you end up spending more than you can afford. What you really don’t want is a post-holiday credit card balance; the mounting credit card interest will quickly eat any savings you earned at the checkout counter.

Leah Norris is a research analyst at CreditDonkey, a credit card comparison and reviews website. Write to Leah Norris at leah@creditdonkey.com. Our data-driven analysis has been recognized by major news outlets across the country and has helped families make savvy decisions. (read more)

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