Black Friday 2018: How to Score the Best Deals

Updated

Black Friday is coming. For serious bargain hunters, that means one thing: the best deals of the year are right around the corner.

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From Apple's newest iPhones to big-screen 4K TVs, the coming weeks are expected to be the busiest for retailers and consumers alike. Yes, we know that Halloween comes first, but for those keeping count, there are roughly 40 days left until Thanksgiving.

So we're here to give you the lowdown on Black Friday 2018. From the stores with the best sales to the types of deals you can expect to see, we've got over a decade's worth of experience covering Black Friday and we're passing all of our knowledge and tips directly to you, so that you can buy what you need, save money in the process, and go back to spending time with your family.

Here's everything you need to know about the upcoming holiday season including what new devices you can expect to see on sale. 

When is Black Friday this year?

Black Friday is always celebrated on the Friday after Thanksgiving. In 2018, it falls on Friday, November 23. If you've ever wondered where the name originated, the most popular story links it to retailers. Retail companies would record losses in red and profits in black when doing their accounting. The day after Thanksgiving was a tremendous shopping day for retailers — thanks to holiday shoppers looking for discounted merchandise — so many retailers would record a profit. Hence, the term Black Friday.

MORE: 5 Best Amazon Deals Right Now

When do Black Friday sales begin?

Black Friday used to be a 24-hour event, but for the past decade or so retailers have commenced their sales earlier and earlier in the season. This phenomenon is known as the Black Friday creep. That said, expect Black Friday sales to start the first week of November. Meanwhile, the first Black Friday ads, will likely hit the Internet the week of Halloween. Black Friday ads are used to hype consumers with teases and previews of the holidays sales that are yet to come. 

Apple iPhone XS, XS Max, XR deals

Despite their premium price, Apple's new iPhones will be one of the most sough-after devices this Black Friday. So will these new phones go on sale come Black Friday? The answer is, yes, but don't expect massive discounts. Instead expect to see BOGO deals, iPhone bundles, and higher trade-in credits when you give up your old phone in exchange for one of Apple's new iPhones. We also expect retailers to offer price cuts on Apple's previous-gen iPhones, such as the iPhone X and the iPhone 8.

Google Pixel 3, Pixel 3 XL deals

Google's new Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL aren't available yet, but both handhelds are already on sale. Best Buy has the best offer at the moment. The retailer is bundling a free $100 Best Buy gift card when you pre-order either phone. Expect to see similar, or better, bundle offers as we approach the holidays. We also predict to see deals on the newly discounted Google Pixel 2 XL, which Google now sells for $699 (64GB) and $1,099 (128GB).

Samsung Galaxy S9, Note 9 deals

Samsung's Galaxy S9 phones are starting to show their age. Consumers will benefit from that as we're currently seeing more S9 and Note 9 deals now than ever before. For instance, Samsung is currently offering up to a $600 trade-in credit when you buy a new S9, S9+, or Note 9.

Amazon smart home deals

Amazon's new line of smart home devices will begin to ship in the coming days. Currently, there are no major deals on any of the devices. Instead Amazon is offering a few bundle and BOGO discounts (as listed below). However, we predict Amazon will discount its most popular devices, such as the new Echo Dot, coming Black Friday week.

What's new for 2018?

Black Friday used to be about big discounts on cheap items. Throughout the years, that motto changed and nowadays we see impressive deals on everything from current-gen smartphones to Apple's latest MacBooks. Last year, for instance, Walmart offered a $300 gift card with the purchase of an iPhone X with AT&T or Verizon. It wasn't a dollar-off discount per se, but still a welcome deal on an otherwise pricey new phone.

This year, Sprint is already offering the iPhone XS for $0 with contract, so we expect to see equally aggressive deals on all of Apple's current and previous-gen iPhones.  We also expect to see deals on Amazon's new family of smart home devices including the new Echo Show, Echo Dot 3rd Generation, and Echo Plus 2nd Generation.

When is Cyber Monday?

Cyber Monday is the marketing name given to the first Monday after Thanksgiving. Think of it as an encore to Black Friday, but with an emphasis given to online retailers. The day was conceptualized by the National Retail Federation and made its debut in 2005. This year, Cyber Monday will fall on November 26. For consumers, there isn't much of a distinction these days between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. However, keep in mind that Cyber Monday sales are exclusively available online. Some retailers are pushing for a Cyber Week of sales, but the best deals will be found on Cyber Monday proper.

Thanksgiving vs. Black Friday vs. Cyber Monday: When should I shop?

Not content with having one day of record sales, retailers have transformed Black Friday into a series of days that gets larger and larger each year. Some stores will open their doors as early as 5pm on Thanksgiving Day. While this has led to some backlash from consumers, many embrace it and see it as an opportunity to buy more. So when is the best time for bargain hunters to shop? All week, if you can.

We've noticed that many of the season's best deals are released throughout the week of Thanksgiving. On Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday, you'll see the largest number of "doorbusters" deals. However, these deals are usually limited in time (sometimes just a few hours) and are usually limited in stock. If you miss out on November sales, fear not because the week before Christmas is just a busy and will include just as many deals. 

MORE: How to Spot a Good Deal

What should I buy?

TVs and laptops are the meat and potatoes of Black Friday. In previous years, we've seen 42-inch 1080p sets drop as low as $159. 50-inch 4K TVs will also drop well below the $299 range. As far as laptops are concerned, you'll see Chromebooks from $149 (some off-brand laptops may start as low as $99) and mainstream machines with current-gen Intel CPUs from $299. In addition  to laptops and TVs, you'll also find deals on consoles, smartphones, smart home devices, and more.

Last year, for instance, Amazon dropped the price of its Fire 7 Tablet to $29.99 (from $49.99), whereas the Fire TV Stick and Echo Dot dropped to $24.99 (from $39.99) and $29.99 (from $49.99), respectively. In a nutshell, any tech item you're looking for will be on sale.

Should I bother shopping in-store?

Every Black Friday, hordes of people line up outside brick-and-mortar stores in the hopes of being first in line for discounts on big-ticket items. In previous years, people have lined up for $249 55-inch TVs, discounted gaming consoles, and $99 laptops. However, most of these sales are extremely limited in quality, so unless you're one of the first people in line, there's a good chance you'll miss out on the deals. The good news is that many retailers will offer their in-store deals online as well. For that reason, we recommend avoiding the crowds and shopping from the comforts of your home.

What should I avoid?

Like any major holiday, Black Friday season will include a mix of great and questionable deals. So as always, we recommend following our tips for scoring the best deals. We also recommend creating a shopping list and sticking to it. It may sound mundane, but it can help you avoid overspending on things you don't need or intended to buy.