How to Master Black Friday Shopping

Ah Black Friday, that dayweekend, let’s face it it’s basically a week now… of sales that sends us all into a panicked frenzy. Do we refrain from the commercial chaos and hold our heads high, proud that we haven’t elbowed any strangers or fried the work servers in the attempt to save a buck (whilst being equally jealous of our colleagues who brag about how they did just that…).

Or do we indulge, knowing full well that we will spend money we don’t have on things we don’t need, only for a short-lived high followed by a deep sense of shame and regret at our failure to ‘adult’ well once again – always, sadly, after the 28 day return period has elapsed. Fear not! This guide will tell you how to strike the perfect balance to end your Black Friday blues once and for all.

1. Keep An Eye Out NOW!
Brands aren’t stupid, they know that by now most off us are holding off buying until Black Friday weekend telling ourselves ‘meh, it’ll be cheaper then’. In order to combat the inevitable pre Black Friday lull in sales, a lot of brands now hold early sales and give out discount codes in the weeks leading up to Black Friday to encourage us to spend, banking on the fact that most of us will still spend again when the Black Friday sales hit – mostly on stuff we don’t need, caught up in the Black Friday frenzy.

Make the most of their desperation and keep an eye out for these pre sales, often this is when they’re give away their best stuff since fewer people are buying. Think about it, if a company is expecting only 5 people to shop on one day and 500 on the next, which day do you think they’re going to offer their deepest discounts on? You do the maths… Subscribe to email lists and follow stores online for news of any early sale action. Just remember to unsubscribe once Cyber Monday is over so you’re not tempted to spend any more.

2. Bagsy It! Buy Now, Return Later
Similarly, if there’s an item that you’ve had your eye on for ages, even if it doesn’t go into the Black Friday pre sales, don’t be afraid to ‘bagsy’ buy it. The last thing you want is to hold out for something only for it to sell out from underneath you on Black Friday. Most shops nowadays offer a 28 day return policy so buy it but don’t take the tags off. If it comes up cheaper on Black Friday – fab! Buy the cheaper one and return the more expensive one. If not you’re no worse off anyway.

3. Set Yourself A Budget
Now, I’ve written these chronologically but consider this rule number one. Always, always set yourself a budget and whatever you do, don’t overstep it. Look at your bank account, what’s set to come out (and in if you’re lucky) over the next few months – not just days and ask yourself how much can you realistically afford to spend? No, better yet, ask yourself how much your mum would say you should spend. Nothing? Ah, what does she know anyway… Once you decide though never, ever be tempted to spend more than you can afford to no matter how good the deals are. That gorgeous, half-price, cashmere blend coat won’t look so cute when you’re sleeping under it once you live on the streets having failed to pay your rent…

4. Make A List
The day is upon you. You’ve called in sick to work, got a cuppa and your laptop is at the ready. It’s 08.59 on the dot and your cursor is poised on the ASOS homepage waiting for the sale to begin. 09.00 hits, you’re on the homepage and… you don’t know where to start!! Shoes? Designer Accessories? Partywear? Ahhh!!!

There’s nothing worse than trying to make a buying decision whilst hearing the tick-tock-tick-tock as your window of opportunity closes. No time is this feeling ever so rife as during the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales when you know that everyone and their dog is shopping on the same sites, at the same time, looking at the same deal, deciding if they too want those Louboutin-esque patent black court shoes in a size 38. ‘LAST ONE’ of course.

Making a list of what you want need is your best bet of coming away from the sales feeling like you’ve shopped smart, instead of wondering why the hell you thought it was a good tactic to just buy everything with ‘unicorn’ in the product name. Once you’ve decided what you need, only shop in or on the stores that you know sell what you’re looking for to avoid temptation. I’d even go so far as to temporarily unfollow all other brands on social media and unsubscribe from their email lists for extra strength, your inbox probably needed a clear out anyway. If you’re shopping online, use the product filters to make sure that you only look at what you need and what’s within your budget and if you’re shopping in stores (may The Force be with you) only head to the departments that sell what’s on your list!

P.S. This is a great time to look over your Christmas gift list too – yes, buying for other people during Black Friday is an actual thing – madness I know!

5. Know Your Size!
It sounds so simple but even the best-made Cyber Monday shopping strategy will be foiled by not knowing your size on each website. Dress size, shoe size, ring size even, make sure that you know what size you are in each format, UK, US, European etc. and it’s also a good idea to familiarise yourself with how large or small each brand runs. Online they’ll often say how a piece fits on the product page and on-site reviews are a good way to find out too but otherwise that’s where people like me come in handy! Search for reviews on blogs and look for YouTube try on hauls for an idea of how each brands’ sizing runs. It’ll save you a load of disappointment the week after the sales are over when all your beautiful bits finally arrive but they don’t fit how you imagined they would.

6. Remember – Six Heads Are Better Than One
Make use of those infernal Whatsapp group chat notifications and make a Black Friday pact with your friends to look out for the items on everyone’s list. Send a screen grab of your list or, better yet, hyperlinks to your items and if your friends happen to see them while they’re scrolling through the sales, get them to ping you the link and offer to do the same. It won’t cost anyone more time if they’re scrolling anyway and just means there’s more chance that you’ll get what you’re after.

7. Always Do A Recce
‘Recce’ meaning to scope something out comes from the war term reconnaissance:


noun: reconnaissance; plural noun: reconnaissances

  1. military observation of a region to locate an enemy or ascertain strategic features.

Consider the stores your battleground, other shoppers the enemy and those knee high suede boots you’ve been pining over all season the spoils of warfare. Okay, so you don’t have to go into your Black Friday shopping spree with such an aggressive mentality but I would recommend that you do a recce all the same. If you’re shopping in stores on Black Friday, it’s good to have an idea of which areas you wanna head to first. No one is saying that you need to get your hands on a blueprint of Westfield but there’s nothing worse than walking up and down Oxford Street trying to find the makeup store that you were certain was right where Hamleys now is the last time you were there… Meanwhile, a queue halfway into London forms in said makeup shop. A quick look on Google Street View before you set off will avoid mishaps like this and save you from missed deals and tired legs.

Our recce doesn’t just stop there. Most importantly, it’s smarter still to have a cheeky look through the shops before Black Friday hits to get an idea of price points, what’s coming in and ongoing discounts. It’s not unheard of for stores to re-merchandise their floors for Black Friday, moving their nicest pieces to the shadows so that we buy up the bits that they’ve failed to shift all season. Knowing what’s usually on offer and for how much outside of sale time will help you to judge whether to buy that faux leather jacket at 25% off or wait for the real deal to magically reappear on the sale rack once Black Friday is over.

8. Buy Big Purchases First
As a savvy spender I can assure you that it’s best to go for your big purchases first. It can seem sensible to dip your toe in the Black Friday pool, popping little things in your basket here and there, building confidence as you go. However, since Black Friday sales are often percentage based e.g. ‘40% OFF EVERYTHING!’ the biggest deals will be on the most expensive items. Don’t dither and let everyone else snap up the best savings. 40% off a £25 top is £10. 40% off a £200 coat is £80. Yes, you may be spending more money but if you’re buying off your sensible list of things that were going to buy this Christmas anyway, then you’re actually saving yourself a lot of money in the long run.

9. Go It Alone
It’s not often I’ll encourage you to go shopping alone but Black Friday is the one time when I feel like a shopping buddy can be more of a hinderance than a help. Whilst it’s usually good to get a second opinion, if you’re under pressure and on a budget sometimes the last thing you need is another voice in your ear. Especially one that doesn’t share the same taste and bank account as you. Sales shopping is when it’s time to get your game face on and stay focused on the task at hand. No being pulled to stores you’re not interested in whilst precious shopping moments tick by, no stopping for a ‘quick’ Starbucks break and a chat two stores in, no saying, ‘that’s nice, not today though…’ through a fake smile as the tenth granny print jumpsuit is shoved at you accompanied by, ‘Oooh, this would look lovely on you!’ and strictly no boyfriend-sitting. If you really must shop with someone else, agree to travel to the shops together and then split up so that you can shop separately and meet up later to share your buys. Not only can you scour the rails in peace but the sense of competition will turn you into a master bargain hunter too!

10. Know The Returns Policy
It goes without saying but we all need a little reminding from time to time. Check the returns policy for every site and store before you go through the checkout. It’s not uncommon for stores to have an ‘exchange only’ policy on sale items and you don’t want to shop up a storm thinking you can return things which you can’t. This especially goes for online stores although there are distance selling laws that stipulate that, since you don’t get to see the item in real life when you buy online, you should retain the right to return it – discounted or not. The same goes for faulty goods – ‘no returns’ is voided if the item was sold to you in poor condition. Familiarise yourself with the stores’ policies but also know your rights and don’t be afraid to challenge them if you think they’re doing something dodgy.

I hope that this has helped you to feel a little easier about your Black Friday shopping strategy now! If you have any questions or any tips that you’d like to add, please share them in a comment below so that we can all shop smart this Black Friday.