I’m a Money Editor and this is my Black Friday battle plan to bag a bargain and avoid overspending

Black Friday is almost here - here's how I plan on shopping wisely

Red sheet of paper with a tear in the middle through which you can see the words Black Friday in white on a black background
(Image credit: Getty Images)

I always have a lot of questions ahead of Black Friday. How good will the discounts be? How much of my Christmas shopping can I get done? Why is Black Friday called Black Friday (opens in new tab) anyway?

Black Friday seems to get bigger and bigger every year in terms of the sheer number of retailers getting on board and the number of deals available. Get a head start with our pick of the best early deals you can bag right now.

A wave of discounts, on one hand, sounds amazing! I mean, who doesn’t want to bag a bargain? However during previous Black Friday sales, I’ve overspent because I didn't have a plan of action. But by overspending, my January was always financially miserable and I’d find that I was paying off the burden of my Black Friday splurge well into the new year. 

This year, and I’m sure I’m not alone here, Black Friday hits a little differently. We’re in a cost of living crisis. Prices are rising all around us for everything from food and fuel to clothes and energy. 

Money expert and journalist Rachel Lacey (opens in new tab) says: "This year it feels like we need to save money wherever we can.  But while Black Friday should be the ideal opportunity to cut the cost of our Christmas shopping, or save on some big-ticket items for ourselves, it’s all too easy to get caught up in the moment and get carried away.

"But it's important to remember that you’ll only genuinely be bagging a bargain if you’re saving money on something you were going to buy anyway."

3 key rules that I'm following this year

I have given myself three hard rules to follow this year when it comes to shopping in the sales.

  •  My overall budget is set in stone
  •  I can only buy what’s on my list 
  •  I will be avoiding the aimless browse - this is where my willpower has failed in the past and I have regretted it.  

This is my Black Friday battle plan

Everyone is different, and some people will have their own battle plans for Black Friday, while others will be avoiding it all together. But if you feel a little bit lost as to where to start, and if, like me, you want to make sure you don’t overspend, this is my battle plan for Black Friday. Take from it what you can and I hope it helps you feel more control when tackling the Black Friday beast.  

1. I’ve worked out my budget

I’ve looked at my bank account, and worked out how much I can spend without going into debt. This is my Black Friday budget and it's non-negotiable - it’s a line in the sand.

If I ever try to convince myself to spend beyond this, I’m going to remind myself of something a brilliant teacher told me when I was in high school: “If you spend on a credit card or go into your overdraft, you are effectively spending the money twice. Once to pay for what you buy, and again to pay off the debt.”

Another quote that helps me avoid overspending is from Jay-Z: “If you can’t afford to buy it twice, you can’t afford it.” Wise words from a guy with a net worth of about $1.3 billion.

2. I’ve got a list

By nature, I’m a list maker - it helps me keep on track and takes the pressure off me having to carry all that information around in my head. I especially love it when I can make a spreadsheet - and I have a Black Friday spreadsheet up and running. 

Not everyone will love a spreadsheet, but the information I have in mine is super-useful to capture and keep a note of before Black Friday hits. 

Firstly, I’m really specific about what I am looking to buy and who I am buying it for - I’m hoping to pick up a few Christmas presents as well as some useful things for me at home, but I have a pretty good idea of what I want to buy before the sale even starts. This means I can be really focused and avoid just scrolling through for ideas (which, as previous experience tells me, is not good for my self control). 

Personal finance expert Rachel Wait (opens in new tab), who regularly writes for Goodto.com, agrees: "It can be easy to get sucked in by bargain prices, so before you start shopping, make a list of everything you're actually looking for and stick to it so you don't overspend. It's also worth comparing prices elsewhere in advance of the sales so that you can be sure you're getting a good deal before you buy."

I’ve also prioritised my list by what I need to get, versus what I’d like to get. That way, if my budget won’t stretch to cover everything, I know which items to pause on and plan to purchase them in the new year instead.

3. I’ve done my research

I’ve added columns to my spreadsheet which show which retailers sell that particular item and how much it’s currently on sale for. I’ve even included a link to allow quick reference when the sales start. This is a step that I’ve left out in previous years and I’ve paid the price (literally). I’ve bought stuff thinking I’m getting a bargain, only to find that my friend bought the exact same thing and got a much better discount. Not this year!

Money expert Emma Lunn (opens in new tab) shares the following advice: "Use the weeks leading up to Black Friday to do your research. If you're after a particular product, check how much it normally costs. That way you'll know if you are getting a bargain on Black Friday or just being fooled by clever marketing. 

"But be careful about where you buy electrical items from. Last year some electrical products on sale on online marketplaces such as Amazon, eBay and Wish were found to be counterfeit and dangerous to use."

Before I buy on Black Friday, I am going to go down my priority list and check the prices at all the retailers before I buy to make sure I really am paying the best price. 

I know some people who even like to set a limit on how much they are willing to pay for each item on their list in the sale, which sounds like a very useful tip, especially if you want to make sure you can bag as much of your list as possible. 

Here's an example of the information I've gathered for my mum's Christmas present (opens in new tab) (Mum, if you're reading this, look away now):

Swipe to scroll horizontally
ItemWho is it for?Where can I buy it?What's the RRP?How much is it now?What's the best Black Friday price?
Amazon Echo Show 5Mum for ChristmasAmazon£74.99£52.99unknown yet

In addition to capturing this information, there are also a couple of online tools that I've found to be really helpful around Black Friday. Camel Camel Camel (opens in new tab) is a free Amazon Price tracker that allows you to see historical prices so you can see if the price you see on Black Friday is actually the cheapest price, or whether you could save more by waiting and buying at a different time. I've looked up the Echo Show 5 I'm hoping to get for my mum to get a sense of how good deals have been in the past.

screengrab of price check on CamelCamelCamel price tracker

(Image credit: Future)

This screengrab might look a bit intense, shows how the price of the Echo Show 5 has changed over time. I can see that the lowest price was £34.99 back at the end of September 2022. It looks like it was a little more expensive that that in the Black Friday sale in November 2021, but still significantly cheaper than the current price of £52.99.

Kelkoo (opens in new tab) is also really helpful, it can help you quickly compare prices for specific products from different retailers so you can see where you can get the best price.

I'll also be on the look out for signs of any online scams that tend to crop up even more around busy shopping periods

4. I’ve signed up for notifications

Ahead of Black Friday, I always make sure I have signed up to the email lists of the retailers on my shopping list. I’ll also download their app if they have one. This way, I can get notified when the sales start or if any short-term discount codes are released over the course of the Black Friday weekend. Retailers like ASOS regularly do short-term deals where almost everything on the website is discounted - and there have been quite a few occasions where the discount has been an app-exclusive. 

If you’re on social media, it’s worthwhile also making sure you follow the same retailers to be notified when their sale starts. 

It might feel like a lot to keep track of, and you can always unfollow and unsubscribe from emails if you no longer want to receive them after Black Friday. 

5. I keep track of what I spend (and dodge delivery fees where I can)

As soon as I buy anything in the sale, I tick it off my list, making a note of how much I paid (including any delivery charges) and I keep totalling it up to make sure I’m not going over my budget. I’ll do a tot up after every purchase. (This is also a handy list to have so that you know what should be arriving, and if it doesn’t show up, you can get straight on to the retailer for a replacement or a refund).

When it comes to delivery fees, I’ll always opt for free delivery if that option is available to me. If that’s not possible, then I opt for a Collect from store or collection point option - sometimes it’s free, other times, even if you have to pay for it, it’s cheaper than delivery. 

I also try to stay savvy to messages like ‘Spend £16 more to get free delivery’. If I don’t need another item, then it’s cheaper to just buy what I need and pay the delivery fee. 

But if I only need to spend £2 more in order to qualify for free delivery, and delivery charges are £3.99, it’s worthwhile seeing if there are any stocking fillers or household items that I can add to my basket. This is sometimes easier with retailers like Amazon that sell things like sticky tape or notepads that you can pick up for a couple of pounds. Beauty and baby sections are good places to try and find an inexpensive item to add to your bag. 

These items tend to be my go-to as I know I will use all of them:

  • cotton wool pads or balls
  • lip balm
  • hand cream
  • Notepads and other stationery
  • Nail clippers
  • Hair bands.

Useful Black Friday shopping tips

Personal finance expert Rachel Lacey (opens in new tab) adds: "If you’re after something that’s highly sought-after and might sell out fast -  a PlayStation 5 for example – it might even be worth buying it now from a retailer with a solid returns policy. That way, you know you’ve got it, but if you are lucky enough to get a better deal on Black Friday you can bag that and send your other one back."

But even if you go into Black Friday with the best intentions, but think you've got a bit carried away, all is not lost. Rachel Lacey explains: "Don’t beat yourself up if you do get carried away though. If in the cold light of day you realise you’ve spent too much, you may be able to return items and get a refund. 

"If you bought online, Consumer Contract Regulations give you up to 14 days to cancel your order after you’ve placed it and up to 14 days after the goods were received – many retailers will offer more than though this though, so check the terms. 

"If you’ve shopped in-store, you aren’t legally entitled to refund just because you’ve changed your mind. But most retailers are pretty understanding and may will give you a refund if you’ve got proof of purchase and the item hasn’t been used."

Find out more about your consumer rights (opens in new tab) and how to get a refund.