Why is it called Black Friday and how can you get the best deals?

We all know it's a good time to grab a bargain, but why is it called Black Friday and how can you make sure you're really getting a deal?

Paper gift backs with Black Friday label
(Image credit: Getty Images)

It is well known that Black Friday marks the start of the Christmas shopping season, but why is it called Black Friday?

Black Friday might be a long-standing tradition in the USA, but it’s now firmly entrenched in the UK retail calendar too, with high street and online retailers, including mega retailer Amazon, tempting shoppers to spend, spend, spend with deep discounts.

If you need tips on how to save money for Christmas, buying necessary gifts during a sale event like Black Friday is a good option.

Rajeev Nar, e-commerce specialist and CEO at RVS Media says: “Black Friday signifies the start of Christmas shopping and with the cost of living rising and purchases becoming more expensive, this year retail is expecting a bigger surge in Black Friday deals than ever before.”

If you want to get a headstart, here at Goodto.com, we've been scouring the best Black Friday deals available right now!

But of course, a big discount, doesn’t necessarily mean you are getting good value and it’s easy to get carried away and spend more than you can afford. (Check out the Black Friday battle plan from Goodto.com's Money Editor for tips on how to get a real deal and avoid overspending). It's also worth knowing your consumer rights and how to get a refund if you need to.

 Why is it called Black Friday? 

The first day to be dubbed ‘Black Friday’ was Friday 24th September 1869 when the US Gold Market crashed after two financiers successfully cheated Wall Street.

The financiers, Jim Fisk and Jay Gould, bought a huge amount of gold (and spread rumours that would prevent others from buying it) in the hope of the value soaring dramatically. They were then planning on selling it for a huge profit. 

But they were found out. The President at the time, Ulysses Grant, ordered the Treasury to sell $4 million worth of gold, which drove the price of gold right down, effectively crashing the gold market. Jim Fisk and Jay Gould lost it all. The fateful event was called ‘Black Friday’ as at the time, catastrophic days were referred to as ‘black’. 

But the term Black Friday referring to the Friday after Thanksgiving dates back to the 1950s. 

RVS Media's e-commerce specialist Rajeev Nar explains: “The term dates back to the early 1950s when police officers in Philadelphia began to use the phrase “Black Friday” to describe the chaos that resulted after Thanksgiving, when large numbers of suburban tourists came into the city to begin their holiday shopping and watch the Army-Navy football game.” 

Philadelphia’s law enforcers weren’t able to take the day off as holiday. Forced to work extra hours, police were dealing with heavy traffic, crowd control and shoplifters who quick to take advantage of the chaos.

It wasn’t a great look for the city and, in an attempt to ditch the negative image, Philadelphia’s retailers did attempt to rebrand the day as ‘Big Friday’ – but it didn’t stick.

Rajeev Nar adds: “The use of the phrase ‘Black Friday’ to signify a positive boost in retail sales didn’t grow nationwide until the late 1980s, when merchants started to spread the red to black profit narrative [this is where a company goes from being in debt to being in profit]. Black Friday was described as the day the stores began to turn a profit for the year and the biggest shopping day in the United States."

Why is Cyber Monday called Cyber Monday?

The term Cyber Monday doesn't date back anywhere near as far as the term Black Friday This is because it's all about online shopping. The name Cyber Monday was first used in 2005 when the US National Retail Federation noted that, for a number of years, there had been a peak in online shopping on the Monday after the Thanksgiving weekend. Retailers were, of course, quick to tap into the trend, encouraging shoppers, with numerous deals and discounts.

Another theory suggest that the surge in online shopping related to home internet connections. Shoppers would spend their Thanksgiving weekend window-shopping in store and then scoop up bargains online the following Monday, ordering their shopping from their office, where internet connections were faster and more reliable.

When is Black Friday 2022?

Black Friday will fall on 25 November in 2022. Black Friday always falls on the last Friday in November, although the specific date changes each year. It falls straight after Thanksgiving which falls on the last Thursday of November every year. 

But in more recent years, Black Friday sales extend way beyond a single day or single weekend. Some retailers run discounts for the whole week of Black Friday, or even run a Black November-type event where you can snap up bargains for the whole month!

When is Cyber Monday 2022?

Cyber Monday itself will fall on 28 November this year.  But as with Thanksgiving and Black Friday, the date of Cyber Monday changes each year. But Cyber Monday always falls on the Monday after Thanksgiving and Black Friday. Although high levels of promotions and deals during this period make it difficult to distinguish Cyber Monday from Black Friday. 

 5 top tips for getting the best deals on Black Friday 

There are some good deals to be had on Black Friday and, if you are careful, it can be a good way to cut your Christmas shopping bill. But your bargain will only actually save you money if it was something you were going to buy anyway and that the price reduction was real.

As Ruby Walker, a brand and deals expert at Savoo points out, not all discounts are what they seem – some retailers will increase the price of certain items, just so that they can decrease them in time for Black Friday. “According to 2020 data from Which?, 85% of items in Black Friday sales from previous years were found to be available for the same price of less within the past six months.”

This is why our experts agree that it’s a good idea to approach Black Friday with a plan. Maddy Alexander-Grout, founder of My VIP Rewards says: “Make a list of all the things you want to buy in advance and the places you are likely to find them and make a note of what prices are now. That way you can see if the reduction is genuine. Join mailing lists in advance too, so you’ll be alerted to the best offers without having to search.” 

“Don’t just buy something for the sake of it being in a sale. Set a price limit for each of the items on your list and stick to it. It does take some will power but you’ll thank yourself afterwards.”

  • Make a list of what you want to buy, where you can buy them from and what the price is now
  • Sign up for newsletters from your favourite retailers or brands so you'll be notified of any sales or special offers
  • Follow your favourite brands on social media
  • On Amazon, you can add items to a watchlist and be alerted when the price changes
  • Check prices against other retailers before you buy.

 How to avoid Black Friday altogether

If you don’t want to get caught up in the Black Friday frenzy or can’t afford to participate, it’s just as important to have a plan.  Money specialist Maddy Alexander-Grout says: “Move retailer emails to a hidden folder, avoid social media for a few days and say no to FOMO! Remember it’s just a few days where people go into a shopping frenzy. There is always the Boxing Day and January sales. Don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourself to do what everyone else is doing.”  

Personal finance expert

As well as being a mum, Rachel Lacey is a freelance journalist with more than 20 years' experience writing about all areas of personal finance and retirement planning. After 17 years at Moneywise magazine as both writer and editor, Rachel now writes for a variety of websites and newspapers as well as corporate clients. She is passionate about financial education and simplifying money matters for all.