Every November, stores start rolling out major sales in the hopes of tempting holiday shoppers with offers that they just can’t refuse. If visions of KitchenAid stand mixers and 4K TVs are dancing through your head, take a moment to read this before you load up your shopping cart. Those incredible deals might not be so great after all.
What Is a Big-Ticket Item?
The term “big ticket” refers to any luxury or non-essential items that are outside most people’s everyday budgets. Economists often refer to them as BTIs, and they’re a useful way to track the health of the economy. In times of high inflation, for example, the sale of BTIs usually drops. In fact, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos recently told everyone to “hold onto your money” instead of purchasing new cars, refrigerators, and other big-ticket items. He predicts that the economy is going to get even more strained in the coming year.
But what if you don’t want to wait? Instead of putting off purchases, let’s take a look at how to get the best deals during Black Friday and beyond.
The Best Time of Year to Buy
Bargains are seasonal and cyclical, and it’s pretty simple to predict what time of year you can find the best deals on a variety of goods. As you plan your major purchases for the coming year, keep in mind the best time to buy the big-ticket items on your wish list.
- January – fitness equipment, linens and towels
- February – mattresses
- March – luggage, Japanese-made electronics
- April – thrift store items, cruises
- May – refrigerators, clothing, kitchen essentials
- June – gym memberships, housewares, tools
- July – outdoor furniture, school clothes
- August – laptops and computers, school and office supplies
- September – lawnmowers, bicycles, airline tickets
- October – cars
- November – wedding dresses, high-end appliances, toys
- December – gift cards
Stores Offering the Biggest Black Friday Discounts in 2022
For many people, Black Friday shopping is an important holiday tradition, right up there with roasting a turkey and trimming a Christmas tree. If you’re planning to hit the sales this year, it might help to know which retailers are offering the biggest bargains. According to research by WalletHub, which studied almost 4,000 deals from the nation’s top retailers, these are the stores with the biggest savings on average:
- JCPenney (64.71%)
- Belk (64.23%)
- Macy’s (53.05%)
- Office Depot and OfficeMax (49.93%)
- Kohl’s (44.23%)6. Lenovo (40.67%)
- Target (32.87%)
- Big Lots (32.86%)
- Academy Sports + Outdoors (31.10%)
- The Home Depot (30.90%)
The average discount percentage across the board for all stores this year is 37%. Anything lower than that probably isn’t a deal that’s worth braving the crowds.
Make a List, Then Look for Bargains
The key to getting a good deal on electronics, toys, games, and other expensive items is planning. Before you set foot in a store, you should know exactly what you want, down to the model number, if applicable. Then you can do some research online to figure out the typical price and look for sales. If you’re really dedicated, you could even create an alert on a price-tracking app.
If you prefer to shop in person rather than paying for shipping, browse the online ads from your favorite stores before you leave the house. Keep an eye out for doorbuster deals and make a note of sales with narrow windows, such as 6 am – 9 am on Black Friday. Many retailers take a “first come, first served” approach to sales and don’t issue rain checks, so if you miss the inventory they have on hand, you’re out of luck.
Is It Really a Deal?
I know you’re ready to lace up your shoes and charge into the fray, but before you go bargain-hunting during the busiest shopping weekend of the year, it’s time to do some math. You can almost always find the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) online for big-ticket items such as TVs and computers. See, what many retailers don’t want you to know is that they raise prices before Black Friday and other big shopping weekends. Then they can proudly proclaim a bigger discount. However, once you run the numbers, you may find that the sale is actually average at best.
There’s another, more philosophical thing to consider: a deal is only a deal if it’s something you need. If you tend to be a reactive shopper who can’t resist a bargain, the holiday season can get expensive. We’re talking budget-breaking overspending. Having a plan in place is important, but so is having the self-discipline to stick to it. If you’re not sure that you can resist temptation, consider shopping with cash and leaving your cards at home!
Double-Up on Savings
Getting a bargain is great. You know what’s better? Stacking that bargain with cashback offers, rebates, and credit card rewards. As Megan Liscomb explains for Buzzfeed, “In a nutshell, reward stacking is when you combine several shopping rewards programs with a rewards credit card to get the maximum discounts, points, and/or cash back that you possibly can.”
You begin with a rewards credit card that offers cashback (or airline miles if you love to travel). Alternatively, you might get more from a store-specific card, such as Target’s RedCard. Make sure that you also have any store loyalty cards or frequent shopper cards. Next, consider downloading a shopping companion app. Finally, collect any coupons or rebates for the items you intend to buy. If the store offers price matching, then bring proof of a lower price if you find one elsewhere. You can end up shaving off 10% or more beyond the sale price this way.
Do the Math Before Joining a Club
If you’ve ever visited Costco in November or December, then you know it becomes a wonderland of must-have gifts for everyone on your list. Electronics, toys, wine, and delightful towers of treats await you—but before you pledge your loyalty and pay your dues, take a step back.
If you’re only signing up for a wholesale club membership to take advantage of a few select deals, then you might not be saving a whole lot of money. Compare the amount you’ll save to the membership fee. Are you actually getting a bargain? Take careful stock of what the store has to offer and consider how often you’ll visit after the holidays are over. For me, a Costco membership is worth it because I can stock up on household basics, such as Ziploc bags and paper towels, and do my shopping for a month or two in a single trip. Your mileage may vary.
Skip the Extended Warranty
Any time you buy a big-ticket item, you’ll almost certainly be offered an extended warranty. According to the Federal Trade Commission, “An extended warranty or service contract is different from the warranty that may automatically come with a product. The extended warranty or service contract costs extra, may cover different issues than a warranty, and is sold separately. Before you buy an extended warranty or service contract, compare it to the warranty to see if you’ll get any extra benefits for the extra cost.”
In other words, the extended warranty isn’t always worthwhile. If you face a hard sell from the retailer, be firm about not needing the extra coverage. It’s also worthwhile to note that third-party warranties may not be on the level; the FTC warns of fraudulent phone calls and emails that pressure you to pay for an extended warranty. It’s best to ignore those calls.
Look for Second-Hand and Refurbished Items
These days, we’re all trying to go green and save a little green, too. Buying second-hand items and refurbished electronics can be a great way to keep things out of the landfill and save a ton of money, too. Certified refurbished electronics are just as good as their brand-new counterparts, and they often come with the same warranty as new goods. This time of year, you can often find great deals on Facebook Marketplace for TVs and computers as people try to sell their older electronics to make room for the latest models.