11th November 2021 | 6 minute read

How to make Black Friday work for you

Black Friday and Cyber Monday have been part of the sale season here in the UK for a while now and the chatter has already begun weeks in advance. But even though there are still great deals to be had, it’s easy to get caught up and later come to regret your purchases. In this guide, we’re looking at how to stay in control and make Black Friday work for you with hints and tips to make the most of the discounts.

Where did Black Friday come from?

Black Friday began over in the United States and is the first Friday following Thanksgiving when stores put on heavy discounts to lure in shoppers - similar to the January sales in the UK. It’s been around in the UK for several years now (apparently beginning when several American-owned retailers brought the idea across) and the deals on offer can be incredibly enticing. 

Should I shop on Black Friday?

When done mindfully, shopping on Black Friday can be a great way to save money on Christmas presents (or just general treats!) as there are often great deals to be had. Some shops have been known to slash prices by around 70% and there are few retailers nowadays that don’t take part.

However, if you’re only shopping because of the sales, and not with an end goal or specific item in mind, it can be easy to get swept up and end up regretting your purchases. Our recent research report found that over 1 in 4 of UK borrowers (28%) typically feel guilt or regret when buying something on credit, so make sure that’s not how you feel this Black Friday, by following the tips below.

How to shop well on Black Friday

Follow the tips below to make Black Friday work for you and avoid getting caught up in the hype.

Write down the items you’re looking to buy

This is the number one way to stop yourself from buying things you don’t need, or even really want when it comes to sale shopping. With so much of the Black Friday sales now existing online, the natural temptation to purchase other items that you find in a physical shop is perhaps reduced, but it’s not gone entirely.

To avoid regretting purchases later, make a list of the items you’re looking for. Or, if you’re looking for a gift for someone, write down a few ideas of things they might like to help focus your attention and prevent you from browsing websites for longer than you need to. 

Work out your budget

Now you know what you want, it’s time to look at what you can afford. Work out your total budget overall and then try to break it down into amounts per item. Even better if you can base those figures around what you would reasonably expect to pay for something as, that way, you’re less likely to be sucked into paying more just because there’s a great offer on a more expensive item.

In a perfect world, your budget will come from either savings or disposable income at the end of the month, however, there are sometimes times when it can be worth paying on credit for a discounted item now, rather than waiting until next month when the cost is likely to be higher. If you do intend to shop the sales using credit, it’s even more important that you set an affordable budget using the steps below:

Know your debt

First, make sure you fully understand your current debt and how it’s structured. Where you can, make changes to ensure you aren’t paying more in interest than you need to. You can use the ilumoni app to do this too. 

Think ahead

Now you know your current debt inside out, you should be able to see how long it will take to pay off based on your current repayments and the total cost of those repayments each month. Write this information down, or use a calendar to set reminders to make payments, as any missed payments can negatively affect your credit score and ability to borrow in the future. 

At this point, if your debt feels overwhelming or unmanageable, your money might be better used to pay down those balances, rather than using it towards new credit as a result of Black Friday spending. 

Consider your options

If, after working through the steps above, you decide that you’ll still use credit to shop the sales, consider what products you’ll use to do that. Are you eligible for a 0% credit card, for example, which you could pay off in full before being charged any interest? If you can’t access a 0% card, compare the interest rates on others to get the best deal you can and shop around. 

Make a plan

Knowing the maximum you plan to spend on credit, make a plan for how you’ll pay it back based on what you know you can afford. Wherever possible, avoid just paying the minimum payment as this can be costly and cause you to carry the debt for a long time. Set a date by which you aim to have paid the debt back, and make sure you won’t stretch yourself too thinly alongside any other debt you might have. And finally, think about whether the cost of any interest could amount to more than the savings of the offer - otherwise, the deal might not be worth having!

Compare items and shop around

Treat sale shopping as you would any other type of shopping and compare prices across different retailers. Just because one is offering a 60% discount, doesn’t mean you still can’t get the item (or a similar item) cheaper elsewhere on a 20% discount offer. Similarly, be sure to read reviews and check the returns policy so that you can feel confident the product you’re buying is worth it, and you can take it back if it turns out not to be. 

Lots of websites also now bring out comparison guides, such as Which, TechRadar or even newspapers like The Independent, to help you quickly see which models or makes are better so keep an eye out for those if you have a specific product in mind. 

Enjoy yourself

It’s easy to see the negative side of Black Friday but if you have a clear plan for yourself and what you want to buy, and are shopping with intent rather than because you feel like you should, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t enjoy the experience and relish the money saved as a result of the sales. Every penny you save on a deal is a penny more in your pocket long term. Just make sure you really are getting a bargain, and not just getting caught up in the mayhem. 

If you're concerned about your finances or are struggling with debt, the organisations on our Debt Helplines page can offer you additional support or advice. 

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