Six tips for getting the most out of Black Friday ads

Black Friday ads require careful reading because sometimes deals come with a catch. Here's how to read them properly so you can get the best deals. 

Robert F. Bukaty/AP/File
Target shoppers Kelly Foley, left, Debbie Winslow, center, and Ann Rich use a smartphone to look at a competitor's prices while shopping shortly after midnight on Black Friday 2014, in South Portland, Maine.

Black Friday is only a month away, which means retailers will release their Black Friday advertisements over the next few weeks.

Here’s everything you need to know about the popular shopping day’s ads, including how to read them properly so you get the best deals.

Read carefully

Black Friday ads require careful reading because sometimes deals come with a catch.

If you’re looking at a doorbuster (typically the best deals a store has to offer), look for the specifics of the promotion: When does the sale start? How long will it last? Is it available in-store, online or both? And, perhaps most importantly, is the item available in limited quantities? This will give you an idea of how close you need to be to the front of the line to have a chance at snagging the item you’re looking for.

Shop smart

Some deals aren’t as straightforward as they might seem. For instance, instead of discounting items, sometimes stores offer gift cards with a purchase.

And sometimes low prices can only be had after you mail in a rebate form. That means you’ll be paying more up front and getting money back later. We saw this trend last year atKohl’s, where the department store offered mail-in rebate deals on small kitchen appliances.

Look through all the pages

Stores love to hype their most popular deals on the front or first few pages of their ads, but you shouldn’t stop there.

Browse the entire ad to get a sense of the full selection of sales. This will ensure you don’t miss out on a big buy or a coupon. Back pages also often include fine print about deals, including how long they last and any possible exclusions.

Bring the ad with you

Experienced Black Friday shoppers know they can’t show up to their favorite retailer unprepared.

Bringing the ad can help if there’s a price discrepancy at the register. And if the ad includes coupons, you’ll have those with you, too. Retailers sometimes offer coupons that provide discounts on top of already low seasonal prices. This was true last year at Macy’s.

Collect multiple ads

Always consult multiple Black Friday ads; you’ll be able to cross-compare deals before deciding which store will earn your business.

We also recommend signing up for mailing lists and following the social media pages of all of your favorite stores. Stores often announce news about their sales on these channels.

Make a plan

Finally, use the Black Friday ads to your advantage.

Once you have an idea of which products will be deeply discounted — and how long each of these offers will be available — you can make a plan of attack. Use deal expiration dates to create a schedule for which stores you need to hit first, which items you can buy online, and whether you should eat your Thanksgiving dinner or forgo the stuffing for a campout on the sidewalk outside your favorite store.

Courtney Jespersen is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Twitter: @courtneynerd.

 This article first appeared in NerdWallet.

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