NerdWallet: What to buy and what to skip on Black Friday

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The day that discount shoppers have waited for all year is practically here.

Black Friday — the day after Thanksgiving — has long been touted as one of the best times of the year for buying just about anything.

But despite huge sales at nearly every retailer, it won’t be all deals during the 2019 post-Turkey Day shopping bonanza. Our guide can help you steer clear of the duds and get only the best bargains this Nov. 29.

Buy: Apple products

Traditionally, major retail stores such as Best Buy, BBY, +1.11%   Target TGT, -0.40%   and Walmart WMT, -0.66%   discount Apple AAPL, +0.27%   products each year on Black Friday, and previous-generation models usually see the most dramatic deals. These offers may include price cuts, free gift cards with purchase or a combination of both. This year, look for deals on MacBooks, iMacs, iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches and Apple TVs.

Target devoted an entire page of its 2018 Black Friday ad to Apple. The Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS) started at $199.99, and select App Store and iTunes gift cards were buy one, get one 30% off.

Skip: Toys

Toys are one of the seasonal purchase staples, but you might want to think twice before checking them off your list on Black Friday. Historically, it’s best to wait until closer to Christmas to purchase dolls, action figures and play sets. You run the risk that certain items will sell out, but you may also be able to find bigger savings on what’s left.

See: Target aims to fill the void left by Toys ‘R’ Us with 250,000 square feet dedicated to toys

In past years, select toys have been on sale for as much as 50% off in the final days before Christmas.

Buy: Gaming system bundles

Black Friday is for gamers just as much as it is for shoppers. This year, look for savings on videogames and videogame systems from retailers such as Best Buy, Walmart and GameStop GME, -2.09%  . You’ll also find particularly great offers on gaming bundles. Traditionally, these include the game console plus a combination of accessories and sometimes games.

Last year, for example, Best Buy sold the Microsoft MSFT, +1.18%   Xbox One X 1TB Gold Rush Special Edition Battlefield V Bundle for $429.99 with a free select Xbox One wireless controller with purchase.

Skip: Christmas decorations

You’ve likely seen the blowout post-Christmas clearance sales every year on Dec. 26 as you made your way to the store to return that gift that missed the mark. That’s when Christmas decorations, wrapping paper, tinsel and other seasonal trimmings reach super low prices (for obvious reasons).

Also see: Target jumps on holiday deals due to shortened shopping season

If you can’t wait until after Christmas, hold off for a little while. Sure, you’ll see plenty of deals on artificial trees and rolls of wrapping paper on Black Friday — especially at home and craft stores — but retailers are particularly eager to slash prices closer to Dec. 25.

Buy: Electronics (TVs, tablets and smartphones)

Low-price electronics deals are a Black Friday staple. Last year, Target sold a 55-inch TV in stores for only $199.99. Walmart had a 40-inch TV for just $99.

No matter where you choose to spend your Black Friday (or Thanksgiving), you’re almost guaranteed to find TV door-busters. Other electronics deals to keep an eye out for are tablets and smartphones. In the past, some retailers offered free gift cards (in amounts as substantial as $400) with a qualifying phone purchase on an installment plan.

Skip: Bedding

You’ve got the entertainment center covered, but consider hesitating before stocking up on supplies to refresh the look of your bedroom this Black Friday.

The lowest prices on bedding and linens have been known to appear in January during what are called “white sales,” so hold off until then if you can. Discounts at that time can hit 70%. Past white sales have taken place at retailers such as Overstock OSTK, -2.22%  , Pottery Barn and Sears SHLDQ, +8.98%  .

Buy: Videogames, CDs, DVDs

If you’re in need of some affordable stocking stuffers, look no further than the videogame, CD, DVD and Blu-ray department at most major retailers this Black Friday.

You’ll find films and gaming titles deeply discounted from their original prices. In 2018, Walmart had over 110 movie titles for $1.96 apiece.

Skip: Outdoor essentials

You won’t see too many grills or patio furniture sets plastered on the front pages of Black Friday ads this year. That’s because, not surprisingly, outdoor products and patio furniture are deeply discounted immediately after summer ends.

If you didn’t pick up these products at the close of this summer, wait until Labor Day sales roll around next year. Can’t wait until then? Another viable option is the Spring Black Friday Sale that home improvement store Lowe’s LOW, +1.24%   usually holds each year.

Buy: Home appliances

No secret here. Black Friday is well known for its offers of huge savings on washers, dryers, refrigerators and major kitchen appliances. It’s common for retailers to mark down home appliances by 40%. Look for similar deep discounts again this year.

And if you’re in the market for smaller appliances such as coffee makers, mixers, blenders or vacuum cleaners, you’ll find those, too. Expect deals this year from department stores such as Kohl’s KSS, +0.53%  , Macy’s M, -2.10%   and JCPenney. JCP, -0.96%  

Skip: Winter clothing

Fall and winter clothing generally isn’t the best value on Black Friday. Jeans, for instance, see big sales in October, and retailers frequently offer big clearance sales on jackets when winter gives way to spring.

But if you need something to keep you warm before then, you’ll be able to find some bargains this Black Friday. Year after year, department stores have offered door-buster deals on women’s boots. In the past, select pairs have been just $19.99 each.

Buy: Travel deals

Whether it’s hotel rooms, ski lift tickets or airfare, you can expect bargains on travel this Black Friday and Cyber Monday (Dec. 2). Check for deals from online travel sites and major airlines. In the past, most of these promotions were available for a very limited time. You’ll likely have to book during that window and travel during an allotted period.

Skip: Mail-in rebates

If you want to avoid some of the hassles related to Black Friday shopping, resist deals that require a mail-in rebate. Unless you’re disciplined enough to fill out the form, you could end up paying more than you intended.

Related: How to get up to 20% cash back from retailers like Home Depot, Macy’s and Amazon on Thursday

Always read the fine print; some kitchen appliances, electronics and other popular items may require you to fill out a mail-in rebate to achieve the advertised price. In the past, Kohl’s, for example, offered some small kitchen electrics for $9.99 — but that was after a $12 mail-in rebate.

Buy: Online door-busters

Finally, for the ultimate combination of convenience and savings, spring for online door-busters this year. Plenty of big-box retailers will be bringing their door-busters online this Thanksgiving and Black Friday.

Don’t miss: Why you shouldn’t leave your couch on Black Friday

That’s good news for shoppers, but take precautions when shopping on your phone or laptop, such as making sure you’re not on public Wi-Fi.

If you do Black Friday shopping from the comfort of your own home, you’ll usually also enjoy free shipping. Or, you can choose to make your purchases online and pick them up at the store.

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Courtney Jespersen is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: Twitter: @CourtneyNerd.