Here's my Black Friday checklist to make sure I buy the best deals

Finding deals is easy during Black Friday, but finding the best ones takes a little planning

Checklist for shopping deals
(Image credit: Getty Images)

There's a certain frenzy that develops over the Black Friday deals. Even the smallest of discounts on the right products can lead to people throwing their credit cards at the cashiers (at least virtually) without thinking twice. But how do you know if you're really getting a bargain?

The discounted listed against the original price is often only a small part of the story. Prices often fluctuate throughout the year and may well have been lower in the past. The product may be coming towards the end of its lifecycle, due to a newer model being available, or it might be that this version wasn't all it was cracked up to be in the first place. 

A successful deal purchaser comes to the table with knowledge. Knowledge about the product, how much it has really sold for in the past, and what else is out there that compares to it. 

As not only a seasoned deal shopper, but also as a regular writer of deals, I'm going to share with you a few of my checks that I will always do before buying a discounted product – whether it's on Black Friday or any other time of year.  It might look like a long process, but with practise, it can all be done in a few minutes. 

1. Check the reviews

The first place I always go when deciding whether to buy a product is the reviews. That can be the buyer reviews (which you should always take with a pinch of salt) or the professional reviews. 

T3 reviews a massive range of products, so I'll check our own back catalogue first, but if it's something not in our wheel house, I'll find another reputable brand online that has given it a proper hands-on review. You can normally tell pretty quickly if they haven't used it. 

Not only will the review tell you how good the product is, but it will normally give you a guide to where it sits in the market, and the products it compares to. All this is useful later on. 

2. Check the competition

The chances are, your chosen product isn't the only one of its kind in the market. For any one device there's likely to be a competitor from another brand, or even a more budget or premium alternative from the same company. There could even be older or newer versions of your product available.

Doing this allows you to get a few options to chose from when it comes to the final decision. Make a note of these other models, as you'll want to include them in the next part of the process. And if you ultimately like one of them more, you will want to check its reviews too. 

3. Delve a little deeper into the price

The term list price or RRP is normally that which is suggest by the manufacturer or at least the price of the item when it first went on sale. If your product has been on sale for some time, it might not have sold at this price for months or even years, so that discount figure could be a little misleading. 

There are various ways to see the price history of an item. Firstly, the reviews will often give you a guide of how much it's really selling for. There are also a number of price tracking websites that allow you to get a detailed range of prices that anything has sold for. For Amazon, The CamelCamelCamel site is a handy option and even has a widget available for Chrome. 

A general search for the product name will also allow you to see how much it's selling for on other websites. I look not only at the current selling price, but also how much it says it has been marked down from as a guide – as some websites are more honest than others. 

4. Compile your info

By now you will have an idea of which is the best product, or maybe a couple of options that would work for you, and an idea of how much they have been selling for. With this info you can now work out whether you're actually getting a decent discount. 

Always look at discounts in terms of money rather than percentage. A 20% reduction on a cheap product could be just a few pounds/dollars, while a 5% saving on something pricier could mean hundreds lopped off the bill. 

5. Timing is everything

The final key part to bagging a bargain is knowing when to pull the trigger – or rather, hit the checkout. Buy too soon and you could see the price drop lower still, but wait too long and the price may go back up, or the product could go out of stock. 

The best plan is to set a level at which you are willing to buy. If it drops below a certain price, you'll definitely buy it, and until it does, you're willing to wait and maybe miss out. 

Most deals will generally get better the closer to big sales days you get, so a deal a week out from Black Friday might be worth waiting on. But if it's something you really want, how much are you willing to risk? 

Mat Gallagher

As T3's Editor-in-Chief, Mat Gallagher has his finger on the pulse for the latest advances in technology. He has written about technology since 2003 and after stints in Beijing, Hong Kong and Chicago is now based in the UK. He’s a true lover of gadgets, but especially anything that involves cameras, Apple, electric cars, musical instruments or travel.