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The History of Black Friday and Deals to Watch For

The History of Black Friday and Deals to Watch For

Jenius Bank Team11/8/2023 • Updated 4/4/2024
Woman shopping on her laptop.

Black Friday may help you snag holiday gifts at lower prices.

The holidays are just around the corner and that means it’s time to start shopping. While you may have already gotten a jump on grabbing gifts and stocking stuffers, many people choose to wait until Black Friday in the hopes of snagging great deals.

There’s no denying that Black Friday is one of the biggest shopping events of the year. In fact, more than 160.1 million people shopped Black Friday sales events in 2022.¹

Curious how Black Friday came to be and what deals you should be watching for? Let’s take a look.

Key Takeaways

  • Black Friday is one of the largest sales events of the year and retailers often offer great deals.

  • Most retailers offer Black Friday deals at in-person locations, whereas Cyber Monday deals tend to be online.

  • Some of the top Black Friday deals tend to be on electronics, home items, and technology.

What Is Black Friday?

As you probably know, Black Friday is often seen as the beginning of the holiday shopping season and occurs the Friday after Thanksgiving. During the event, retailers offer steep discounts on popular products in anticipation of the gifting season.

Historically, Black Friday deals were contained to one day, but some retailers have extended deals to start on or before Thanksgiving and often continue them through the weekend and into Cyber Monday.

Why Is It Called Black Friday?

In business, when a company is profitable, they’re said to be operating in the black. For many years, it was said that the term “Black Friday” came from retailers’ books going into the black due to spending on the day after Thanksgiving.²

However, the name was first used for a not-so-great historic event that wasn’t even shopping related. Black Friday originally referred to a market crash that devastated the economy in 1869 when gold prices dropped rapidly.³

The Black Friday we’re familiar with now was first coined by Philadelphia police officers in the 1950s and ‘60s who dreaded traffic on that day. And in the 1980s, retailers started using the term to refer to an increase in sales and profits that happened at the beginning of the holiday season.⁴

Now, Black Friday is synonymous with some of the biggest sales of the year at major retailers across the country.

Black Friday vs Cyber Monday

While Black Friday has been the most popular shopping holiday for decades, Cyber Monday has grown significantly in recent years. Additionally, many stores have started offering sales that last all weekend and into Cyber Monday.

The main difference between the two days is how people shop. Black Friday tends to draw more people to physical locations, while Cyber Monday sales tend to be online.⁵ Black Friday also tends to attract a higher number of shoppers, but statistics show that people often spend more on Cyber Monday.

According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), in 2022 160.1 million Americans shopped on Black Friday and 99.6 million people shopped on Cyber Monday.⁶ In terms of revenue, Adobe Analytics reported sales of $9.12 billion and $11.3 billion respectively.⁷

Some of the difference in sales numbers may be attributable to the types of products purchased on each day as Cyber Monday tends to see more sales on technology.⁸ Some experts also suspect the COVID-19 pandemic may have played a role in the difference. Online shopping sales in 2020, the first year of the pandemic, totaled $815.4 billion, a 43% increase over 2019.⁹ So, could Cyber Monday become the dominate holiday shopping day? Not necessarily. Research shows that consumers often try to take advantage of sales on both days.¹⁰

Preparing for Black Friday Shopping

When it comes to getting ready for Black Friday shopping, it’s important to prepare your finances. Here are a few tips to keep in mind as the shopping season gets closer.

  • Create a List: Think about who’s on your gift list… and what types of gifts you may want to purchase. Once you have a list, sticking to it can help you avoid impulse purchases or spending beyond your comfort level.

  • Budget Ahead: Take the time to create a holiday budget to help you stay on track when shopping. Having a plan in place allows you to be more intentional about your spending and avoiding big surprises (and panic) when the bills arrive.

  • Set Money Aside: The more you save for your holiday shopping, the less you may need to rely on credit cards to cover your purchases. Consider placing money in a dedicated savings account for holiday purchases only.

  • Watch for Ads: Keep an eye out for Black Friday deals early on to help you decide which stores are worth visiting. (Some stores may offer deals days or even weeks before Black Friday!) Scoping out the deals helps to stretch your budget!

Post-Black Friday Money Management Tips

Once Black Friday is over, you can continue with the smart money practices.

  • Tracking: Keep your receipts, both physical and digital. Not only does it help you track your spending, but it also makes potential returns easier.

  • Planning: If you used a credit card or buy-now-pay-later to make purchases, take note of when payments are due and what is owed. Making those payments in full by the due date helps to avoid interest charges or late fees.

  • Consolidating: If you end up spending more than planned and have multiple credit card payments to manage, you may want to consolidate your debt. This could help you lock in a lower rate and reduce the number of payments to track.

The Best Black Friday Deals

While the deals vary from year to year, experts say the top Black Friday scores tend to be in the following categories:¹¹

  • Home items

  • Toys

  • Games

  • Technology

  • Electronics

In addition to these categories, some stores that tend to have major in-store Black Friday sales include:¹²

  • Target

  • Best Buy

  • Walmart

  • Kohls

  • Big Lots

  • Macy’s

  • JCPenney

  • Costco

  • The Home Depot

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, many retailers also offer Black Friday deals online, so be sure to check out your favorite retailers’ websites.

Final Thoughts

Black Friday is one of the most popular shopping days of the year and is often seen as the beginning of the holiday shopping season. Making a plan may help you take advantage of Black Friday deals while still keeping your spending on track.

LifestyleMoney Management