Black Friday Will Look Different This Year — Here’s How to Save

The Thanksgiving meal is finished. There’s a copy of the newspaper on the table, along with a thick stack of Black Friday sales flyers. For many families, this feels like a part of the holiday weekend, but what will it be like this year?

For many years, the day after Thanksgiving — also known as Black Friday — has been known as the launch of the holiday shopping season. Many people have the day off, and given the proximity to December’s gift-giving holidays, many people have used the day to get a start on their holiday shopping, and retailers have accommodated, with big sales.

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This year, however, things are different. According to Drive Research, only 16% of Americans plan on shopping in-person on Black Friday in 2020, down 44% from 2019. Why? Over half of American shoppers are avoiding in-person shopping due to health and safety concerns.

What does this mean for those of us who might have traditionally shopped on Black Friday?

In this article

    How COVID-19 affects Black Friday 

    Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the crowds may be smaller. Americans part of the 57% not shopping in person may flock to the internet for deals and smaller store capacity limitations mean less people inside. 

    This doesn’t mean that retailers aren’t doing Black Friday sales at all. Many retailers, such as Wal-Mart, Target, Best Buy, and Kohl’s are having in-store sales on Black Friday — just as in previous years — but are closing on Thanksgiving in 2020.

    However, many of these stores are intentionally spreading out their deals across many days, with most retailers beginning before Thanksgiving. For example, Target has discounts on toys, kitchen items, and electronics throughout the week prior to Black Friday. Other retailers are following a similar pattern, with sales on various items spread throughout the days and weeks around Black Friday.

    [ Read: Managing Winter Blues This Year Amid COVID ]

    And let’s face it: COVID-19 has caused a lot of economic damage, and people are feeling it. Many Americans are struggling to stay afloat financially, as seen by the fact that Americans are simply saving less since COVID-19 arrived on the scene.

    Is Black Friday worth it in 2020?

    The crowds will be smaller and the deals will be more spread out this year, so is Black Friday really worth it in 2020? Here are a few things to consider when making up your mind.

    Black Friday crowds are a health risk

    This is the big issue with Black Friday in 2020. In this summary of research in The Atlantic, most of the advice for minimizing coronavirus risk and spread boil down to one sentence: don’t spend time indoors with other people. Black Friday sales almost directly run counter to that advice. As with everything in 2020, it becomes an assessment of whether the benefit of an event is worth the increased risk, and for many, a few bargains simply don’t add up.

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    Black Friday deals aren’t always that great anyway

    As LA Times puts it, Black Friday deals often aren’t that great. While the sticker price can seem attractive, they’re often for less desirable items, or the desirable items are in such small quantities that few are able to get them. Many retailers have pivoted away to other strategies, particularly this year.

    Consider a targeted approach

    If you’re still wanting to shop on Black Friday, rather than simply going to stores and browsing during Black Friday sales this year, consider a targeted approach. Study the store flyers in advance of shopping, identify any specific bargains that you want, and go to the store solely to acquire those. Don’t stick around, though – don’t browse for more deals, don’t wander around, don’t sign up for the store credit card. This minimizes your time in the store and your coronavirus exposure while letting you get the main items you want. Some stores may also make curbside pickup an option, though you’ll want to check with the exact store before relying on this.

    Alternatives to Black Friday

    Small Business Saturday

    Rather than heading to the big box stores on Friday, wait a day and aim for the smaller stores in your town on Saturday. By their very nature, they’ll be smaller, less crowded environments, and many small businesses offer a variety of sales on Small Business Saturday. It’s a great way to support local retail, particularly during a year when many local stores are struggling mightily. Plus, many local stores are easy to work with if you simply want to do curbside pickup or have an item held for you.

    Cyber Monday

    Many larger online retailers, such as Amazon, lean into Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving. They are typically targeting people returning to work after a holiday weekend who want to finish out their holiday list while it’s at the top of their mind. This year offers an additional bonus: it’s naturally socially distant, so there’s little chance of coronavirus exposure. Be aware, if you’re buying online, give plenty of time for shipping. Shipping companies are going to be extremely burdened this holiday season, likely more than ever before.

    [ See: Your Guide to Holiday Deals and Best Shipping Dates ]

    Online specialty retailers

    There are many, many online specialty retailers that cater to specific interests and niches, and these are often very small businesses themselves. If you know someone has a particular passion, consider heading to an online specialty retailer that focuses on that interest. Do you want a gift for someone who’s into tabletop gaming? Take a look at Miniature Market or CoolStuffInc, for example. Know someone who loves handcrafted soaps? Take a look at Etsy, where lots of individuals are selling their wares.

    Dial down the holidays this year

    A final strategy is to simply dial down the holiday spending this year. There’s no need to bury yourself in holiday debt. Simply dial down the gift-giving this year. Focus on making this holiday memorable with other things — meaningful time together. You can also save money without Black Friday shopping, which will set you up for achieving financial goals in 2021.

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    Trent Hamm

    Founder & Columnist

    Trent Hamm founded The Simple Dollar in 2006 and still writes a daily column on personal finance. He’s the author of three books published by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press, has contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and his financial advice has been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.

    Reviewed by

    • Courtney Mihocik
      Courtney Mihocik
      Loans Editor

      Courtney Mihocik is an editor at The Simple Dollar who specializes in personal loans, student loans, auto loans, and debt consolidation loans. She is a former writer and contributing editor to,, and elsewhere.