Black Friday: no one really knows what it’s about, where it came from or what it expects from us. Make no mistake, though - Black Friday doesn’t care whether you understand it or not. All it wants is your Christmas cash, and it’ll do some crazy stuff to get it. Since this financial feeding frenzy’s become an established thing in the UK now, here’s a quick guide to getting the best from it.

It’s not just about gifts and gadgets

When most people think about Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals, they’re mostly imagining sudden, inexplicable price drops on premium items like technology. Games consoles, big-screen TVs and powerful phones are always popular this time of year. If you know where to look, though, there’s plenty else on offer at slashed-down price points.

Take travel, for instance. Airlines and holiday firms have been bitten pretty hard by the Black Friday bug in recent years. Hundreds of pounds were sliced off holidays across the board at Thomas Cook last year. Other firms knocked down prices on selected trips all over the world, or offered discounted hotel stays at up to 50% off.

This year, destinations across Europe are looking pretty tasty, and it’s worth keeping an eye on USA offers too. Many airline and travel companies put dedicated Black Friday pages up, so a quick scout around could be well worth your time.

Planning is everything

We always advise shopping around at RIFT. You can’t just expect to blunder into the best deals without the proper legwork, and a little forethought can mean a lot of cash saved.

Surveys show about half of the UK’s Black Friday shoppers aren’t making any kind of plan at all. Getting a great price on something you weren’t already thinking of buying still means spending money you didn’t need to.

It’s easy to get suckered into the too-good-to-be-true atmosphere, but a quick check can often reveal those deals to be less amazing than they seemed. Getting that £100 gadget for £75 is great value on Black Friday, but if it’s £20 cheaper online with free delivery then you’ve still missed out.

Don’t accept second-best

Occasionally, a bargain may not really be a bargain at all. Both online and brick-and-mortar stores have been known to play a little fast and loose with their “special offers”.

Prices change all the time, particularly online, so the Black Friday deal might still be more than you would have paid a month or two earlier.

If you’ve got an Amazon wishlist, for instance, you’ve probably seen this happen many times. The website will tell you how much the price of an item has changed since you added it to your list, but that number will go up and down throughout the year.

Knowing when to pull the trigger and buy it is more art than science, of course. Just don’t assume that waiting until Black Friday will always net you the greatest saving.

Then there are the flat-out scams…

Sad to say, the pre-Christmas sales are a prime hunting ground for online fraudsters and other cybercriminals.

One minute you’re reading an email from a courier saying there’s a problem with your delivery. The next, you’re entering your online shopping details on a fraudulent website. You might also find yourself opening an “invoice attachment”, only to dump a payload of ransomware onto your computer.

You’ve got to be wary of this kind of thing all year round, obviously, but the year-end shopping bloodbath is a target-rich environment for the internet’s bad guys. If you need to log into, say, your Amazon account, open up a browser window rather than clicking an email link.

Keep your guard up this Black Friday and Cyber Monday and there’s no reason why you couldn’t come away with some fantastic bargains. Stay safe, enjoy the madness and check back here for more survival guides from RIFT.

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