Smart Buying

Where to Find the Best Black Friday Deals

DealNews consumer analyst Julie Ramhold joins our hosts Ryan Ermey and Sandy Block to discuss how to find the best Black Friday deals. The pair also break down all the financial things that we have to be thankful for this year.

Ryan Ermey: 'Tis the season for endless ads touting discounts over Thanksgiving weekend. DealNews analyst Julie Ramhold joins us to dish on the smartest strategies and hottest deals for Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday in our main segment. On today's show, Sandy and I share what the staff here at Kiplinger is thankful for and delve into how to save for retirement if you don't have a 401(k). That's all ahead on this episode of Your Money's Worth. Stick around.

Ryan Ermey: Welcome to Your Money's Worth. I'm Kiplinger's associate editor Ryan Ermey, joined as always by my partner in crime Sandy Block. Sandy, how are you?

Sandy Block: As always, I'm fine, Ryan.

Ryan Ermey: Even better, we're both feeling thankful, grateful on this fine day.

Sandy Block: Gratitude.

Ryan Ermey: It is Thanksgiving week that this podcast is coming out, so we thought that our opening segment here could be about things what we here at Kiplinger are thankful for. We did send out, we tried to send out a bit of a straw poll, see if the staff would help us out. Can't say I'm so thankful to them because they weren't particularly helpful, but a few people did.

Sandy Block: We got some...

Ryan Ermey: Yeah, we did get some that we are going to share with you. One actually, our colleague Miriam Cross actually overlapped with you, I think.

Sandy Block: She did. She stole my gratitude. She said she was-

Ryan Ermey: Unwittingly.

Sandy Block: Unwittingly. It's just we're of the same mind. She said she was thankful for the public library and that was exactly my first item. I think it's really interesting because a lot of people would say in this digital age, libraries are obsolete, but actually, at least in my case, the opposite has happened. Our library has all kinds of digital assets and plus they lend out not just books. They lend out board games. They lend out like garden equipment. I mean, I think they've really kept ahead of the time and they're open until nine o'clock on Sundays. I am very grateful to my public library and Miriam is very grateful for hers, as well.

Ryan Ermey: As we discussed in our recent episode where we touched on all of these streaming services, and there are now more, the public library is a way to stream a lot of content for free, delightfully free really, everything that the library has to offer. A couple people on staff, really a couple of people in the art department, our friends Stacie Harrison and Natalie Kress, both identified services that allow you to send money, peer-to-peer. Natalie was thankful for Venmo, for the fact that she no longer has to send never-ending IOUs. It really is convenient if you're like out at the bar or whatever, just like, oh, two drinks? Here it is. Stacie says that she's grateful that she can send money to her boys away at college instantaneously, well, mostly grateful, she says.

Sandy Block: Our vice president for content Sarah Stevens sort of had a similar shout out in that she was thankful for online banking, which helps her manage bank accounts for other members of her family. I've done that too, and it is a huge convenience. In fact, we've got an upcoming story on preventing elder fraud and we've got a whole section on how you can use online banking to protect older people who might be vulnerable to scams. Yes, we are very thankful for that.

Ryan Ermey: We're going to do a show on that as well. Our fearless leader Mark Solheim, editor in chief of Kiplinger's Personal Finance, is thankful for historically low mortgage rates. He refinanced the summer and lowered his monthly payment by a whopping $260. Impressive. As for me, I am thankful for competition. What I mean by that is that brokers and banks and all of your sort of financial institutions are competing so hard for customer dollars that they're being forced essentially to innovate in ways that benefit customers. Whether it means building user-friendly interfaces, making it easy to do financial business on the go, I mean, that's what Sarah's talking about. I mean, when I do that broker survey it's like the number one thing that brokerage customers talk about is, how can I do all of my business where I want to do it? Financial institutions are really focusing on that.

Ryan Ermey: In the case of brokerages and mutual fund firms in particular, competition has meant lower costs. We've discussed this on the show before, that cost is really one of the number one factors in determining investment outcomes. It's gotten to the point where you can get mutual funds and ETFs for practically nothing, or in the case of Fidelity, actually nothing, no expense ratio, no minimum. As we discussed recently, nearly every major online brokerage now charges no commission to trade stocks and ETFs. As we said, there are a couple of small caveats in terms of there are some hidden costs baked into your investing. That's really always been the case. That's probably always going to be the case, but free investing is good for everyone. Over time, it's born out that the lower you can keep your costs of investing, the better your outcomes over a lifetime of compounding returns.

Ryan Ermey: There you have it. We are actually going to have a more official list of the financial things that Kiplinger is thankful for going up the website. It should be live as you are listening now at Sandy and I are both incredibly thankful for everyone who has tuned into our show over the past year and change that we've been doing it. We are thankful to be able to bring you Kiplinger's brand of time-tested personal finance advice. Once again, thank you so much for listening and please enjoy your Thanksgiving. Coming up, DealNews analyst Julie Ramhold tells you where to find this weekend's hottest deals. Don't go anywhere.

Ryan Ermey: We are back and we're here with Julie Ramhold, who is a consumer analyst at DealNews, and she really is the perfect person for us to be talking to at this time of year because Sandy and I's inbox are flooded with pitches all around Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, all of the deals you could possibly imagine. Julie, thank you so much for coming on.

Julie Ramhold: Oh, it's great to be here. Thank you very much.

Ryan Ermey: I guess the first question is, is Black Friday really just like a lot of hype? Can you get better deals on Thanksgiving or Cyber Monday or even closer to the holiday?

Sandy Block: Or just today?

Ryan Ermey: Yeah, like any time?

Julie Ramhold: I mean, I will say we're already seeing Black Friday deals on Fitbit Versa 2 at Amazon. They didn't even wait for Black Friday to roll around, so if you wanted that, you can get it now.

Ryan Ermey: When it comes to that kind of that... this sort of big shopping weekend, are there certain items that you should be purchasing on Black Friday, or can you get better deals on certain items on the different days around that holiday weekend?

Julie Ramhold: Cyber Monday is going to be really good for, we think, really good for beauty and speakers and toys, which is kind of strange because we also will tell people sometimes not to buy toys yet. Wait until December because we can see some better deals then, but at this point, if you're already shopping on Cyber Monday and you're shopping for toys, just go ahead and check. You might as well. As far as like Thanksgiving and Black Friday goes, that's where all of the electronics are. Electronics are still really big for Black Friday and we're seeing some kind of surprising great deals with the trade war going on. I expected to see higher prices, not as good discounts in general. No, like Best Buy really surprised me when they finally released their ad. They had a 70 inch TV for $550 and it's a Samsung.

Sandy Block: That leads to ... My big question is, I mean, I would, I think, rather chew glass than go out to the stores on Black Friday, but given what you just said, is it really worth going? Is it still worth actually physically going to the stores on Black Friday and fighting the mob to get this TV?

Julie Ramhold: A lot of stores have their doorbusters available online and in store. I personally feel like if you can avoid going into the store, I would do it. I hate going out on that day and I may ... If I can't get an online, I'm just not going to get it.

Sandy Block: It sounds like you're saying that you can sometimes find as good a deals online as you can in the stampede.

Julie Ramhold: Oh yeah, absolutely. That TV deal at Best Buy is supposed to be available both online and in store.

Ryan Ermey: If I'm sort of looking over, I mean, say, DealNews's content or looking at all of the sales offers that are going to be available, how can I go about kind of making a plan for completing my holiday shopping list over the kind of Black Friday weekend?

Julie Ramhold: The big thing is to start looking at the ads now. If you haven't looked at them yet, go ahead and start looking at them now. Most of the big ones are out. Walmart, Target, Amazon, Best Buy, all those are already out. Amazon's isn't super helpful. It's kind of vague in places, but it is out. If you're putting together the strategy now, like make a budget, look at the ads, figure out all the stores that are going to be carrying what you're looking at, because if you do decide to go in store or even if you're shopping online and something sells out, odds are there's another store that has that item for the same price most of the time. Some things are going to be a little more exclusive.

Sandy Block: Julie, we've been reporting that forecast that consumer spending is supposed to be pretty strong this season. The economy is good. What does that mean for sales? Does that mean companies don't have to work as hard or are there still going to be as many sales as we've seen in the past?

Julie Ramhold: I'll say we were sort of expecting lackluster sales too. All of our research leading up to it, paying attention to the tariffs and everything, we really expected to see just kind of modest discounts. For some things there are, but it still feels like Black Friday to me. If I didn't know there was a trade war going on, I wouldn't have expected ... I wouldn't have known anything was different just looking at the ads. They're saying, I think, that consumers are expected to spend 4% more this year than last year. Apparently everybody else is like, this is cool, the deals are good, we will still shop.

Ryan Ermey: I mean, one of the things that I think about is like for instance, I'd bet just about anything that the Instant Pot is going to be something that's on sale this Black Friday or Cyber Monday or what have you, but I feel like I see a deal for an Instant Pot every other week. Are there items that we expect to receive discounts that rarely go on sale that will be discounted over Black Friday?

Julie Ramhold: Apple and Nintendo are two brands that are really stingy with their discounts, especially if you're shopping direct from them, but I will say that the latest iPad is going to be $250, or starting at $250, from a few different stores, which is better than we expected. Also, the Apple Watch Series 3, which is technically two generations behind now, is going to be $129 at Walmart, which is insane to us because that's a super low price for an Apple Watch of any generation.

Ryan Ermey: Right. What about Nintendo? Because I do have a nine-year-old nephew.

Sandy Block: No, he doesn't. He's lying. He wants it for himself.

Julie Ramhold: Okay, look, I have a Switch. I love the Switch. It is awesome. The big thing is that there's not going to be any discounts on the Switch this year. Last year we saw some pretty good discounts, but they just upgraded the hardware. We're not seeing the same discounts this year, but we are seeing bundles around the price of like $300, which sounds like a lot, but they're at least coming with a free game and so it's not quite list price. You're basically getting the game for free.

Ryan Ermey: Alright, well listen, before we let you go, we'd be remiss because I talk about this when we have like investing people on or mutual fund people, that well, we can't let you go without making some stock picks. I guess for a deal person like yourself, for a consumer analyst, give the people a couple exciting sales that they should be on the lookout for.

Julie Ramhold: Amazon has said that it's taking 40% off the Lego Millennium Falcon set, the Ultimate Lego Millennium Falcon set. That is the $800 set, so 40% off is crazy good for something like that. If I had the room and not three cats, I would totally get it and put it together.

Ryan Ermey: I think I was probably six-years-old. I didn't get the Lego one, but I got, call it like a two and a half foot Millennium Falcon. It really is still one of the greatest Christmas gifts I've ever received.

Julie Ramhold: Oh, yeah.

Ryan Ermey: It's in pieces now at my parents' house because I actually played with that thing, but all right, anyone with kids, go out and get the Millennium Falcon. If not, as Julie said, make sure that you take a look at all of the sales that are running. Make a plan for Thanksgiving weekend. Julie, one more thing before we let you go. See? This is what I'm talking about. Julie, one more thing before we let you go. Tell the people where they can find all of the stuff that you're working on.

Julie Ramhold:

Ryan Ermey: It's that simple. Okay, Julie, thank you so much.

Sandy Block: Thank you.

Julie Ramhold: Thank you.

Ryan Ermey: Even if you don't have a 401(k) from a corporate job, you still have options for saving for retirement. Sandy explains next.

Ryan Ermey: We're back. Before we go, a new explain it like I'm five segment, which is especially appropriate this week because I genuinely don't know a lot about the topic that Sandy is going to be explaining to me. A lot of our coverage revolves around saving for retirement or investing for people who already have a kind of corporate job and who have vehicles to save for retirement through their workplace, but some 30% of employers don't offer retirement benefits to employees. More and more people, it seems, make a living through the gig economy or freelancing or contracting. Sandy, how do these people save for retirement?

Sandy Block: There's lots of ways to do it. Let's say up front, it's harder to save when you're not having money automatically taken out of your paycheck every week.

Ryan Ermey: Right.

Sandy Block: You don't spend... You do have to make more of an effort, but there are a lot of very tax-advantaged ways to save for retirement if you don't have a 401(k). The easiest right out the door is just to contribute to an individual retirement account. If you don't have a 401k plan at your job, no matter how much money you make, you can deduct that contribution. That obviously will lower your tax bill, make you feel better. In 2020, you can contribute that to $6,000 or $7,000 if you're 50 or older. That's probably the easiest way. If you would rather pay taxes now and then not pay them later, you can contribute to a Roth, which is after tax money, but if you wait until you're retired, you can take all that money out and it's tax free. That's probably the... Any brokerage firm that Ryan can tell you about will let you set up an IRA. Many of them have very low minimums or no minimums so you can get started. That's probably the most straight forward way.

Sandy Block: If you work for yourself, you can save a whole lot more. In fact, you can save way more than people who have a 401(k) at work. Again, it depends on how much money you make and how much you have to save, but let's be aspirational here.

Ryan Ermey: Why not?

Sandy Block: If you have a ... You can set up what's known as a Solo 401(k). With a Solo 401(k), which again, you can set up at any brokerage firm, you can save up to $57,000 or 63,500 in 2020 if you happen to make that much and have that much to save.

Ryan Ermey: Right.

Sandy Block: Now granted, most people aren't making that kind of dough, but again, you can save a lot. These things used to be kind of pricey, but now they're everywhere and you can get a low cost one.

Ryan Ermey: That higher number you quoted, is that if you're 50 plus?

Sandy Block: 50 or older, right.

Ryan Ermey: It's like a catch up contribution.

Sandy Block: Right. That's the catch up. It's styled very much like a 401(k) you have with your job, but you can put away a whole lot more. I don't know how many people can stash away that much money, but you can stash away a lot more than with a traditional IRA. That's something to think about if you have a business of your own.

Sandy Block: The last thing I want to mention is called a SEP IRA. You can't save quite as much as with a Solo 401(k), but you can put aside about a quarter of your net income in this account. It's tax deferred, again. A SEP is popular with people who might want to hire, if you're...

Ryan Ermey: Right, if you own a small business and you have some employees...

Sandy Block: Right, then you want to do a SEP because then you can offer it to them. If you are self-employed and plan to be self-employed forever, the Solo 401(k) is a better choice, but we have a whole rundown of all this in our January issue. Our colleague Rivan Stinson has sort of given you a roadmap for doing it. The fact that your company doesn't offer you a 401(k), don't use that as an excuse not to save. There are many ways to do it.

Ryan Ermey: Well, and the last thing that she mentions in that story is that some states actually are starting to sponsor retirement plans.

Sandy Block: Right. This is because there are a lot of people very concerned about numbers that show that when people don't have a retirement savings plan at work, they don't save and they get to retirement and they're not prepared. A bunch of states, and we've got a box sort of lining this out, have set up these low cost plans that sort of resemble IRAs, but basically the advantage of these plans is that the money will be deducted from your paycheck. That really... numerous studies have shown that that is a great way to get people to save because you can't spend what you don't have. States are sort of trying to fill in the gap of companies. These are for people who have a job but don't have a 401(k). Usually that's with small employers.

Ryan Ermey: Right. You know what? I do have one more question.

Sandy Block: Because you're five.

Ryan Ermey: Because I'm five and what do I know? A regular... A 401(k) that you'd get at work has a sort of menu of investment options in it, usually mutual funds. An IRA, as I know, because I'm the rare five year old who has an IRA... It's very rare that a five year old is in the workforce, but in my case I have one, and so I know that you can invest in just about anything that a brokerage will offer in a traditional IRA. When it comes to the Solo 401k, is it the same sort of deal? You can invest in whatever you want?

Sandy Block: Sure. Yeah, because basically... again, shop around.

Ryan Ermey: Right.

Sandy Block: I mean, you can open a Solo 401k with many financial firms. Yeah, that could be... If you're savvy and interested in the markets, that's an advantage because when you work for somebody, you're pretty much locked into whatever they offer you, their menu of...

Ryan Ermey: Right. It might not be great.

Sandy Block: It might not be great. Yeah, you have a lot more choice here. If you're actually an interested and active investor, having your own account is ... You can be a lot more proactive.

Ryan Ermey: Okay. Like we said, January issue of Kiplinger's Personal Finance has a rundown of all this stuff. In general, I think that Sandy and I are going to try to pepper in a little bit more content for people who don't have a traditional job, who don't have a corporate job, because it's becoming a bigger and bigger part of our workforce, people who work for themselves, people who freelance, people who are part of the gig economy. This is something that we are going to be thinking about moving forward. Stay tuned.

Ryan Ermey: That's it for this episode of Your Money's Worth. For show notes and more great Kiplinger content on the topics we discussed on today's show, visit You can stay connected with us on Twitter, Facebook or by e-mailing us at If you liked the show, please remember to rate, review and subscribe to Your Money's Worth wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks for listening.

Links and resources mentioned in this episode

Most Popular

What Are the Income Tax Brackets for 2022 vs. 2021?
tax brackets

What Are the Income Tax Brackets for 2022 vs. 2021?

Depending on your taxable income, you can end up in one of seven different federal income tax brackets – each with its own marginal tax rate.
September 20, 2022
Your Guide to Roth Conversions
Special Report
Tax Breaks

Your Guide to Roth Conversions

A Kiplinger Special Report
February 25, 2021
I’ve Inherited a Lot of Money. Now What?
estate planning

I’ve Inherited a Lot of Money. Now What?

First, put all major decisions on hold. A financial planner can help you come up with a plan that addresses your goals, dreams and needs.
September 25, 2022


How Much Does Amazon Prime Cost (And Is It Worth It?)
Amazon Prime

How Much Does Amazon Prime Cost (And Is It Worth It?)

Plenty of prices are higher in 2022 and membership in Amazon Prime (up 17%) is no exception. Are you still getting your money’s worth? We’ll test the …
September 22, 2022
The Best Cash-Back Credit Cards
Smart Buying

The Best Cash-Back Credit Cards

Not interested in miles, points or other perks from your credit card? For those who want money back with a minimum of games, these cash-back cards are…
September 19, 2022
How to Spend $1,000: Find Cheap (or Free) Online Courses
Smart Buying

How to Spend $1,000: Find Cheap (or Free) Online Courses

There's a huge array of skill-building online courses that can level up your career for under $1,000.
September 12, 2022
How to Invest $1,000: Loan to Kiva
Smart Buying

How to Invest $1,000: Loan to Kiva

What could be better than donating to a good cause? Making that donation a loan and recycling it, re-investing after each repayment.
September 9, 2022