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Amazon shopping tips and tricks: how to get the best bargains on Black Friday

(Image credit: Amazon)

Amazon is the first place most of us head when looking to buy something online because it sells just about everything. 

It's also the first stop when looking for deals during Black Friday 2019

However, if you don’t spend hours each month browsing its virtual aisles, you might not know about some of the quickest ways to get around and find what you're after on the site. 

We have some solid gold Amazon Black Friday shopping tips and tricks for you. We’ll cover the basics, for those who barely stray beyond the search bar, to some strategies for the serial bargain hunter out to fine-tune their skills. 

Lightning Deals on Amazon. Image Credit: Future Screenshot.

Here's how Lightning Deals will show up on Amazon (Image credit: Future Screenshot)

Lightning deals explained

Here’s one of the basic elements of shopping for Amazon deals. Many of you will already know all about Lightning Deals. 

These are the Amazon bargains designed to get our hearts racing, with limited time and a limited stock allocation. They flick the “scarcity” switch in your brain, but also tend to offer the best deals found on Amazon. 

If you’re interested in a deal that might run out soon — you can judge by looking at the stock indicator versus the time left — add it to your cart. There’s no immediate obligation to buy, and just earmarking a Lightning Deal like this gives you a 15-minute grace period. 

This is designed to allow for a chilled-out checkout and lets you enter your card details without adrenaline making you type all the wrong credit card numbers. But it is long also enough to let you ask yourself some serious questions about whether you really need an inflatable sumo suit just because it is on sale at 80% off. 

Unlike some other retailers, Amazon has a great live stock system, so when one of these deals is in your basket, it’s yours (the Amazon Warehouse stock system seems to be slightly different). 

Image Credit: Amazon

(Image credit: Amazon)

The benefits of Prime

Here’s another basic tip for beginners. Amazon is so keen on getting you to sign up to Prime, there are now deals only Prime members get “early access” to. It’s usually a 30-minute head start. 

Just because a deal is in Prime Early Access, it doesn’t guarantee it’s one of Amazon’s best at that point. But during Black Friday and other promo periods, it can mean the difference between a snagging and missing a star deal. 

To find them select Today’s Deals in the top nav bar, then Prime Early Access deals. These shortcuts are available in the desktop site. The mobile one is more restrictive, so select “desktop site” in your browser settings if you’re using a phone. 

You can sign up for Prime at the point at which you buy, and Amazon often offers trial memberships. Prime is not a bad deal in itself, though. It costs $119 (£79, $54AU) and includes free postage and packing at Amazon, access to the Netflix-a-like Prime Video service, around 1000 books/magazines and two million songs. 

Amazon's Upcoming deals. Image Credit: Future Screenshot.

Here's why you'll find the Upcoming deals. (Image credit: Future Screenshot)

Head straight to the upcoming deals page

During events like Black Friday, which is packed with time-limited deals, you need to know not just what’s on sale right now, but what's coming up. 

To see these future deals only, select the Upcoming tick box in the nav bar to the left of the Amazon Deals page. It’s under the Availability subhead (you’ll need to be using your laptop, or the desktop site on mobile). 

You can see when the deal begins by each listing. It should read “starts for you at”, followed by the time. Set a timer on your phone for a few minutes before it kicks off to make sure you don’t miss it. 

Custom categories on Amazon. Image Credit: Future Screenshot

An example of custom categories. (Image credit: Future Screenshot)

Bookmark your custom tech deals page

There’s a whole section of Amazon devoted to deals. And if you just want to see an overview of today’s new price-drops, that’s where you should head. It is part of the top nav bar, “deals” on mobile, “today’s deals” on desktop. 

However, you can also get advanced. Use the tick boxes to the left side of the deals navigation bar to select the areas of tech that interest you (and others, if you must). 

You can bookmark this specific URL, so that when you return you’ll only see deals from the categories that interest you. No more dishwasher tablets or boxes of fish food to filter out. 

CamelCamelCamel’s browser plug-in. Image Credit: Future Screenshot

Here's CamelCamelCamel’s browser plug-in in action. (Image credit: Future Screenshot)

Check prices on CamelCamelCamel

CamelCamelCamel is the ultimate resource for checking out the legitimacy of Amazon deals. It looks like a website designed about 15 years ago, but this is a powerful tool. 

Paste a URL or type keywords in its search bar and you can get the price history of products, going back years. It’s a great way to tell if something ever really sold for its “recommended” price, or if the deal price is actually what it spends 90% of the year at. 

Even better, you can get CamelCamelCamel’s data as a browser plug-in for Firefox or Chrome on your laptop. It’s fantastic, and called the Camelizer. Whenever you’re on an Amazon product page, a little camel icon will appear next to the address bar. Click it and the historical price graph will appear as a pop-up. 

This might be the fastest way to appraise an Amazon deal. 

Amazon's Assistant. Image Credit: Future Screenshot

Amazon's Assistant (Image credit: Future)

Consider using Amazon Assistant

Amazon also makes its own browser plug-in, called Amazon Assistant. We don’t like this quite as much as the Calmelizer, but it does come in handy in different situations.

It can pop-up Amazon’s prices when you look up a product on a search engine or end up on another retailer’s product page or search results. These are auto pop-ups, so you may want to prune back the situations in which Amazon Assistant is given free rein to do so. You’ll find these controls in the Settings part of Amazon Assistant. 

However, it does avoid a lot of the tab-skipping involved with comparing deals between sites. It’s also available for a bunch more browsers than the Camelizer. Even Microsoft Edge lords can use it. 

Sign up to the deals newsletter

Amazon sends out a daily deals newsletter. We like to think of this as a way to keep up with the latest deals that doesn’t involve going to the site itself, which can end up taking up a lot more time than you originally planned. 

Think newsletters are a bit 2011? So did we, but they seem to be making a comeback in some areas. 

Amazon Warehouse. Image Credit: Future Screenshot.

This is the Amazon Warehouse – where you’ll find cut-price offers on returned Amazon items. (Image credit: Future Screenshot)

Don’t forget Amazon Warehouse

Amazon Warehouse is one of the best places for Amazon deals, although perhaps not during special periods like Black Friday. These tend to take place on the other, ordinary side of Amazon, unless there’s a (very rare) Warehouse-wide discount. 

The Warehouse is where you’ll find cut-price offers on returned Amazon items, or ones that for some reason aren’t considered ready for normal sale. There might be some packaging damage, for example. 

Use the search drop-down menu at the top of the Amazon site (desktop) and select Amazon Warehouse. This filters out the results so all the normal buys are left out. When you select a product in the results, you’ll see the number of “used offers” listed by the price. This tells you how many are in stock. Select this and you’ll see a run-down of their condition, usually from “Good” to “Like New”.

We’ve had mixed results with Warehouse. Once a part was missing, another time a drum stool was shipped with that appeared to be part of a wheelchair. But sometimes Warehouse deals are gold.