For most of us, Thanksgiving this year is a bit odd. If we’re together with family, it is hard to fully suppress the thought that one of them might not be unwittingly spreading the virus to others of us. And if we’re alone, having surrendered to the threat of an invisible enemy that most of us have not had any first hand encounter with; our prudence, while sensible, surely feels joyless.
Happily there’s another part of the Thanksgiving tradition that we can still fully partake of, and from the comfort and safety of our own homes. The Black Friday bargains.
Remember when Black Friday started on, well, Friday? And then it would start at midnight Thursday/Friday? Then Thursday evening? Now there have been a series of early releases of Black Friday specials all week, and it seems that essentially everything that will be on sale, online, has now been announced.
Black Friday this year is less exciting than last year, because we’re barely a month after Amazon’s “Prime Day” sale – a sale that lasted a week and was copied by many other online sellers. So all of us who bought Alexa Echo units, discounted televisions, security cameras, and so on a month ago are now glancing at very similar sales today and then clicking away.
But we did find several stand-out deals of interest. And particularly now we’re all starting to think not just of bargains for ourselves but also gifts for others come Christmastime, maybe something you skipped a month ago is now more tempting.
Cell Phones and Service
As you may recall, I’ve had recent frustrations in trying to deal with Google’s Fi support (for example, this). I can’t say it isn’t the worst in the industry, only because I’ve not interacted with all the other major wireless carriers, but I will say it is hard to conceive how any other company could provide worse customer service.
But, their Fi phone service remains the very best out there for some types of users, including me. If you don’t use a lot of data, and don’t have a lot of family plan members, and especially if you want to have cellular data on your tablets and other devices too, then their Fi service is unbeatable.
They also, once or twice a year, offer stunning discounts on cell phones. This year is no exception and there are three brilliant bargains in particular worth mentioning.
The brand new Google Pixel 4a (5G) is reduced from $499 to $299/$349 (for new/current Fi customers). The nearly new Samsung A71 5G is reduced from $599 to $249 for everyone. The Moto G Stylus is reduced from $299 to free. Details here.
I’d bought a Samsung A71 for $429 from Amazon during their Prime Day specials, and they are selling it for $500 as a Black Friday deal. So the $249 price through Google is clearly a stunning bargain.
But I think, for me, I’d buy the Pixel 4a 5G, for two reasons. Faster updates when new versions of Android come out, and no never-ending battle between Samsung apps and Google apps on the phone. However, if you’re already accustomed to the Samsung overlays on top of standard Android, you’ll love the A71 5G.
Alexa Echo Devices
Two products caught our eye. The first is the latest set of discounts on the lovely Echo Dot units. Third generation Echo Dot units (which are every bit as good as the fourth generation units, just a different design style) are selling for $19. You can buy them alone for $19, or with an included “smart light bulb” for the same $19 price, or with an included smart plug for $24.
An interesting thing we noted was that the third generation Echo Dot is out of stock, but more are coming in December and January. Our guess is that Amazon isn’t just selling off old stock at a discount, but is continuing to make more, selling it as a loss-leader to encourage people into their Alexa eco-system, while also offering the $50 fourth generation Echo Dot for people willing to pay more for the same thing. (Note the fourth generation Echo Dot is also on sale, for $29, and is in stock.)
The other product which we’re growing to like more and more are their Echo Show units – units with a video camera and screen as well as microphone and speakers. You can physically block the camera’s vision if that is a concern.
We have the 5.5″ screen version, which gives us a good visual display, but is too small to enjoy watching video on. The Echo Show 5 is on sale for $45, which is a great price, but we’d recommend spending $20 more to get the enormously bigger 8″ screened Echo Show 8. That is $65, or $70 with a smart plug, and also available for $70 with a indoor security camera. The Echo Show 8 with the indoor security camera would be our first choice, but if you already have all the security cameras you need, then get the smart plug option instead.
If you want to lightly dip your toe into the water of Echo Show devices, maybe get an Echo Show 5, but in that case, still choose the Echo Show 5 with security camera which is only $5 more.
The security cameras can be viewed via the Echo Show units, as can their Ring doorbell cameras, video calls with other people, and regular streaming video. Amazon is slowly figuring out how to make use of the screens on these units, and we’re slowly shifting from basic Echo Dots to Echo Show units as a result.
If you’re new to Echo devices (or even if you’re not!), be sure to download our guide to Alexa commands here. Chances are there’s something in that guide you didn’t know about before, and will find helpful into the future.
We used to love the Roku streaming boxes, and still do.
But we love our Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K even more, because it is so much easier to use, and has Alexa built into it as well. And, another reason – because it is stunningly good value, and at present, it is discounted from $50 to $30. Sure, there are less expensive Fire TV Sticks too for $28 and $18), but you’re best advised to “splurge” and get the best of the three units, even if you don’t yet have a 4K television.
Amazon has discounted its top of the line 10.1″ Fire HD 10 tablet down to $80 again, the same as it was on Prime Day. I know a lot of readers bought these tablets a month ago, but if you missed out, or if you love your new $80 big-screen tablet and want more of them, here’s another chance.
Do you have either a regular pressure cooker or one of the modern “Instant Pot” type multi-function cookers? I remember how, when a child, my mother used her pressure cooker nearly every day as part of preparing the evening meal, and I’ve always been puzzled why they seemed to go out of fashion.
The new style of multi-function free-standing pressure cooker are introducing a new generation to the benefits of pressure cooking. I got an Instant Pot a while ago as a way of moving back to pressure cooking, and love it.
The Instant Pot line of pressure cookers are usually on sale at times like Black Friday and this year is no exception. But there are so many different models and options, it is hard to know which one to choose.
Even though I am usually cooking for just myself, I still chose a larger size 8-quart pot, and have no regrets about that. Often I’ll cook up a bulk quantity of something, so I’ve meals for several days ahead, and/or freeze some of the leftovers. The 3-quart pots are too small to be of any practical use, and the 6-quart pots are just enough smaller to be a nuisance and inconvenience. So I suggest you choose an 8-quart size. Some models come in a 10-quart size too.
Don’t be too dazzled by the number of different functions and controls on the pots. Maybe I’m unimaginative, but I find I use mine only for pressure cooking. I’ve never used its air fryer top, and have seen some reports suggesting it doesn’t work as well as a regular air fryer, and while I do intend to try its sous vide function, I doubt it works as well as a standalone sous vide cooker because it doesn’t circulate the water around the pot, making it harder to maintain steady even temperature.
My suggestion, from looking at Amazon’s line-up of Black Friday discounts, would be the Instant Pot Duo Nova for $70 or the Instant Pot Duo Evo Plus for $90. The Duo Evo Plus is slightly better, of course, and can both heat up and cool down more quickly than the Duo Nova, but both cook at the same pressure (about 12 psi).
And Everything Else….
Needless to say, all the other usual stuff is also discounted. Even if you can’t go to physical stores, by all means enjoy digitally walking around the Amazon, Walmart, Target, and other websites and see what catches your eye.
Plus, if you’d like to give serendipity (and your love of bargains) free and full rain, there’s this store.
I hope your Thanksgiving is/was great, however you enjoyed it, and that you find a bargain or two now.