Should you shop online or in-store this Black Friday weekend?

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Black Friday Shopping
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As Americans get their kitchens ready to cook a turkey feast, many are also prepping their shopping lists in anticipation of the biggest sales event of the year. With an estimated 164 million consumers planning to shop over Thanksgiving weekend and 70% focusing on Black Friday as the day to hunt for deals, consumers can expect bigger crowds than ever.

Do you need to leave your house to do your Black Friday shopping?

With so many people heading out to shop this holiday weekend, you may be wondering if it’s really worth the hassle to battle crowds in person or if similar savings can be had online. Not all Black Friday deals are created equal so it really depends on a few different factors.

Here’s a look at when you’re better off shopping in-store and when you should shop online.

In-store: Doorbusters

If you have your eye set on a certain doorbuster, shopping in person may be your only option as most special-buy items are limited to in-store only purchases. Some of these deeply discounted products are also limited in quantity, however, so it’s important to call ahead to find out how many of each the store is selling. Keep in mind, product deals with very low availability tend sell out quickly. For example, Best Buy is selling a Toshiba 55-inch LED 2160p Smart 4K Ultra HD TV with Chromecast Built-in for $279.99 ($220 off) in-store only, but many experts say this deal will go fast. Consult a retailer’s online ad to figure which offers are available in-store only and then determine which ones are worth your time and effort.

In-store: Urgency

If there’s something you’re hoping to snag on sale over Thanksgiving weekend for immediate use, you’re better off heading to the store to shop. Although plenty of online merchants will offer free delivery as well as free site-to-store shipping options, there could be delays in fulfilling and shipping online purchases due to large order volumes. Shopping in person won’t be as hectic as usual considering stores like Walmart are making it easier than ever for customers to find deals this holiday weekend. Specifically, Walmart is using new color-coded departments, which will be indicated on its Black Friday circular and on its store maps along with Holiday Helpers to assist customers in finding top items.

In-store: Freebies

To drive traffic into stores, many retailers will be giving out freebies to shoppers just for showing up or sending in a rebate with​​ no purchase necessary. For example, JCPenney is handing out coupons worth $10, $100, or $500 on Thanksgiving at 2:00 p.m. Macy’s is offering an assortment of 10 doorbusters each free after mailing in a rebate on Black Friday. And World Market is giving away a free $10 certificate to the first 100 customers on Black Friday. For those who love the thrill Black Friday crowds bring, it’s a great time to snag free stuff.

In-store: Entertainment

If you enjoy the rush of bargain hunting among swarms of crowds while burning off Thanksgiving dinner, shopping in person is a great activity — as long as you plan in advance. Some shopping centers will even offer fun activities for the whole family, adding to the thrill of this big sales event.

RELATED: Check out all of the latest Black Friday deals at ClarkDeals.com!

Online: Less stress, faster checkout & easy price comparison

One of the biggest appeals of shopping online is the ease in which you can order and pay: There are no crowds, long lines or check out hiccups to deal with. While this seems like a low stress situation, online sales events can be equally overwhelming considering the sheer number of sites and products to choose from. To navigate through the clutter of deals, download the Invisible Hand browser extension to compare prices quickly. This tool provides instant pop-up notifications when something you’re browsing online is sold at another merchant for less.

Online: Online-only

As with in-store only deals, many retailers will be offering online-only discounts to drive traffic to their site. In addition, many online-only stores will be participating in Black Friday such as Amazon and Newegg, giving shoppers even more options than what they have available in person. Most of these online sales events kick off the night before Thanksgiving, allowing consumers the chance to browse and shop at their convenience. Look for site-wide discounts from online clothing stores like Gap.com, OldNavy.com and Justice.com. While most of these e-stores will offer free shipping, you may have to enter a code to get this perk, so check the homepage for any existing offers.

Online: Wider selection and larger inventory

Compared to brick and mortar stores that have limited shelf and storage space, online retailers can offer a greater selection of products and larger inventory. Therefore, popular deals are less likely to sell out quickly. Plus, it’s much easier to review discounts across multiple sites on your browser to pinpoint the best discount on the products you’re shopping for than it is to drive from store to store. In the event deals are limited in quantity, prepare head by creating an online account and saving shipping and payment information to make the checkout process even faster. Then, open product pages and keep hitting refresh until the discounted price becomes available.

Online: Limited retailer options nearby

For shoppers who live in an area with limited retail options, online is the best place to shop this Thanksgiving weekend. For the most part, you can find comparable Black Friday deals online and you don’t have to miss out on a favorite retailer’s sales event just because you can’t get there in person. Just make sure to review return policies to determine if you’ll be charged any return shipping fees or restocking fees if you aren’t pleased with the purchase when you see it in person.

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Andrea Woroch About the author:
Andrea Woroch is a nationally-recognized consumer and money-saving expert who helps Americans find easy ways to live on less without radically changing their lifestyles. From smart spending tips to personal finance advice, Andrea transforms everyday consumers into savvy shoppers and super savers. As an established on-air contributor and sought after media source, ...Read more
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