If you typically take advantage of Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, or Cyber Monday sales to stock up on necessities and cross gifts off your Christmas list, you’re not alone — in fact, last year, 151 million Americans (or nearly half the total U.S. population) shopped in person or online over Black Friday weekend.
You may be nervous about tackling record-breaking crowds at your local outlet mall or department store. However, these in-person sales can sometimes eclipse online ones when it comes to dollars saved.
Whether you’re planning to take advantage of this year’s sales in store or online, it’s important to be prepared — with the number of participating retailers, finding the best deals and being able to get as much of your holiday shopping done as possible means you’ll need an organized list.
Write down everything you’re planning to purchase as a holiday gift for friends, family members, coworkers, and children, as well as any boring but necessary items you’ll need within the next few months (like winter clothing, kids’ shoes, or tax software).
What deals can you get by shopping online this Black Friday weekend?
Over the last few years, online computer and electronics deals during Black Friday weekend have often been significantly better than those found in-store.
And with the uncertainty of the political season putting the stock market on edge and leaving prices choppy, many of the largest retailers are anxious to drive sales to surpass even last year’s so they can end the year on a positive note.
Unfortunately, few retailers have released their Black Friday ads yet, making specific predictions a bit of a guessing game.
Last year, Amazon offered a number of its tablets (from the Budget Fire to the Kindle Paperwhite) for much less than retail price, and many analysts expect them to match these deals in 2016.
Amazon is also the prime destination for toy shoppers, offering more toy deals than any other merchant (and with free 2-day shipping for most Prime items for members). With their simple and pain-free return policy, this can be the best shopping destination if you’d like to knock out as many gifts as possible with just a few clicks. You may want to sign up for email alerts, as the site’s Lightning Deals can sell out within minutes after being posted.
Where will it be best to snag items in person?
If you’re near a Lego store and have children or other family members who are fanatics, you may want to schedule a stop on Black Friday — over the past few years, Lego has offered 50 percent off most sets, making it the best time of year to invest in these classic toys. If you aren’t near a Lego store, you’ll still be able to enjoy free shipping with online orders while getting the same deep discount on most sets.
You may also want to brave the crowds if you want a new cell phone or gaming system (like the Xbox One or PS4) — big box retailers like Wal-Mart and Target will often make a certain number of items available to the first group of customers, even if they’ve already sold out online.
Many stores will also be offering cash back or store gift cards with the purchase of certain new cell phones, making it the cheapest time of year to upgrade.
With more and more stores opening at 5 or 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving evening rather than the early morning hours of Black Friday, checking store opening hours before planning your holiday festivities can be key to snagging the best deals.