Black Friday or Cyber Monday: When should you shop?

With Thanksgiving approaching, you may be starting to plan out your shopping game plan. Last year, 151 million Americans shopped over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend and spent $11 billion on online sales alone. But should you hit the stores on Black Friday or Cyber Monday? Here are the pros and cons of shopping on each of these days.

[See: 10 Tasty Tips for a Frugal Thanksgiving.]

The benefits of shopping on Black Friday. Here are some of the perks of shopping in stores on Black Friday, according to Ivy Chou, content marketing manager at, a site that compiles Black Friday deals:

— Doorbuster deals often offer exclusive prices for a limited time.

— Because retailers usually distribute Black Friday ads prior to the day itself, you’ll have access to information about what sales to expect, so you can prepare ahead of time.

— When shopping in-store, you can touch, test and try products before you buy.

— Instead of waiting for items on your shopping list to be shipped, you get immediate access to them.

[See: 8 Big Budgeting Blunders — and How to Fix Them.]

The drawbacks of shopping on Black Friday.

— Lines, lines and more lines. Anyone who’s shopped on Black Friday knows that it can be a true test of patience. Whether you’re waiting to get to the cash register or circling to find a parking spot, you’ll probably be doing a lot of waiting before you buy.

— Doorbusters and other special deals tend to come in limited quantity, according to Chou. For a doorbuster offer on a TV, for instance, a store might carry as few as two to four items, so you may have a slim chance of actually getting the deal.

— You likely won’t know if what you want is in stock until you get to the store. You can try calling a store to check availability, but store representatives may be extra busy with customers on Black Friday and less available to help.

The benefits of shopping on Cyber Monday.

— Shopping on Cyber Monday offers convenience, says Mihaela Akers, former director of customer intelligence and experience management at Ralph Lauren. You can shop from home (or work), avoid lines and likely save time.

— Online shopping also offers the option for simple price comparison, Akers says. By using price comparison tools, such as PriceGrabber or InvisibleHand, you can make sure you’re landing the best price available. You can also easily track down product reviews online before purchase.

— Online coupon codes, which you can find through sites, such as RetailMeNot or, can help you get the biggest bang for your buck. With Honey, you don’t even have to hunt for coupon codes yourself. The tool can automatically find and apply coupons for you while you shop.

— You could get bonus points by shopping through your rewards credit card’s online shopping portal. For example, Chase’s shopping portal can earn you six points for every dollar you spend online at Nike or three points for every dollar you spend at Macy’s, though you can’t combine this with other coupons or discount codes.

[See: 10 Frugal Ways to Save This Fall.]

The drawbacks of shopping on Cyber Monday.

— Unless your online retailer offers free shipping, you might have to pay for shipping costs. But even if shipping is free, Chou says, you might want to pay special attention to your retailer’s shipping dates, as the holiday season can be congested for carriers, and your package could take longer to be delivered.

— Unlike some purchases in store, you won’t be able to try or test products before you buy them.

— Because some store inventory would’ve likely been sold on Black Friday, Akers adds, you may have less product inventory to choose from. Out-of-stock inventory peaks on Cyber Monday, according to the Adobe Digital Index 2015 Holiday Spending Report.

It may come down to what you’re buying. Whether you should shop on Black Friday or Cyber Monday could also come down to what you’re actually looking to buy.

Based on 2015 prices, you may score the best bargains on headphones, toys and tools on Black Friday, but if you’re looking for laptops, clothes or beauty products, Cyber Monday may be the better option.

In fact, many products, such as TVs, appliances and shoes, may be cheapest on Thanksgiving Day itself. In recent years, more retailers have been staying open on Thanksgiving Day. So, if you’re willing to skip the pumpkin pie in favor of hitting the mall, you might score an even better deal.

Whenever you choose to shop, make sure you create a shopping list or budget before you start spending. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of holiday shopping, but overspending could make you a scrooge for the rest of the holidays.

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