Thanksgiving weekend traditionally marks the start of the hectic holiday shopping season, and until recently, braving Black Friday crowds was the only way to get some of the best discounts of the year. Now Cyber Monday offers a calmer alternative. But which shopping day is best? The answer may depend on your unique personality and shopping style, but each brings its own distinct perks and drawbacks.
Best of Black Friday
If you love the thrill of the hunt and the energy in a crowd, Black Friday offers these perks:
- Adventure: Bring a friend and maybe even camp out overnight to be the first in line. For many shoppers, the thrill of the shopping experience is their favorite part.
- Sensory experience: See and touch the merchandise in person to make sure it's what you really want. Try on clothing, see colors accurately, and measure large items such as appliances before making a decision.
- Exclusive deals: some super-low Black Friday sales are unadvertised surprises. Be there in person to take advantage of deals that Cyber Monday may not be able to match.
Black Friday caveats
Although Black Friday is an exciting tradition for many families, it isn't for everyone. These possible drawbacks might sway you toward Cyber Monday:
- Rough crowds: While a friendly holiday spirit should prevail, you'll still run the risk of having to deal with the unavoidable brand of shopper who is rude or even violent.
- Time and expense: Prepare for heavy traffic and long lines. If you're far from the mall, factor the price of gasoline and maybe even an early restaurant breakfast into the true cost of your purchases.
- Limited stock: Supplies of some of the best bargain items may be gone after the early bird rush, but there's virtually no way to tell whether that will happen until you're actually at the store.
- Overspending: The frenzy of snatching up popular items before they fly off the shelf carries the risk of buying extra goodies and going over budget.
- Low-end merchandise: Some stores use Black Friday to move their lower-quality merchandise – remember, it's not necessarily a great deal if you're not getting a great product, no matter how low the price.
- Better deals later: Stores may continue to lower prices throughout the holiday season to increase sales.
The quiet joys of Cyber Monday
For those who prefer a mellower shopping experience, Cyber Monday is the clear choice. Sleep late and enjoy the freedom of getting your shopping done without leaving the couch. You'll also enjoy:
- Easy price comparisons: Check out competing deals with just a few clicks instead of hoping you're getting the best price at a bricks-and-mortar location.
- Saved time: You won't waste hours traveling or standing in line, and you'll free up the Friday after Thanksgiving for rest, clean up, or extra celebration.
- Casual comfort: We won't pretend people don't show up to Black Friday sales in sweatpants, but there's something to be said for the ability to shop in your bathrobe from the comfort of your couch.
- Worldwide access: Get great deals from home or work -- or take a tropical vacation and do your holiday shopping from the beach.
- No travel-related expense: You won't need to pay for gas or a babysitter, costs that could negate some of your Black Friday savings.
- Peace and quiet: Forget about crowds, noise, or fighting over merchandise.
The downside of Cyber Monday
As convenient as it is, Cyber Monday still has a few drawbacks that may persuade you to head to the mall after all:
- Delayed gratification: You'll need to wait until merchandise has been delivered to really check it out.
- Buying sight unseen: You'll have to trust that photos and descriptions accurately represent color, quality, and other important features.
- Inconvenient returns: Reserve time for a trip to the post office if you're not satisfied with your purchases. You may even be required to pay return shipping charges.
- Cyber crowds: The volume of Cyber Monday shoppers may result in overloaded servers and out-of-stock merchandise.
- Shipping costs: Shipping your purchases may be expensive, especially for heavier items.
What's the verdict?
Ultimately, the choice between Black Friday and Cyber Monday is a matter of personal preference. To make the most of your Black Friday:
- Arrive super early only for doorbuster specials. Everything else is discounted all day.
- Map out your shopping schedule according to store opening times and special sales.
- Make -- and stick to -- a shopping list to avoid overspending.
- Research exactly what brands and model numbers you're looking for before hitting the stores.
If you want to take full advantage of Cyber Monday:
- Use a personal VPN or protected network when shopping in public places.
- Set up a PayPal account or online accounts with merchants in advance to save time at checkout.
- Research the best online deals ahead of time so you can focus on adding them to your virtual shopping cart as soon as they become available.