Black Friday shopping: Why it pays to stay home

@CNNMoney November 22, 2011: 10:18 AM ET

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Thanks to earlier-than-ever store openings, Black Friday has eaten into Thanksgiving Day, but that doesn't mean you need to sacrifice the holiday to get in on the best deals.

Instead of standing on line outside of a big-box store on Thanksgiving eve or in the wee hours of Black Friday, you can watch football -- or spend time with family -- and nab many of the same doorbuster deals from the comfort of your couch.

Stores like Best Buy (BBY, Fortune 500) are offering up to 95% of their Black Friday ad items online for the same price, according to Brad Olson, founder of Gottadeal.com, a site that markets itself as one of many "official" Black Friday deal sites.

Shoppers who "like" Best Buy on Facebook can get a sneak peak at upcoming sales or exclusive offers and coupon codes like $5 off a $50 purchase or 15% off can even bring prices below those coveted doorbuster deals, Olson said.

Those kinds of codes are frequently posted on deal-sharing sites like Gottadeal, RetailMeNot and FatWallet or shoppers can Google a specific store's name and "coupons." Olson recommends checking the coupon code a day or two before Black Friday to make sure it is valid before checking out.

Brent Shelton, a spokesman for FatWallet, advises shoppers to jump on those early online deals rather than wait for Cyber Monday, when most online deals are announced.

"If you see a good deal, pull the trigger," he said, since there will likely be less availability and selection as the weekend progresses.

Black Friday sales expected to draw bigger crowds

Just like in stores, inventories are extremely limited this year, so be ready to act fast, said Brad Wilson, founder of BradsDeals.com, a site that showcases the best daily deals on the web. If there's one item you really want or that is especially popular, then heading to a store may be the only way to guarantee getting it, he said. "With such limited inventory, not only do you need to go early but you have to be near the front of the line."

For that must-have gift, Dan de Grandpre, CEO of dealnews.com, recommends setting up an e-mail alert to monitor price changes on a specific product and be ready to pounce when the sale starts.

But don't get too caught up in the hype, he cautioned. There are plenty of sales on other days besides Black Friday that could be nearly as good, and don't require you to take time off, lose sleep or ruin your Thanksgiving holiday.

"You might not find the 42-inch TV for $200 but you'll probably find a similar one for $230 or $250 and you're not burning a day off from work," he said.

Just be sure the shipping is free or else hefty delivery costs could gobble up all of the savings.

Here are a few of those worthwhile deals, along with free shipping offers, that have already been announced:

Clamoring for Ultimate Optimus Prime? At Toys R Us the same deals and discounts, including 40% off the popular transformer figure, will also be available on Toysrus.com starting at 9 p.m. on Thanksgiving night. The toy giant is also offering free shipping on everything except furniture, video game consoles and gift cards.

At Sears (SHLD, Fortune 500), all of the same Sears Black Friday deals -- like 50% off Kenmore washer and dryers -- will be available online and in-store with free shipping until Dec. 19 on orders over $99.

Even though not all of Best Buy's doorbusters are online, the electronics retailer is offering a slew of online-only deals starting on Thursday Nov. 24, like discounts on Gateway's 15-inch laptop or Tritton headphones and there's free shipping on everything at BestBuy.com until Dec. 27.

Wal-Mart (WMT, Fortune 500) and Target (TGT, Fortune 500) have some of the longest Black Friday lines because the deepest discounts are often only in stores. But don't overlook the online sales at these stores either: There are some extensive markdowns like 46-inch HDTVs for less than $400 on Walmart.com on Thanksgiving Day.

Wal-Mart is also offering free shipping on electronics and some other Walmart.com products when shoppers spend more than $45. At Target, shipping is free when you spend $50 -- those who use Target's REDcard save an additional 5% on orders, just be sure to pay the balance off right away or you'll have a hefty interest payment tacked on that purchase.

Black Friday predictions: What should you buy?

Macy's (M, Fortune 500) still has some in-store only deals on Black Friday, but some notable discounts, including 20% off dresses and 40% off coffeemakers and tea kettles, are also on the department store's site starting at midnight on Nov. 24. Plus, the shipping is free on all purchases over $99.

Even if the doorbuster deal you've been waiting for isn't available online, Amazon (AMZN, Fortune 500) aims to match prices for the products they have in stock, plus there's free Super Saver shipping on orders over $25. The e-tailer is also offering its own doorbuster deals on Black Friday like a Canon PowerShot 12 megapixel digital camera for $199, marked down from $349.

Are you an extreme Black Friday shopper? Tell us your game plan -- and all-time best deal. Email your response to jessica.dickler@turner.com and you could be part of an upcoming article. To top of page

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