NerdWallet Shopping and DealFinder put the biggest shopping events of the year head to head to see when you can expect to find the best deals.
In this corner, Labor Day sales, discounts at the unofficial end of summer that let shoppers save on warm-weather essentials and score deals on old models as stores welcome new versions of their favorite products.
In that corner, Black Friday deals, long anticipated by shoppers so eager to snag a door-buster deal on everything from clothing to electronics that they camp outside in the late fall chill to be first in line.
With a bit of preparation, you can be the winner on both shopping weekends.
Round 1: Shopping by numbers
Labor Day sales are prolific, but Black Friday deals remain unmatched. In 2013, for example, the Black Friday ad from Sears alone was 64 pages and boasted more than 1,000 door-busters. The Labor Day sales at the same retailer last year were less specific and focused more on percentage-off discounts of broad departments.
And when you compare specific details from 2013, Black Friday deals seem to be best for consumers.
Take Best Buy, for example. Last Labor Day, the electronics giant offered the LG 55-inch LED HDTV online for $749.99 with free delivery. If you had waited until Black Friday to buy the same television, you could have purchased it for $499.99. That’s a savings of $250.
At clothing store Forever 21, Labor Day 2013 sales included 50% off select sale items online when using the code LABORDAY. But on Black Friday, however, the similar 50% off of select sale items promotion was only the pre-sale. The actual Black Friday campaign included yellow-tag deals with items priced as low as $3.
Round 2: Shopping by product
Sometimes finding the best deal depends on what you’re looking for.
If you are in the market for school supplies, home appliances or anything summer-related, shop on Labor Day because the prices offered this weekend will be tough to beat. Stores are especially ready to unload their inventories of outdoor furniture. And if you don’t mind an older model of items such as cars or appliances, take advantage of store sales meant to clear last season’s models to make room for new versions.
When it comes to electronics, toys and fall clothing, however, you might want to wait for a Black Friday deal. These items historically have reached their lowest prices around Black Friday because those deals usually feature an enormous site- or storewide percentage-off discounts on top of already low sale prices. Popular and highly advertised Black Friday deals often include televisions, laptops, tablets and gaming systems.
Round 3: Shopping by crowds
There is more to shopping than saving money. Convenience is a key component as well. On Black Friday 2013, 141 million shoppers spent some $57.4 billion, according to Bloomberg. Eager shoppers camped outside of their favorite stores for hours or even days to ensure a spot in line. Stores have begun opening earlier each year, and some were open even on Thanksgiving. The sheer magnitude of Black Friday is undeniable.
If you want a reasonable deal without braving massive hordes, Labor Day buying is a good option. Another advantage of Labor Day sales: There’s a greater chance that the item you want will be in stock if you have less competition. Popular Black Friday products often sell out quickly. If you don’t secure a spot in the front of the line, your shopping efforts may ultimately be in vain.
Before you start swiping your plastic, consider which items you want to buy and when you’re likely to get the most bang for your buck.
Sales illustration via Shutterstock.