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Black Friday and Cyber Monday: How and where to score the best bargains

WATCH ABOVE: Trish Kozicka offers a quick look at what you can expect from this year’s Black Friday, including what the best bargains will be, what items to avoid, and what not to do if you’re paying on plastic.

We’ve all been bombarded with Black Friday deals by now, but don’t be fooled by the first ad you see.

Beware what you buy and where. In the weeks leading up to Black Friday, a 2014 report by Vancity Credit Union revealed some of the so-called “door crasher” sales are actually inflated. So that huge discount you think you’re getting might just be the original price or a small markdown.

“That is definitely a tactic happening more and more,” says Lia Almeida of price-comparison site Shopbot.

WATCH: Shoppers across the United States were lined up in the cold awaiting the doors of the Mall of America to open in the early hours of Black Friday.
Click to play video 'Americans swarm to stores for Black Friday deals' Americans swarm to stores for Black Friday deals
Americans swarm to stores for Black Friday deals

Such strategies don’t seem to compel consumers to close their wallets, though. In 2015, Canadians swiped their plastic 26 per cent more on Black Friday than Boxing Day, according to Moneris. The credit and debit card payment processor predicts an eight per cent increase this year.

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A recent Shopbot survey similarily found one in five Canadians intend to spend more than $350 this Black Friday.

We’ve already rounded up some of the best Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals for 2016. To ensure you get the best bang for your buck when making those purchases, though, here are a few more things to consider.

Where to shop: Online or in-store?

Shopbot did some price-checks to compare online vs. brick-and-mortar deals at Best Buy, which (along with Amazon) experts say is the most popular and trusted retailer on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

These is how a few big-ticket items compared on both platforms:

Samsung Galaxy Tablet A 8″ 16GB  — Online: $729.99; Offline: $799.99

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Dyson Vaccuum — Online: $500.99; Offline: $529.99

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LG 55″ SmartTV — Online: $2,899.99; Offine: $2,999.99

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Almedia says in-store deals aren’t usually worth the inconvenience of a line-up — especially since major retailers tend not to honour their “lowest price guarantee” or price match Black Friday sales.

Plus, as Shopbot’s report points out, inventory is limited. So if the product sells out, at least you haven’t wasted your time and gas going to the store.

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It’s best to avoid the line-ups and do your shopping online from the comfort of your home, or desk at work (fun fact: one million Canadians admitted they planned to call in sick to do Black Friday shopping in 2014).

When to shop

Moneris says 2 p.m. EST was the busiest shopping hour on Black Friday in 2015.

Shopbot, however, claims Canadians were most likely to search for online bargains at 6 p.m. on Thursday (since most retailers have had their deals posted all week, or in Amazon’s case, all month).

For those set on an in-store experience: make sure to check out an outlet’s opening hours, as a lot of places open early for Black Friday.

Here’s a roundup from Shopbot of when all the big sales start:

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What to buy

Click to play video 'Best Canadian Black Friday deals for 2016' Best Canadian Black Friday deals for 2016
Best Canadian Black Friday deals for 2016

It’s a good idea to decide what you’d like to buy ahead of time, make a budget and stick to it, Robert Levy of the Shopper Army advises.

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READ MORE: Psychology of an impulse buy: how stores manipulate you to spend more

Jeff Novak with RedFlagDeals.com, a site showcasing Canadian deals, expects decent deals on: earlier versions of the Apple Watch, older GoPro models along with attractive price cuts from giant online retailer Amazon.

“You are going to see some really great Amazon Prime deals this year as well as discounts on electronics, video game systems, video game bundles, and televisions,” he says.

Almeida adds Amazon often dominates with purchases like kitchenware, e-readers, and Fitbit Charge. Best Buy, on the other hand, is usually the go-to source for electronics.

READ MORE: Slice Canada’s top 5 picks for Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales

If you are putting your big purchases on a credit card, just remember to pay them off right away.

Sometimes the interest that accrues is greater than the money you saved, as Consolidated Credit’s number crunching shows:

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Use your smartphone to get better deals

Click to play video 'Black Friday: getting the best deal with an app' Black Friday: getting the best deal with an app
Black Friday: getting the best deal with an app

Mike Agerbo of GetConnected Media recommends the following five apps to save when you shop:

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  1. Flipp — for flyer deals and money-saving coupons
  2. 2016 Black Friday — to score some of the best online and offline deals at major retailers
  3. Amazon — great to price compare before making a purchase
  4. ShopSavvy — lets in-store shoppers scan a barcode; it then searches the internet for the best deals to hopefully save your money
  5. Santa’s Bag — to help you stay on budget and avoid over-spending

READ MORE: 4 more apps that will help you save money on groceries and more

To avoid fake apps, look for apps with four or five-star ratings. You could also download your favourite retailer’s app or subscribe to their email lists for potential insider deals.

Always be suspicious of any deal that seems too good to be true.

— With files from Anne Drewa and Paula Baker, Global News

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