Should you skip the stores on Black Friday this year?

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Should you skip the stores on Black Friday this year?

To shop or not to shop on Black Friday? The answer to that question depends on your tolerance for crowds, self-restraint and money in the bank.

Black Friday is expected to be bigger than ever this year — more than 164 million consumers plan to shop over the five-day Thanksgiving weekend, according to the National Retail Federation. The average consumer will spend around $1,000 during the holiday season.

Overspending on this shopping holiday can lead to regret over purchases or even debt. For those contemplating whether or not to engage in this American tradition, here are some things to keep in mind.

Black Friday shopping can lead to overspending

Spending over the holiday shopping season, which includes Black Friday, can be a slippery slope to debt, according to Elevate’s Center for the New Middle Class (CNMC). Americans with non-prime credit scores (below 700) are most vulnerable — about 62% are more likely to incur additional debt during the holiday season than those with prime credit scores.

Sales like those on Black Friday can make matters worse. The same study stated that consumers who shopped sales were 50% more likely to say they spent more than they thought they would — which can put you further in debt.

“If you’re already in a significant amount of debt, overspending on Black Friday can worsen your situation and make your debt even more unmanageable,” said Leslie Tayne, founder of Tayne Law Group and author of Life & Debt.

Why you may still want to shop

Black Friday shopping can sometimes pay off — some sale prices are only available on the holiday, says Jennifer Hayes, creator of SmartyPantsFinance.

With a little prep work, you can make sure you’re truly getting a deal before you head into the shopping frenzy.

“If you already know what you want, you can start looking at prices now and be able to judge how good the Black Friday deal really is. It's not all just hype. Some of the deals really can't be beat,” said Hayes. (Here are some more tips from experts on how to survive Black Friday shopping.)

Taking shopping online

If you do intend to participate in Black Friday shopping, it may not be necessary to actually visit a store. Many of the exact same bargains are available online.

“Consumers shouldn't worry about getting up early to wait in line on Black Friday this year, as more and more Black Friday sales are being duplicated online than ever before,” said Sarah Hollenbeck, retail expert for BlackFriday.com. “Retailers are responding to consumers need for convenience and love of online shopping by moving more sales online, offering in-store pickup and faster delivery for those wanting to get their items quickly but still order online.”

That's not to say there won't be some door-busters that are only available in-store on Friday morning, but deals just as good will also be online throughout Cyber Week, said Hollenbeck.

If you do plan to take part in the shopping festivities, don’t go in unprepared — here’s a crib sheet for Black Friday.

Image: LeoPatrizi