Black Friday vs. Cyber Monday: Everything you need to know.

Know what to buy and when to buy this holiday weekend

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are just days away, and it’s time to start preparing your shopping lists. 

Amid all the sales, deals, and discounts, it can be hard to know what to buy, when to buy, and what not to buy from your favorite retailers. 

To help clear things up for consumers this holiday weekend, ConsumerAffairs got exclusive insight from Julie Ramhold, a consumer analyst with DealNews

When should you shop?

With deals taking place all week long, when is the best time to get the most for your money? According to Ramhold, you may want to scour the sales during Thanksgiving dinner. 

“Many of the big retailers started their Black Friday sales on November 17, so some of the best deals are already in place,” Ramhold explained. “For many of those stores, they'll also be closed on Thanksgiving Day, but the good news is that they'll be rolling out new deals and doorbusters online that day. 

“Because Thanksgiving will be the start of the online sales for the most part, it should be the day that has the most to offer.” 

Where to shop and what to buy

Ramhold has identified four of the biggest retailers for consumers to make sure they hit this holiday shopping season: 

  • Target: “In addition to rolling out Black Friday deals from October 29 onward, Target also has a holiday price guarantee in place,” Ramhold said. “If you've purchased something at Target on or after October 22 this year and the price drops at Target before December 24, then you may be eligible for a price adjustment. Even if it isn't likely to see a price drop, this guarantee can make it easier to shop early with confidence and have faith you're getting one of the better, if not the best deals on an item.

  • Amazon: “Amazon is one of the retailers that decided to roll out its official Black Friday sale a week ahead of time. While its savings events may be best for Prime members, you certainly don't have to be a Prime member to take advantage of these offers. It's a good time to take a look and snag the best deals you find right now, as the closer we get to Black Friday and beyond, the higher the odds these products will sell out.

  • Best Buy: “Best Buy is always a solid option for Black Friday shopping if you're in the market for new electronics or appliances, but this year there's another reason to check them out and that's for their physical media. Best Buy announced just a few weeks ago they'd stop selling physical DVDs and Blu-ray movies at the end of the 2023 holiday season. Because of that, they're offering seriously deep discounts on their remaining stock in an effort to clear it out. If you're looking to expand your movie collection, Best Buy is the place to be for Black Friday.

  • Walmart: “Since Walmart already boasts low prices much of the time, it's no surprise it's one of the best stores to shop for Black Friday too. The retailer will have rock-bottom deals on clothing, electronics, toys, home goods, and so much more. If you're shopping online, consider signing up for Walmart+ (it's cheaper than Amazon Prime) to get early access before their sales go live on November 22.” 

Ramhold also shared three items that are likely going to be the most popular picks this Black Friday: laptops, shoes, and smartphones. If you’re in the market for a new phone, Ramhold recommends checking out Target, Walmart, and Best Buy, as there are likely to be additional discounts there. 

Similarly, this is the perfect time of year to replace a laptop. Regardless of your budget, Ramhold explained that several retailers are likely to mark down several different brands, makes, and models of laptops this holiday season. 

What not to buy

What should you avoid this holiday season? Ramhold suggests holding out on:

  • Winter clothing: “When it comes to heavier duty items, like heavy winter coats or snow boots, those are just starting to hit shelves. Any discounts you see right now are going to be modest at best. Instead, wait until February for those pieces as that's when they'll begin to hit the clearance racks at retailers and have deep discounts.”

  • *Off-Brand TVs: “This is something I tell people to avoid any time of year, but around Black Friday it seems especially bad. These are often super cheap models that may even have specific Black Friday model numbers attached so that you can't even really look them up and research their quality beforehand. As affordable as TVs have become over the last five to 10 years, it's decently easy to find a set from a big name brand like Samsung or LG, or even mid-tier brands like Vizio, Hisense, and TCL for a good price. Around Black Friday, there are so many TV deals, there's bound to be something that fits every budget, so there's no need to opt for the super cheap sets anymore. And if you do, then just know you might be looking for another set in a mere six months – or by next Black Friday – if it fails.

  • Fitness Gear and Equipment: “We definitely see deals on these items around Black Friday, but they're usually pretty lackluster. Instead, wait until January to purchase these items, as that's when consumers overall make resolutions related to getting healthy and in shape and retailers price these kinds of items accordingly to entice those shoppers to spend.” 

Additionally, Ramhold suggests that consumers hold off until December to purchase gift cards and holiday decorations. As the holiday season progresses, stores are likely to offer better deals on these items than are currently available. 

What about Cyber Monday? 

Is it worth it to wait for Cyber Monday deals? According to Ramhold, the answer is, "maybe."

"With the Black Friday season growing to encompass far more than just a single day anymore, it can be easy to see Cyber Monday as just a continuation of Thanksgiving and Black Friday deals, but we do often see at least some difference in the offers,” she said. “Some categories will typically have more deals on one day than the other. 

“Cyber Monday is expected to have great deals on major appliances, cameras, kitchen items, and toys. Does that mean that you can't find a good deal on these categories on Thanksgiving or even before? Absolutely not. The lengthening of the season means you shouldn't restrict shopping to a single day, and should be looking for deals at least a couple of weeks ahead of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, if not longer.” 

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