Best Black Friday deals 2021: The ultimate shopping guide

If you’re among the multitudes of shoppers who look forward to Black Friday deals each year, your wait is over now. Black Friday 2021 is coming fast. Black Friday sales officially begin the day after Thanksgiving. Amazon isn’t waiting. The Amazon Black Friday Sale has started and some early deals are already available. Each day in October and November Amazon will drop new Epic Daily Deals. You can count on other major retailers to react quickly. We’ll track major online merchants and physical stores to bring you the best and latest news about upcoming Black Friday deals.

When is Black Friday 2021?

Black Friday 2021 is the day after Thanksgiving.

The actual date for Black Friday 2021 is November 26, the day after Thanksgiving. However, many merchants with Black Friday sales begin advertising weeks or even months ahead of time, so in that sense, Black Friday 2021 begins when you read about the first Black Friday deals. And that’s what happened today with the news of the Amazon Black Friday Sale. Amazon isn’t rolling out all of its Black Friday deals ahead of time, no merchant will offer all deals early. So November 26 will still be the big day, but the sale has already started.

When do Black Friday deals start?

The traditional Black Friday 2021 sale date remains November 26, but more than ever this year, we’ll see many early Black Friday sales as merchants follow Amazon’s lead. When it comes to Black Friday deals, calendars and clocks don’t matter…until they do. So, why the contradiction and the change from tradition?

A growing number of merchants have no hesitation using Black Friday’s attention-getting power. You will see more retailers announcing Black Friday deals days, weeks , and now even months ahead of the actual Black Friday 2021 date. So who’s to say if a merchant announces a Black Friday deal and you can buy it days ahead of the actual sale date, that it’s not a Black Friday deal?

The other half of the puzzle is that even among merchants that start early Black Friday sales on specific items won’t start until November 26. Many Black Friday sales will start at 12:01 A.M. in the reseller’s time zone. You’ll also find merchants who roll out deals progressively during the day to keep customers coming back so they won’t miss extra-special Black Friday deals.

Bottom line: Black Friday 2021 sales and deals started in early October with Amazon’s Black Friday Worthy Deals. More merchants will join in with early sales as November 26 gets closer. However, many of the very best deals won’t launch until November 26.

Best Black Friday deals we saw last year

Black Friday 2020 was year one of the COVID-19 pandemic that changed much of what had been normal in our daily lives. Black Friday sales reflected COVID-19’s impact in several ways, including low inventories on hot products like fitness equipment and small kitchen appliances such as bread makers and home pizza ovens. However, despite the pandemic, there were plenty of jaw-dropping Black Friday deals last year.

Let’s start with 4K TVs because TVs are among the most sought-after Black Friday deals every year. Last year we saw knock-out deals from brands including TCL, Samsung, Sony, LG, Vizio, and many others. How about a 70-inch Samsung 4K TV for $530? That’s the kind of deal we saw. Some of the deepest discounts were for the largest, premium-technology TVs with QLED or OLED screens. Because brand competition is at its most intense levels among TV manufacturers during Black Friday, waiting for the Black Friday sales paid off.

Laptops were another super-hot category during Black Friday sales last year. For example, the Dell G5 15 gaming laptop was knocked down from its usual $910 price to just $650, a $260 savings. Gaming laptop sales were hot as were 2-in-1 laptops that fold to be used as touch-screen tablets.

With most kids learning remotely last year and many of us working at home, Black Friday 2020 sales on tablets were in huge demand as well as laptops. From Amazon Fire tablets to Kindles and the full lineups from Apple, Samsung, Lenovo, and others, mobile computing devices in laptop and tablet formats were among the best Black Friday deals.

Tech tools and toys always figure large in Black Friday sales and last year was no different, despite shortages in some categories due to manufacturer shutdowns and interminable shipping delays.

What Black Friday deals we expect to see this year

There’s every reason to expect Black Friday 2021 will follow the patterns set in previous years. COVID-19 continues to pressure manufacturing in many sectors and shipping issues have only gotten worse, but retailers have been planning their Black Friday sales and building inventories early to get ready for the mobs seeking the best Black Friday deals. As we can see from the Amazon Black Friday Sale, there are already deals on Amazon Echo Dot, Beats Studio 3, AirPods Pro, and Apple Watch Series 6.

This may not be the best year to get a great deal on a house or a car, but Black Friday sales focus on tech for entertainment and productivity. Look for discounts on the latest TVs, laptops and tablets, smartphones, smartwatches, and pretty much all tech categories. Don’t be surprised to find discounts up to 30% or slightly more during the Black Friday sales. Because manufacturers and retailers also use the attraction of Black Friday deals to move overstocked or previous year models, you may also see deals at 40% off or even more. Pay particular attention when deals exceed 40% discounts because that’s the wholesale discount retailers pay for much of their inventory. If something is on sale below 60% of the regular price, it may be a special manufacturer promotion, an overstock sale, or last year’s model.

We certainly expect Amazon to offer deep, deep discounts on house-brand products such as Kindles, Echo devices, Ring and Blink smart home products, Eero mesh Wi-Fi Systems. Amazon just launched a line of Fire TVs so we expect great deals there. In previous Black Friday sales Amazon also offered deep discounts on new subscriptions and memberships for Kindle Unlimited, Amazon Prime, Audible Books, Amazon Music, and more.

Walmart plays hard during Black Friday and for several years has offered the widest selection of 4K TV deals, typically at the best prices. Best Buy is another strong competitor for Black Friday deals on new TVs, so if you’re shopping for a new set, don’t forget to cross-check with both Walmart and Best Buy. Target has also surprised us in years past with Black Friday deals on 4K TVs that undercut the other retailers, although Target offers many fewer models than Walmart and Best Buy.

Who has the best Black Friday deals?

You can count on Black Friday 2021 sales and deals for almost all product categories, but that doesn’t mean that all retailers are equal when it comes to pricing Black Friday sales. Also, no single online merchant has the best Black Friday deals for all products.

We mentioned above that Walmart and Best Buy have the widest selections and best prices for TVs and that’s generally true. If you’re looking for a specific brand, model, and size TV, it could pay off to cast your net a bit wider and check out the price at Target, ABT Electronics, and even Amazon, although Amazon isn’t typically competitive with TVs.

So it can pay off to know which retailers have the best prices for the product categories you want to shop. And watch for the nuances. For example, Amazon usually has a greater selection of Instant Pot models than Walmart, and often at slightly better prices. However, in the past, there have been times when Walmart has the best prices for one or two specific Instant Pot models. The reason? Walmart, like all other online retailers, wants to get customers on their website. They may advertise a few high-visibility products priced at a genuine loss to Walmart, but they still win because they know a certain percentage of website visitors will hang around and keep shopping.

We research and price compare all year long and get especially busy during big sales events such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Prime Day. The sales we include in our deals posts are vetted and price-checked. Our Black Friday research and coverage starts early and gains intensity and updating frequency as the big day gets closer. On the actual day of Black Friday, for example, we check deal pricing and availability four times a day for many products and even hourly on the hottest category deals.

Are things really cheaper on Black Friday?

There’s no question you can save a lot of money buying Black Friday deals, but it’s also true you can spend too much. We highly recommend doing your research on products you definitely intend to buy during Black Friday 2021.

As noted above, most merchants offer significant discounts on the majority of Black Friday sales items. However, there are also products that retailers include with their Black Friday deals that aren’t actual sales. For example, a previous year’s model may typically sell at one price but during a major sales event, the merchant may compare the Black Friday sales price to the original product price when it was launched two or more years before.

You also want to be careful of time-limited sales in which an online merchant will scroll items across a screen at what appear to be deep discounts — but aren’t. There are often excellent deals in limited time or limited quantity sales, but when you have to make a buying decision without enough time to price check with other sellers or even against other products on the same merchant site, you’re vulnerable to paying too much.

We monitor and post the best deals we can find across multiple merchants to provide impartial advice. We price-check all deals and only highlight products we recommend so you’ll get the right product at the right price.

Black Friday shopping tips

Black Friday 2021 isn’t really a game or a competition, although many shoppers treat it that way. You may think of the annual sales blowout as a contest that measures your shopper savviness by the number of Black Friday deals you score and the amount of money you save. Or maybe you just want to emerge from the massive number of Black Friday sales having purchased the exactly the items you sought while keeping your budget intact. Either way, the following Black Friday shopping tips can help.

The first rule for Black Friday deals success is to do your research ahead of the sale. Decide on your shopping list and your budget for those items. It helps if you prioritize your list so you don’t spend too much time shopping for specific deals and miss out on Black Friday sales on other items on the list.

If the thought of making lists and itemized budgets to prepare for Black Friday 2021 seems like a buzz kill when you just know there are outrageous deals that you won’t even see, let alone have a chance to buy, we have a two-part solution. First, organize your list well so you can finish your highest priority shopping as early as possible during Black Friday. Then, the second and more fun part is to have a set aside second budget, a fun budget of 10% to 20% of your prioritized must-buy list budget. With that extra money, call it a Discretionary Black Friday Fund (DBFF), shop as wide and wild as you like. You won’t need to hold back because you’ve already finished the obligatory shopping and now you can go a little crazy — as long as you don’t spend more than your DBFF.

Here are some other Black Friday shopping tips:

  • Search for deals by category not model: You’ll have much better luck finding great Black Friday sales if you look for a 65-inch 4K OLED TV than pinning your hopes on finding a deal on a specific model.
  • Stick with brands you know: Comparing spec sheets can be tricky, because they don’t tell the whole story. Making a pricey purchase based on perceived savings with an unknown brand is risky.
  • Check the spec sheets: Using the TV example, all 65-inch 4K TVs are not the same. If you need 3 HDMI ports, take the time to see if they’re actually present (look for photos or user manuals – don’t count only on spec sheets on a retailer’s website).
  • Price check: If you don’t know what the price was before the sale, you can fall prey to inventive “before” prices. Just because a price is called a “Black Friday Special” doesn’t mean it’s less than the normal price.
  • Don’t lose track of shipping costs: Many online merchants offer free shipping during Black Friday, but not always for all products. Be sure to check shipping cost before you order those awesome adjustable dumbbells.
  • Shop online: The convenience of online shopping can’t be overstated, but while the COVID-19 pandemic is still part of our reality, many shoppers will avoid going to physical stores, which will likely impact merchant plans to stock inventory. You can price check more conveniently from your computer than racing around town to get the prices on the hottest Black Friday deals.
  • Check back here: Digital Trends offers impartial advice  and we check prices. We never knowingly list a deal that seems better than it really is.

Is Black Friday or Cyber Monday better?

Black Friday sales include the greatest number of products at the best prices of the year. Cyber Monday is on the Monday after Black Friday. Black Friday sales started in the mid-20th century and focused on in-store sales. Cyber Monday was created in 2005 by the National Retail Federation to emphasize online shopping.

Black Friday, Amazon’s Prime Day, and Cyber Monday are the three largest sales events by sales volume. Because Cyber Monday follows Black Friday by just two days it’s too easy to dismiss Cyber Monday as a mere continuation encompassing whatever is leftover from Black Friday. The differences depend on specific retailers and product categories, but some merchants hold back specific products or quantities of products to be sure Cyber Monday maintains its status as a great time to shop online.

The final take on the difference between Black Friday and Cyber Monday is that, especially as a greater proportion of shopping takes place online every year, Cyber Monday deals are a way to keep the party going. Many online merchants start Black Friday pricing early in Thanksgiving week and continue them through the weekend after Thanksgiving until they switch the signs to Cyber Monday.

Black Friday FAQ

The origins of Cyber Monday are clear and unquestioned, but that’s not the case with Black Friday. You can find compelling stories about Black Friday’s roots from an 1869 financial crisis involving a foiled takeover of the New York Gold Exchange to a 1961 Philadelphia police department newsletter lamenting 12-hour shifts managing traffic on the day after Thanksgiving. We address the origins of Black Friday and other questions below.

Why is it called Black Friday?

If it’s OK to skip the story about Jay Gould and James Fish causing a financial crisis on September 24, 1989, the Philadelphia traffic jam issue is a more credible start for using Black Friday to refer to huge shopping crowds and sales. There were reported attempts to call the massive sales event Big Friday, but starting in 1975, after a reference in The New York Times, Black Friday has carried the field.

For some non-shoppers who watched aghast as shoppers in TV news reports fought over toys or articles of clothing, Black Friday was a day of national retail insanity. In time, however, and especially when online retailers allowed consumers to shop Black Friday sales from the comfort and safety of their homes, Black Friday morphed from mob-like in-store sales to an opportunity to find savings on thousands — now millions — of products.

What time does Black Friday start?

Black Friday sales start at 12:01 A.M. or earlier. We explained this contradiction earlier in this article, but the gist is that retailers now often choose to start their Black Friday sales before the actual day. So, if the stores and online merchants say they have Black Friday deals, the time and date don’t matter. Each year online retailers move the starting date a bit earlier. Amazon’s Black Friday Worthy Deals that began in early October set a new benchmark to begin the sale.

The history of starting times when Black Friday sales were in retail stores only involves state and federal labor laws, merchant competition, and customers who wanted to start shopping on Thursday so they could watch football games Friday through Sunday.

What time does Black Friday end?

Before the National Retailer Federation created Cyber Monday in 2005, Black Friday’s end was similar to the start, it ended when the stores said it was over. Now there are three possible correct answers: Black Friday ends at 11:59 P.M. on the Friday after Thanksgiving; Black Friday ends at 11:59 P.M. on the Sunday after Thanksgiving; or Black Friday ends when Cyber Monday starts. Of course, this year Amazon might decide to run Black Friday sales through New Years Day — if they do, you can be sure most other retailers would follow.

How many days until Black Friday?

How about none? If you count the beginning of Black Friday as the first day a major retailer offers Black Friday deals for sale, Amazon did that today, October 4. If you wonder about the official sale day, this year Black Friday is on November 26, the 330th day of the year. To determine the number of days until Black Friday, simply find the day of the year of the current date, subtract that number from 330, and the remainder is the number of days until Black Friday. Note that, as mentioned above, you can’t count on that number as the amount of days before Black Friday sales begin, because they will most likely start earlier than the actual 300th day of 2021.

When do Black Friday ads come out?

Um, that would be today also. Amazon is already advertising Black Friday Worthy Deals it also calls Epic Deals. Realistically, you probably won’t see Black Friday ads until early or mid-November. If you follow our advice above and make a list of must-have products and deals you can benefit from the early ads that often give a heads up on some of the most appealing Black Friday product sales. Don’t wait until Black Friday to check the ads, because by that time, unless you start in the wee hours, chances are pretty good that many of the best deals will have already sold out.

What stores do Black Friday?

The list of stores that don’t have Black Friday sales is much, much shorter than those that do. Most major chains and large regional and local retail stores have in-person shopping Black Friday sales. Since 2015 most retailers with physical stores also websites on which they also run online Black Friday sales. Online retailers of any significant size all have Black Friday sales.

Does Amazon have Black Friday deals?

Amazon does indeed have Black Friday deals and sales. This year the Amazon Black Friday Sale was the first announced of all retail merchants. Due to its steadily increasing share of retail sales in the U.S. and in a growing list of international markets, Amazon scales up for Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and its own Amazon Prime Day.

Amazon will have literally millions of items in its Black Friday sales from start to finish. Between Amazon’s own retail operation and the massive number of third-party merchants that use Amazon’s storefront, inventory, distribution, and shipping resources, shoppers can find most product categories represented in Amazon’s Black Friday deals.

Amazon isn’t very competitive in TVs or in major appliances, but Apple products, most tech and electronics, tools, home goods, and equipment for work or play, Amazon will have Black Friday deals.

You can for sure count on splendid deals on Amazon for the brand the online giant owns such as Echo, Blink, Ring, Eero, Fire TV, and many more. Amazon doesn’t reveal exact sales volume numbers, but they do report the quantities of Echo devices in rough figures, typically rounded off to the closest million.

Does Best Buy have Black Friday deals?

Best Buy’s Black Friday sales are strongest for TVs, computers, smartphones, smart home device, electronic of all types, and both large and small home appliances.

Best Buy bows only to Walmart in its inventory depth and price cuts for TVs. If you’re shopping for a new TV, Black Friday is the best time of the year for a great deal and Best Buy and Walmart are the two best websites to check.

Does Apple have Black Friday deals?

Apple’s Black Friday deals typically come in two forms. During the Black Friday event you can often find better-than-average deals on older Apple models such as iPhones, Apple Watches, iPad, and so forth. Instead of discounting current products, however, in past years Apple has kept its normal list prices but given gift cards with purchases. That’s not the same as money off on an iPhone, for example, and you can only spend the gift card on Apple products, but at least it’s something.

If you want straight Black Friday deals on Apple products and devices, Amazon is often the best place to find Black Friday Apple deals.

Does Walmart have Black Friday deals?

Walmart’s Black Friday sales, both in-store and online are spread wide and deep. We’ve mentioned above that Walmart is the first place you should check if you’re shopping for a new TV. That advice holds true all year, but particularly so during Black Friday, when Walmart’s massive buying power and huge number of retail locations for pickup and in-person shopping is unique.

Walmart also has extra special Black Friday deals on small kitchen appliances such as Instant Pots, air fryers, and coffee makers. You’ll also find good deals on toys, smartphones, laptops, and a wide range of products for the home.

Does Target have Black Friday deals?

Target advertises its Black Friday deals starting in early November with weekly ads that feature the best deals to expect for small appliances, computers, TVs, video games, consoles, and accessories, smartphone, popular children’s toys and more. Target Red Card debit card and loyalty program gives card holders access to special deals, and extra discounts.

We strive to help our readers find the best deals on quality products and services, and we choose what we cover carefully and independently. The prices, details, and availability of the products and deals in this post may be subject to change at anytime. Be sure to check that they are still in effect before making a purchase.

Digital Trends may earn commission on products purchased through our links, which supports the work we do for our readers.

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