Black Friday used to fall on one day of the year. Shoppers would camp outside of stores, eagerly awaiting the chance to bust down some doors and save a ton of cash. Over time, the sale event has grown. Now, the entire month of November is a hydra where the heads are “slashed prices” and the sword-wielding hero is an overwhelmed customer. Stores are offering more deals than ever online, meaning you don't need to leave the couch to participate. But it can all get confusing. How can you tell if a deal is worth your time and money? When do sales start and end? Do you really need that gadget? We're here to help.
Updated November 2022: We've added advice for this Black Friday.
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When Is Black Friday?
This year, Black Friday officially falls on November 25, and it's followed by Cyber Monday on November 28. Most of the official sales start on Thanksgiving, though some specific deals and doorbusters may start on Friday, usually at midnight. (A handful of stores provide exact start times.)
I have been Black Friday shopping for nearly two decades. My advice, if you're on the hunt for killer deals, is to stay up late the day before Thanksgiving to check for online sales starting around midnight Eastern Time on Wednesday, November 23. WIRED will also cover major sales later in the day on Thanksgiving. However, it's worth pointing out that early Black Friday deals have already started. Retailers like Best Buy are guaranteeing the same prices as Black Friday for specially marked deals, and some have extended return windows.
Can You Get Black Friday Deals Online?
You can—and should. We exclusively cover online deals here at WIRED because the majority of Black Friday deals are available on the web. The best deals don't stick around for too long, so it's a good idea to pay attention to your favorite store's sale pages (and our coverage). Shopping online also means reducing the chances of getting and spreading Covid-19, which is still a real problem.
Make a list of what you want to buy ahead of time—this can help you keep a clear head when it's time to start shopping. You shouldn't buy things just to buy them. Everyone's on a tighter budget these days; sales will happen again. Take a deep breath and don't get sucked into the frenzy.
Which Retailers Will Have Black Friday Deals?
Nearly all of them. There are obvious stores, like Amazon, Target, Walmart, and Best Buy, but chances are every retailer and brand will have some sort of sale, whether they offer clothing, shoes, books, electric scooters, health and beauty items, or fitness specialty goods. There might even be promotions going on at your favorite coffee shop or restaurant. When in doubt, visit a retailer's website. Usually, Black Friday sales are highlighted loud and proud on the homepage.
Here are a few Black Friday sales pages from major retailers:
TL;DR: Usually. Long answer: Most of the time, Black Friday deals are the best we see all year, and they set the precedent for what dictates a good price in the months that follow.
However, some Black Friday deals aren't all that great or are repetitive from year to year. For instance, you'll predictably see low prices on some smart-home tech, like the Amazon Echo Dot or Google Nest Mini. In previous years, those speakers have sold for around $20 or $25 every single November. This year, they'll probably dip to the same price. Even if a price is technically a historic low, consider whether or not you truly need another cheap little speaker before you place your order—especially considering that these deals tend to pop up repeatedly throughout the year.
Some discounts aren't jaw-dropping because the products tend to go on sale every few months, and the fact that stores repeat deals so frequently says a lot about the nature of discounts these days. Still, the deals are worth it if you are in the market for a specific item and want to save some cash. Just keep in mind that price research is important, and if you miss out on a deal, don't fret; there's a strong chance it will pop up again at some point in the future.
How Much Money Can I Save on Black Friday?
That depends on what you're shopping for. There are so many deals up for grabs in so many categories that it's impossible to list them all here.
For example, TVs are usually a great purchase to make around Black Friday, if you can find the right model. They are at their cheapest this time of year and through the holidays. In the same vein, you'll be able to save on clothes, toys, and home goods, but those deals may not be as enticing when you look at specific dollar amounts. They're certainly cheaper than usual, though.
The bottom line is, there are deals on just about every sort of item you can think of. If you're diligent about scoring a sale, you can save a ton of money on the things you need and want to buy.
How Do I Know if a Deal Is Good?
Always do your price research. When you're shopping online, take a quick second to Google the item you're considering. You'll be able to see what it's selling for at other stores.
Tools we like to use include Camelcamelcamel, which tracks a product's price over time on Amazon; Keepa, which displays the price history on the Amazon product page; and Honey, which has price history for other retailers like Walmart and Best Buy. You can also check out WIRED's ongoing deals coverage to find roundups of the best discounts available.
What’s a ‘Doorbuster’ Deal?
Originally, doorbusters were in-store exclusive crazy-good deals that often required shoppers to arrive early—and sometimes camp out for hours or days—to score them. They were typically available in small quantities and designed to entice shoppers to choose one store over another.
These days, those sorts of doorbusters still exist, but many similar doorbusters are also available online. A similar set of restrictions usually apply, though. If a deal catches your eye, and it's marked as a doorbuster, you should be prepared to hit that refresh key at the exact time it starts to avoid missing out.
Here at WIRED, we only cover online deals, and rarely doorbusters, because they're often difficult to nab on time. But when we do cover them, it's because we think they're worth the extra work. Retailers usually make Black Friday shopping ads available in early November. These circulars are useful when planning, especially for doorbusters.
How Do I Make Sure a Deal I Want Won’t Sell Out?
Every Black Friday fanatic has experienced a deal going out of stock. If you can find out the start time for a deal, make sure that you're actively paying attention to the store's website around that time. Get on the page and refresh. If the deal is at a retailer you trust, create accounts and save your credit card information before the event begins so the checkout process is as fast as possible. It's also a good idea to clear your web browser cache before you start shopping for Black Friday deals.
If a deal does sell out, there's a chance another store will have the same deal or one that's similar. That is especially true for big-box stores like Walmart, Target, and Best Buy. Check other stores if a deal you want is out of stock. You might find what you're looking for. (Sometimes deals come back in stock as well.)
What About Cyber Monday?
Small Business Saturday arrives immediately after Black Friday. It's all about celebrating smaller local retailers and businesses. The following Monday is Cyber Monday. Cyber Monday deals are usually focused on tech products like laptops and headphones, but a lot of the major Black Friday deals will still be discounted on Monday. WIRED will cover both events.
The Monday after Cyber Monday is Green Monday (green is for Christmas). It's less celebrated, but eBay and a few other stores usually have decent sales. After that, there's a break until we get closer to Christmas. Retailers will often hold last-minute sales, and there's Free Shipping Day on December 14 (though you should try to complete your holiday shopping before that). As the name suggests, many stores will offer free shipping with no minimum purchase. There are also discounts after Christmas. We'll cover some of those on December 26.
Outside of the holiday shopping season, popular shopping holidays are President's Day, Memorial Day, Amazon Prime Day, and Labor Day, among others. WIRED usually covers those events with deal roundups and recommendations too.