Black Friday vs. Cyber Monday: When to Score the Best Deals

A person leaves Walmart with two shopping carts full of Black Friday deals.
A shopper leaves a Walmart after attending a Black Friday sale Friday, Nov. 25, 2022, in Shawnee, Kan. Charlie Riedel/AP Photo
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You’re not imagining things. This year, the winter holiday sales started even before the pumpkin spice items were marked down.

The days of the winter holiday shopping season officially kicking off on Black Friday — and exclusive Cyber Monday deals — are gone.

“Consistently over the last decade, we know that consumers are out in the market earlier than ever and the holiday season is getting extended into the fall,” said National Retail Federation President and CEO Matthew Shay. “Retailers are finding ways in which to meet consumer expectations and deliver value, so the holiday season continues to get expanded which provides consumers more time to shop.”

According to Salesforce, sales were up 10% year over year from 2020 to 2021 in the first three weeks of November, and like previous years, they predict people will shop early again in an attempt to get the very best deals and jump start checking things off their shopping list with great discounts.

According to the NRF, the holiday season runs from Nov. 1 through Dec. 31, and many of their predictions are based on that timeframe. This year, the federation projected, sales will grow between 6% and 8% above last year’s record season.

“We do know that consumers are looking for discounts, they’re looking for deals, for value to stretch their dollars in the face of higher energy prices and housing prices,” Shay said. “We know that they’re looking for those opportunities and we think that’s going to continue on for the holiday season. They’re going to be looking for bargains and values as the holiday season begins in earnest.”

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Cyber Monday vs. Black Friday

Good deals are abound this holiday season, but what’s better — shopping on Black Friday or Cyber Monday?

What Is Black Friday?

Traditionally, Black Friday — the day after Thanksgiving — was the unofficial start to the holiday shopping season.

Stores would offer great deals on things like televisions, electronics, appliances and other items to get people into their doors.

Some retailers would open early in the morning on Friday, even as early as midnight. The most dedicated shoppers even pitched tents to camp out for the best spots in long lines, in the hopes to score a discount.

Often quantities were limited, so only the first few people in the stores would snag the best deals.

Part of the fun was the thrill of it all, but online shopping started to chip away at Black Friday’s prominence.

What Is Cyber Monday?

When online shopping began to take hold, online retailers wanted to jump onboard the Black Friday frenzy, creating Cyber Monday deals to attract online shoppers.

They knew many people would be back at work and looking at a screen come Monday morning, so online shopping deals on the Monday after Thanksgiving became a thing.

Strong Consumer Demand Despite Inflation

Inflation, which is still leading to the higher costs of things this year, is on everyone’s mind. But this year, it doesn’t seem to be impacting consumer behavior as much as before.

“Consumers remain in the driver’s seat, and are resilient despite headwinds of inflation, higher gas prices, stringent credit conditions and elevated interest rates,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said. “We expect spending to continue through the end of the year on a range of items and experiences, but at a slower pace. Solid job and wage growth will be contributing factors this holiday season, and consumers will be looking for deals and discounts to stretch their dollars.”

How Retailers Are Adapting to the Changes in Holiday Shopping Behavior

The NRF says retailers understand that people are looking for holiday items earlier than ever before, which is why many traditional red and green items were already on display right next to the Halloween stuff.

Sales and deals are well underway, both in brick-and-mortar retail stores and online. The NRF reports that for the 2023 holiday season, 58% of shoppers plan to do at least some of their shopping online, 48% plan to shop at discount stores, 49% say they’ll shop at department stores, and 44% will shop at grocery stores and supermarkets.

Hopefully, salespeople will be able to handle the load and many are already in place.

To meet the demand of the holiday season, NRF expects retailers will hire between 345,000 and 450,000 seasonal workers, in line with 391,000 seasonal hires in 2022. Stores themselves are also changing and getting more creative in how they manage their inventory and create an experience for their customers. Additionally, some of this hiring may have been pulled into October to support retailers’ holiday buying events in October.

A man looks at holiday deals on his laptop on Cyber Monday.
The average discount on Cyber Monday is about 30% and the sales usually extend over five days or more. Bebeto Matthews/AP Images

When Are the Best Deals?

Even though the sales have already begun, there are still fantastic deals to be had before and after Thanksgiving, too.

The NRF explained that over the last decade, consumers have been kicking off their holiday shopping early in order to spread out their budgets and avoid the stress of holiday shopping. This year, 43% of holiday shoppers are beginning to browse or buy before November. But, even though the traditional five-day shopping period between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday is becoming less and less of a thing, it’s still an important annual shopping tradition.

How to Prepare for Black Friday and Cyber Monday Sales

This year, inflation is still prevalent and is eating into overall consumer spending power..

Here’s how to make your overall shopping experience a bit easier and possibly save you money or help you earn rewards.

  • Make a list: (And check it twice). Having an idea of what you want to buy can help you focus your energy when you either go into a store or go online.
  • Know sale dates: If you wait, it may be too late to get that popular item you’re coveting. If there is something you know you want, look at the store’s website to see if you can get it now. Many stores offer price matching if prices go down.
  • Follow stores on social media, sign up for their emails: Stores might offer specials or codes only for people who follow them on social media, or sign up for their emails.
  • Join a store’s membership program: Some stores have special deals or offer early access customers who are members of their membership or rewards clubs. Sometimes even the return policies are different for club members. Some charge a monthly fee, so check if the savings will justify the cost.

Ready to Shop? Get the Most Out of the Holiday Shopping Deals

Many of the large retailers have already started their promotions. Here’s a rundown of some of them.


The holiday deals kicked off on Amazon on October 10-11 with a sale for Prime Members: Amazon’s Prime Big Deals Days.

During that time, members saved more than $1 billion across hundreds of millions of items sold.

The best-selling categories were apparel, home items, beauty items, and toys.

The sales and deals will continue throughout the holiday season and now customers can use the popular payment app Venmo to pay for purchases.

Best Buy

Best Buy began its holiday deals on October 27 this year. for members of My Best Buy Total™ and My Best Buy Plus™. Holiday deals started on October 30 for everyone else.

The return window is until January 13, 2024 for items purchased between October 27 and December 30, 2023.


Kohl’s has begun what it’s calling a Season of Savings, with a Black Friday Early Access Event that took place from November 3-9 and upcoming Super Saturdays on November 11 and 18.

After already having a few days of early deals, the store is continuing to offer extra savings by allowing customers to earn Kohl’s Cash for use on future purchases.

The store is also doing an entire Black Friday Week of deals beginning Sunday, November 19 as well as deals specific to Thanksgiving day (online) and on Black Friday (in store and online). Physical stores will be closed on Thanksgiving Day.

As for returns, Kohl’s accepts returns for most items up to 180 days after purchase, but there are exceptions for some products.


Target has already started offering discounts with EarlyBlack Friday Deals that started on October 29.

The sales initiative includes four weeks of deals leading up to Black Friday on tens of thousands of items, including many that are 50% off.

Both types of deals are available in store, online, and through the Target app.Although Target advertises that the deals feature their best planned prices for the holiday season, they are offering a “Holiday Price Match Guarantee” if the item sells for a lower price between October 22 and December 24.

The store is mostly keeping its standard return policy throughout the holiday season, with 90 days to return an unopened item.

For electronics and entertainment items, the 30-day refund period for many items begins on December 26 for items purchased October 1 through December 24.


Walmart is doing what it’s calling “Black Friday Deals,” spreading deals over two November events starting November 8 and 22.

New online deals begin at 3 p.m. ET on November 8 and November 22. Members of Walmart + get three hours of early access prior to the scheduled start time of each event.

The deals continue in stores a few days later.

As for returns, Walmart is allowing any item purchased in store or online from October 1, 2023 through December 31, 2023 to be returned through January 31, 2024.

Many stores will be offering curbside returns and some will even pick up your items from your home.

The Overall Holiday Sales Picture

The NRF reports that many shoppers start their shopping before November to:

  • Spread out the shopping budget.
  • Avoid the stress of last minute shopping.
  • Avoid crowds.
  • Take advantage of good prices and promotions.
  • Avoid missing out on specific items.

The NRF predicts people will spend $832.84 on gifts and holiday items this year, saying a September survey of 2,000 shoppers showed people think it is important to spend on holiday gifts and celebrations and are willing to cut back in other areas.

“The winter holidays are an important tradition to many American families, and shoppers are prioritizing their holiday purchases for the people most important to them,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “Retailers have been preparing for months to ensure their inventories will meet demand, while at the same time helping consumers maximize their budgets with shopping events and discounts running throughout the extended holiday shopping season.”

Tiffani Sherman is a Florida-based freelance reporter with more than 25 years of experience writing about finance, health, travel and other topics.

Adam Palasciano is a personal finance-obsessed and money-savvy individual who loves to create content on all things saving and making money. His work also appears on The Smart Wallet, FinanceBuzz, Yahoo! Finance, JoyWallet, and The Money Manual.