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Holiday Shopping: Are Black Friday and Cyber Monday Really the Best Sales of the Year?

The myth around these retail holidays is that they’re the best time of year for deals. But, that’s not necessarily the case.

November 9, 2021

While holiday marketing may kick off earlier with each successive year, it isn't until Black Friday and Cyber Monday finally hit that things get really real.

Last year, Black Friday sales grew by 22%, and shoppers spent a record-breaking $9 billion. Similarly, Cyber Monday 2020 became the most successful digital sales day in U.S. history. While the uncertainty of the pandemic and "new normal" of online shopping most definitely played a role, experts see no signs of slowing down. Industry experts anticipate a 7% growth in holiday sales compared to last year. Still, supply chain demands and shortages fueled by the pandemic could mean fewer Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals and shipping delays.

While these two retail holidays have quickly become tradition over the years, are they the best time of the year for sales? Some Black Friday deals actually start long before Thanksgiving, and three in five Americans say they feel pressure to shop earlier in the season this year. Doorbuster deals, limited-time offers, and holiday shopping specials may look enticing in the moment, but it doesn’t always mean you’re saving money on a gift. 

Are Black Friday and Cyber Monday worth the hype?

The myth around these retail holidays is that they’re the best time of year to get a deal on anything. But, that’s not necessarily the case. Retailers entice people to spend on these retail holidays with the aid of loss leaders, for example, the classic doorbuster deal of a deeply discounted TV. 

That 50% off TV deal will bring shoppers in, but the retailers lose money on its sale. It’s the impulse buys and not-so-great deals that lead to record profit for big box and department stores.

Stores are banking on the fact that once you’re in the door, you’ll spend more on additional items while you’re there, a psychological phenomenon called shopping momentum. And the strategy works. Just over a third of women and 40% of men report that they tend to shop and overspend on Black Friday.    

In addition to the idea of loss leaders, we’ve seen a rise in retail holidays year-round. Prime Day has eclipsed Cyber Monday spending in the past, and international holidays, such as Singles Day in China and Boxing Day in the UK and Canada boast similar sales and promotions.  

Bottom line: Black Friday and Cyber Monday aren’t the only times of year you can score a deal. There are likely better sales during different times of year to buy what you desire. 

Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals

Despite the economics and sales tactics around Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the two retail holidays can still be great times for some holiday shopping deals, especially if you want to buy: 

  • Computers or tablets. You’ll see basic model computers, tablets and laptops marked down on Black Friday.

  • Countertop appliances. Searching for an air fryer, blender or robot vacuum? You’re in luck. Everything from pressure cookers to single-serving blenders will have deep discounts. 

  • Tiny tech. Wireless earbuds, smartwatches, and other smartphone accessories are typically on promotion during Black Friday.  

  • Smart home tools. Whether you want an Amazon, Apple, or Google smart home device, retailers practically give these away on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Expect to see smart speakers, doorbells, and other devices bundled in packages for big savings.

The excitement may blind you to some not-so-great purchases. Based on historical pricing, you won’t get a bargain on the following: 

  • Clothing. Department stores and fashion retailers will offer promotions on Black Friday, but these discounts won’t beat end-of-season sales. 

  • Flashy TV doorbuster deals. The TV deal may seem made for Black Friday, but manufacturers often make cheaper, lower-quality models specifically for the retail holiday. 

  • The latest gaming system. The holidays are immune to the supply chain headaches of the past year. New gaming systems are still in limited demand, and it’s highly unlikely retailers will sell any at a discount this year. 

  • Furniture or home decor. Traditionally, President’s Day is the best time of the year to purchase the sectional you’ve had your eye on.


Save, don’t overspend on sales

It’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of these retail holidays. Shoppers feel the rush of limited-time deals and can end up impulse purchasing items during both of these days. 

The best deal is when you get something you were already looking for, for less. When you start overspending or wracking up debt, those door-buster deals might not feel so great in the long run. 

If you want to take care of your holiday shopping on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, keep the following in mind:

  • Make a list. Check it twice. You might not know exactly what items will be on sale during the holiday shopping weekend. But, before you start spending, make a list of who you’re buying for and what types of gifts they’d like. This can prevent you from feeling overwhelmed, whether you’re online or in-store.  

  • Do your research. Take some time to research the average street price of items you’re hoping to buy. This can give you a better sense of if the discount is a good deal or not. If you’re hunting for a TV, check out reviews and decide what specs you want before you get swayed by a flashy half-off advertisement.

  • Set a budget. While you may be tempted to overspend on the people you love, try to have a budget in place and set gift-giving expectations with friends, family and loved ones.   

  • Don’t be afraid to walk away. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are an adrenaline rush for shoppers. However, retailers often count on you to get carried away with purchases. If you’re on the fence with an item, don’t be afraid to walk away.  

While Black Friday and Cyber Monday can be fun shopping experiences that usher in the holiday season — they’re also prime times to overspend. But, if you take the time to shop retail holidays smartly, you can walk away with great deals while staying within your budget. 

If previous impulse spending has you in credit card debt, consider Tally.† Tally is a credit card repayment tool that can help you pay off debt on time, saving time and money. 

​​†To get the benefits of a Tally line of credit, you must qualify for and accept a Tally line of credit. The APR (which is the same as your interest rate) will be between 7.90% and 29.99% per year and will be based on your credit history. The APR will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. Annual fees range from $0 - $300.