Black Friday fact vs. fiction

Busting myths about saving money on the biggest shopping day of the year.


Black Friday weekend is big business. In 2020, shoppers spent $9 billion online in 24 hours.1 But are Black Friday and Cyber Monday really the best times to save money holiday shopping? Let’s find out how to save big on gifts and other seasonal purchases.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the best times to buy (big) electronics

Fiction. You’ve seen the deals: a TV for less than $200, an unbelievable sale on laptops, a too-good-to-pass-up price on tablets. But it’s not always worth clawing through a crowd of shoppers, depending on what kind of electronics you’re buying. If it’s big tech like a TV, wait until December 21st or later to get the biggest savings. That’s when stores become motivated to sell what’s in stock a few days before the end of the December season. Just don’t get your heart set on a certain brand—it may not go on sale or have the deepest discount. Keep a general wish list, like “a big TV for the media room,” and you’ll have a better chance of getting a good deal.2

But if you’re looking to buy smaller electronics, including phones, tablets or laptops, Black Friday is the way to go. You’ll also find great deals on video game consoles. The only exception to this rule? The iPhone®. Get your Apple® devices in September when a new model means a price drop on older versions.3

Cyber Monday is the time to buy toys

Fact. When it comes to gifts for your kiddos, there’s no need to fight the toy store crowds on Black Friday. Instead, take a seat and shop for your little ones from the comfort of your home. It turns out that Cyber Monday is the best time to buy toys. On average, they cost 13% less on this day than they do in October.4

But be ready: If your kids have the season’s must-have toys at the top of their wish lists, don’t hold off until Cyber Monday sales. More than likely, they’ll sell out quickly, so buy them while you can. Want to plan ahead for this year? Get a sneak peek of some of the most popular toys of the upcoming holiday season.

Black Friday weekend brings the lowest prices on apparel

Fiction. Black Friday and Cyber Monday aren’t the days to buy clothes. Instead, the weeks leading up to Christmas are your best bet. Big retailers are likely to offer sales as well as additional coupon codes that can be combined for a double discount.5 Building out a Christmas or Holiday savings plan can help you proactively prepare for December spending.

You can stack up the savings on clothing even more by opting to buy on Free Shipping Day. This national holiday means you’ll get free shipping with no minimum order requirement from more than 1,000 participating retailers. In 2021, it’s happening on December 14th, which means gifts will arrive in time for the holidays with big savings on shipping costs. Plus, if you have family and friends far away, you can plan ahead to order gifts and have them sent straight to their homes.

Some Black Friday deep discounts are too good to be true

Fact. You’ll get endless flyers and online ads for deals on home decor, furniture and more, but not all of them are worth it. Bet on getting the biggest deals on small home appliances and other home items, like tool kits and cookware, on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

For other big purchases, you may want to save that big gift for a birthday present and go with a backup gift for the holidays. March is the month to buy new luggage, and you’ll save the most on outdoor gear in October. Consult this list to see the top times to buy other items.

A few more things to keep in mind

No matter when you purchase, one of the best ways to save money on gifts is planning ahead. In the days leading up to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, do your research. Compare prices and ads to plan out where to snag the gifts on your list. It also pays to be loyal: Sign up for free rewards programs ahead of time to get member-only deals during the holiday season. You’ll earn points for purchases and be able to reap the rewards in the new year.6

Another way to plan ahead for Black Friday and Cyber Monday is to put a little money away all year long. That way, when November arrives, you'll be more prepared to take on all the expenses of the holiday season. You can even open a different savings account for the gifts on your list—and set up an automatic savings plan for each. That way, you can keep saving for your significant other, your friend group's White Elephant exchange or that deal you can't pass up just in time for the holidays.


This site is for educational purposes. The material provided on this site is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice or to indicate the availability or suitability of any Capital One product or service to your unique circumstances. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a qualified professional.

  1. Thomas, L. (2020, November 28). Black Friday 2020 online shopping surges 22% to record $9 billion, Adobe says. Retrieved November 12, 2021, from: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/11/28/black-friday-2020-online-shopping-surges-22percent-to-record-9-billion-adobe-says.html
     

  2. Kline, D. B. (2016, November 06). When Is the Best Time to Do Your Holiday Shopping? Retrieved November 12, 2021, from: https://www.fool.com/investing/2016/11/06/when-is-the-best-time-to-do-your-holiday-shopping.aspx
     

  3. Jespersen, C. (2020, December 23). What to Buy Every Month of the Year in 2021. Retrieved November 12, 2021, from: https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/shopping/what-to-buy-every-month/
     

  4. Marte, J. (2016, November 15). This is the best day to buy toys and other gifts if you’re shopping online. Retrieved November 12, 2021, from: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/get-there/wp/2016/11/15/this-is-the-best-day-to-buy-toys-and-other-gifts-if-youre-shopping-online-2/
     

  5. Fowles, D. (2021 November 10). A Bargain Shopper's Comprehensive Guide to End-of-Season Sales. Retrieved November 12, 2021, from: https://www.thebalance.com/comprehensive-guide-to-seasonal-sales-1289892
     

  6. Willcox, J. K. (2021, November 12). Top 10 Black Friday Shopping Tips for 2021. Retrieved November 29, 2021, from: https://www.consumerreports.org/shopping-retail/top-10-black-friday-shopping-tips/

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