- Instead of one-day doorbuster deals, Black Friday now spans more than a month of sales.
- But with limited inventories and shipping delays, it's hard to know the best time to snag a great deal.
- Here's how to shop smart ahead of the holidays and still get the best prices of the season.
If Black Friday — the biggest shopping day of the year — is no longer the day after Thanksgiving, is it still considered Black Friday?
This year, instead of one-day doorbuster deals, the discounts are rolling out well before Thanksgiving week, spurred by a number of challenges, including supply chain setbacks and a labor crunch.
These obstacles, which are slowing the delivery of everything from consumer staples to hot holiday toys, will only get worse before they get better, according to Moody's Analytics economist Tim Uy.
With limited inventory in stores and longer shipping times, consumers are more motivated to kick start their holiday shopping as early as they can.
If you can't afford to wait, you can still get the some of the best prices of the season. Here's how:
For example, Amazon is now offering half off an Echo Show and 30% off a Samsung 4K Smart TV with Alexa Built-in on its early Black Friday deal page.
At Target, some of the best holiday deals so far include buy two, get one free on movies, video games and books and Beats wireless headphones marked down to $100 from $200.
Walmart's Black Friday Deals for Days has a 55-in 4K Roku TV for $228 and the Keurig K-Compact for $35.
J.C. Penney and Macy's also lowered the price of kitchen gadgets, clothing, jewelry and bedding (this fleece throw is just $16) and Kohl's will take 30% off Lego sets, among other popular toys, starting Nov. 21.
Small businesses aren't waiting for Small Business Saturday, either.
For example, after fire pits became one of the hottest items of 2020, Pit Command is marking all fire pit tools down by 20% sitewide.
There are many more unique finds already such as 20% off on Etsy or look local and benefit from a personalized shopping experience and a selection that's guaranteed in stock.
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to ensure you'll still get the lowest price on almost everything you're buying, even if you are a little early to the holiday shopping season.
Use a price tracker or browser extension: Savings tools like Cently which automatically apply coupon codes to your online order, and PriceBlink, which pinpoints the cheapest buying option across multiple retailers, help track discounts and price drops, says consumer savings expert Andrea Woroch.
You can also set sale alerts on your gift list through Amazon Assistant or use browser extensions like Karma to monitor product prices, she said. "Just create a list of products you want and it will alert you in the event they detect a price drop."
Look for a price match guarantee: This year, many retailers are also offering some insurance in case a better deal comes along later (although exclusions apply).
At Target, for example, you can request a price match if the price goes lower on or before Dec. 24, however, the offer only applies to select competitors and the item must still be in stock.
Walmart and Best Buy have similar policies, but Best Buy specifically excludes competitors' special Black Friday pricing starting the Friday before Thanksgiving Day through the Monday after Thanksgiving.
Avoid hidden pitfalls: Even the best deals could be too good to be true if it's a final sale or costs even more to send.
Be sure to check shipping costs, service charges and return policies, like a 30-day return window, cautioned Shari Greco Reiches, a behavioral finance expert and author of "Maximize Your Return on Life."
"Black Friday can lead you down a dark hole," Reiches said.
Don't fall for scarcity (only one item left and 53 people currently viewing online), social pressure (friends telling you what to buy), and sales (item was more expensive before) — and never buy the first listing on Amazon without researching all the prices, she added.
Have a back-up plan: In such a challenging holiday shopping season, you may need a plan B.
Gift cards are one of the only items not affected by supply chain disruptions this year, so that's a good fallback if the item you want is out of stock or won't arrive in time, according to Julie Ramhold, a consumer analyst with DealNews.com. Plus, there are deals on those, too.
If you are interested in an Apple gift card, for instance, Target routinely offers buy one, get 30% off a second around Black Friday, Ramhold said.
By December even more gift card deals roll out, she added, with retailers and restaurants offering bonus gift cards when you purchase select amounts — such as a $5 bonus card with the purchase of $25 gift card or a $10 bonus card with the purchase of a $50 gift card.
"These are a great way to make your dollar go further when shopping for the holidays."