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Black Friday is one of the biggest shopping days of the year, and it can get a little intense. Though it’s changed a bit in recent years — lines wrapped around stores before sunrise and frantic races to product displays have now transitioned to online sales (and early deals) — Black Friday still requires some pre-planning.

To prepare you for the big day, we have broken down the basics of what you can expect on Black Friday, plus, expert-advice for how to best prepare before you start to shop — whether you’re braving the crowd or staying in this year.

When is Black Friday 2021?

Black Friday happens on the Friday after Thanksgiving. This year, it falls on Friday, Nov. 26.

What time do Black Friday sales usually start?

Despite the holiday being named Black Friday, many retailers, such as Amazon and Walmart, have started rolling out deals way before Thanksgiving Day. Some of them have started a full month early. Some retailers have already shared their Black Friday shopping dates and hours for 2021. Below are the big names we’re keeping our eyes on:

Amazon Black Friday deals 2021

Amazon has disguised its early Black Friday deals as Epic Daily Deals this year. You can find savings on everything from tech to home goods.

Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

The latest generation of Amazon’s Fire Stick is currently marked down to just $20, it’s lowest recorded price, according to Camelcamelcamel. It plugs directly into your TV so you can easily access streaming apps like Netflix, Hulu, Spotify and more.

JBL Tune Wireless In-Ear Headphones

JBL’s earbuds deliver eight hours of nonstop sound, so you can wear them all day or all night. These were also made with comfort in mind, offering a snug fit and three sizes of ear tips to choose from.

Fitbit Inspire 2 Health & Fitness Tracker

Track your steps and daily activity with the Fitbit Inspire 2. When you buy the fitness tracker, you’ll get a one year Fitbit Premium membership, so you can get personalized insights on how to improve your exercise routine, sleep habits and more.

iRobot Roomba 692 Vacuum with Wi-Fi Connectivity

Cut down on cleaning time with the help of this popular robot vacuum. It features a three-stage cleaning system, voice command control and an Auto-Adjust Cleaning Head that automatically adapts its height to clean a variety of surfaces, from carpet to hardwood.

Instant Vortex Plus 4-Quart Air Fryer

The Instant Vortex Plus 6-in-1 air fryer can air fry, broil, roast, dehydrate, bake and reheat foods, and requires little to no preheating time.

TCL 40-Inch 1080p Smart LED Roku TV

It’s almost time for holiday movie marathons. Upgrade your viewing experience with a new flat screen that’s less than $250 right now.

Tuft & Needle Original Queen Adaptive Foam Mattress

Amazon is marking down select Tuft & Needle mattresses by up to 20%. This model has more than 10,800 five-star reviews and is made from a bouncy yet supportive adaptive foam material that’s infused with a cooling gel.

Walmart Black Friday deals 2021

Walmart released another round of Black Friday savings last week, so there are plenty of exciting discounts to shop. The retailer also just released details about its official Black Friday sale, which kicks off on Monday, Nov. 22 at 7 p.m. EST (online). You can expect to see deals on the Playstation 5, Apple products, air fryers and more giftable items.

Skullcandy Jib True XT 2 True Wireless Earbuds

You can score these wireless headphones for less than $20 right now. They have a long-lasting battery life, dual microphones and come in two colors. They also feature built-in Tile finding technology, so if you lose one (or both) you can “ring” the earbuds from the app on your phone.

Ionvac Smartclean 2000

Another top-rated robot vacuum on sale right now is this version from Ionvac. You can connect it to an app on your phone to control cleaning modes and routes, so it knows exactly which spots to hit in your home.

Keurig K-Duo Single Serve & Carafe Coffee Maker

This multitasking appliance can brew an entire pot of coffee or a single cup in minutes — it’s up to you. It’s a great pick for anyone entertaining guests this holiday season.

Hover-1 Comet Electric Scooter

Any little kid will love unwrapping this fast scooter this year. It can ride at 10 MPH for five miles, and once they’re done, it conveniently folds up so that it can be stowed away.

LEGO Classic Bricks on a Roll

This classic LEGO set is on sale right now for just $20. It’s a bestseller that inspires creativity for endless hours of play.

Target Black Friday deals 2021

Target unveiled its early Black Friday savings on Oct. 31, and is dropping new deals every Sunday throughout the month. You can expect further savings on all things beauty, tech, home and more.

PowerXL Vortex 3qt Air Fryer

Still haven’t added an air fryer to your kitchen counter? You can grab this popular option for 40% off. The five-in-one tool can be used as an air fryer, dehydrator, roaster and more.

Revlon Salon One-Step Hair Dryer and Volumizer Hot Air Brush

Get 30% off Revlon’s bestselling One-Step Hair Dryer and Volumizer. The hot brush can help you cut down on drying time and get a smooth, shiny blowout without the trip to the salon.

Beats Solo³ Wireless Headphones

Save $100 on the Beats Studio3 Over-Ear Headphones. They feature comfortable, cushioned ear cups and boast up to 40 hours of battery life.

Ninja Foodi Power Blender & Processor System

The Ninja Foodi Power Blender & Processor System comes with multiple blades and accessories that you can use to make smoothies, frozen mixed drinks, sauces and more.

Macy’s Black Friday deals 2021

Macy’s started its Black Friday deal specials on Nov. 3 and has dropped a few more rounds of deals since. Additional drops will roll out Nov. 16-22 and Nov. 23-27.

Harry & David Christmas Chocolate Advent Calendar

Countdown to Christmas with this Advent calendar from Harry & David. There are chocolates hidden behind each of the 24 doors to make each day of the holiday season feel even sweeter.

Martha Stewart Essentials Reversible Down Alternative Comforter

Looking to upgrade your bedding? You can score an impressive 83% off a reversible comforter from the Martha Stewart Collection. It provides lightweight warmth and comes in more than a dozen different colors.

Style & Co Ribbed Crewneck Sweater

Cozy up in this crewneck sweater, which is currently 50% off during Macy’s early Black Friday event.

Best Buy Black Friday deals 2021

Best Buy is a Black Friday fan-favorite and consistently has great deals on top electronics. The retailer’s official Black Friday Sale starts on Nov. 19, but you can already find a number of early Black Friday deals live on its site. And when you buy an item marked “Black Friday Prices Guaranteed” by Nov. 18, if the price drops any lower before Nov. 26, you can request a refund for the difference.

Bella Pro Series Analog Air Fryer

You can grab this highly rated air fryer for less than $40. According to the brand, it heats up to 50% faster than a conventional oven.

Yummly Smart Meat Thermometer

Take the guesswork out of holiday cooking with this smart thermometer. You can choose your preferred doneness and track cooking via an app on your smartphone, and it will send you notifications when it’s ready to be flipped or taken out of the oven.

Apple AirPods Pro

You can finally score the AirPods Pro for less than $200! Unlike the original version of AirPods, these feature silicone ear tips that allow you to customize your fit.

Samsung 65-Inch LED 4K UHD Smart Tizen TV

You can add this 65-inch flat screen to your cart and save $100 while doing it.

Lenovo Chromebook 3

Thanks to a massive markdown, you can save $100 on this Chromebook from Lenovo. It’s an affordable option for anyone working or learning from home right now.

Kohl’s Black Friday deals 2021

Kohl’s not only has a reputation of having amazing online Black Friday sales, and this year, the retailer’s big Black Friday event will begin online on Nov. 21 at 12:01 a.m. CT and at 8 a.m. in stores and will run through Nov. 26.

Altavida 12-Pound Ultra Plush Weighted Blanket

Give the gift of relaxation to yourself or someone else on your list with this faux-mink weighted blanket. It comes in six different designs that all weigh 12 pounds, which provides a light amount of pressure. Use the code SHOP15 at checkout to save.

Primrose Cubic Zirconia Initial Pendant Necklace

Looking for an affordable yet personal gift to give this year? This sterling silver necklace is one that is sure to make your giftee smile.

Samsonite Ziplite 5 Hardside Spinner Luggage

Ready to pack your bags for a trip in 2022? Take advantage of discounts on this bestselling suitcase from Samsonite ahead of Black Friday.

ZeroXposur Brooke Packable Puffer Jacket

Get in on the puffer jacket trend with this affordable pick. It comes in nearly a dozen different colors that can suit any wardrobe, and you can find it in sizes S-XXL.

Nordstrom Black Friday deals 2021

Nordstrom kicked off its early Black Friday sale on Nov. 4, dropping big discounts on fashion, accessories and home essentials. And later in the month, the retailer will be adding even more deals to its lineup.

Zella Moto Ribbed High Waist Ankle Leggings

If you’re planning on getting a pair of these stretchy figure-sculpting leggings to gift to a friend, you may as well grab another for yourself while they’re 56% off. They feature a moisture-wicking fabric and a comfortable no-slip waistband.

Thread & Supply Double-Breasted Peacoat

This chic peacoat deserves a spot in your winter wardrobe. Available in three neutral colors, it’s easy to pair with almost anything in your closet.

BP. Kora Lug Chelsea Boot

You can rock the chunky shoe trend with this pair of lug sole Chelsea boots. According to the brand, they run small so you should order in a half size up.

JCPenney Black Friday deals 2021

You don’t want to miss JCPenney’s Black Friday deals! All month long, the company will be offering savings across home, beauty and fashion.

St. John’s Bay Mock Neck Long Sleeve Pullover Sweater

You can grab this cozy sweater for 44% off. Available in four colors, the mock neck pullover will look great when paired with other seasonal staples like a puffer coat or Chelsea boots.

Cooks Contour Belly Diamond 10-Piece Cookware Set

Upgrade your cookware with this deal from JCPenney. The set includes almost every nonstick pot and pan that a home cook could need, including a griddle pan and Dutch oven.

Sealy Retford Medium Pillow Top Mattress + Box Spring

You can get up to 60% off mattresses during JCPenney’s early Black Friday sale. This option from Sealy combines the support of an innerspring mattress with the comfort of memory foam. It has a MoistureProtect cover, which will help you stay cool throughout the night.

Stylus Lightweight Overcoat Plus

On warmer days when you don’t want to bring out your bulky puffer, wear this lightweight overcoat instead. It comes in grey and tan and is currently just $39 when you use the code GOSAVE42.

Lowe’s Black Friday deals 2021

Lowe’s was one of the first retailers to start offering holiday deals — its Season of Savings Event kicked off on Oct. 28. Right now, you can find discounts on seasonal decor, smart home appliances and more.

GE 7-foot Colorado Spruce Pre-lit Artificial Christmas Tree

Thinking about making the switch to an artificial Christmas tree this year? This one comes pre-lit so decorating is easy.

Google Nest Mini (2nd Gen)

This small speaker will make the perfect gift for friends and family members. Not only can they use it to play music, but they can also ask their Google Assistant to set reminders and alarms or check the news.

Maytag Smart Capable Top-Load Washer

If you’re looking to make a major update to your home, you can find discounts on all kinds of large appliances right now at Lowe’s. For example, this heavy-duty washing machine is currently marked down by $150.

Bed Bath and Beyond Black Friday deals 2021

Bed Bath and Beyond is offering early Black Friday deals across most major categories. You can save up to 50% on kitchen essentials, beauty tools, holiday decorations and more.

Dash Mini Waffle Maker

Stumped on what to bring to your upcoming white elephant exchange? This mini waffle maker is a gift that anyone would be thrilled to unwrap.

Indulgence by Isotonic Down Alternative Back/Stomach Sleeper Pillow

This pillow, which is made for back and stomach sleepers, is filled with synthetic down to cradle your head in soft comfort while you snooze.

Our Table 6-Quart Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven in Red

Score 46% off this top-rated Dutch oven. It’s both oven and BBQ grill-safe and comes in eight different colors.

Bissell SpinWave Plus 2-in-1 Robotic Mop and Vac

Cleaning your floors is just got a whole lot easier. This Wet and Dry Robot will both vacuum and mop your floors for you, so all you have to do is schedule a time for it to clean. It has a soft surface avoidance sensor that will keep it off your carpets and rugs while it’s in mopping mode.

More Black Friday sales to shop

Why is the shopping holiday called Black Friday?

The Friday after Thanksgiving has been known as the unofficial start to the holiday shopping season since the first modern Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1924. The term “Black Friday,” however, did not arise until the 1960s when police officers in Philadelphia complained about the traffic and congestion caused by holiday shoppers.

Retailers, however, did not appreciate the negative connotation associated with the name “Black Friday,” so they changed the meaning of the name to reflect the financial successes of that day. Traditionally, accountants used red ink to show negative amounts and black ink to show positive amounts, so retailers used this habit to rebrand Black Friday. The new meaning behind the name is that Black Friday is the day when retailers finally begin to turn a profit for the year.

Black Friday 2021 tips

1. Do research beforehand

Before jumping headfirst into Black Friday, doing some research on which products you are interested in buying can go a long way. Waiting until Black Friday sales begin is a recipe for disaster, so craft a strategy ahead of time to ensure you do not miss out on a deal.

While Black Friday ads haven’t come out yet, you can start by identifying stores you want to shop at and products you want, deciding on your ideal price and the maximum you are willing to pay.

2. Compare and review prices

With so many deals, it can often be challenging to find the right store to buy the products you have in mind. ShopSavvy, Rakuten, Shopbrain and store-specific apps are great ways to compare prices between stores, get coupons and monitor how prices fluctuate leading up to Black Friday. According to The Wall Street Journal, it is not uncommon for retailers to increase prices leading up to Black Friday to make discounts look that much more impressive, so keep an eye out for changes.

Some stores also offer a price-match system, so do your research ahead of time and come prepared with Black Friday ads ready.

3. Go scouting on Wednesday

While a lot of shoppers might opt to stay home this Black Friday due to COVID-19 concerns, if you do plan to shop in stores, familiarize yourself with the layout ahead of time. The last thing you want to do is get lost in the Black Friday rush, so get to know the store, which aisles you want to target and find the fastest route to items you’re interested in.

4. Start shopping early

Every year Black Friday seems to start earlier and earlier with doorbuster deals beginning hours, sometimes days, before. To make sure you can buy all the products you have your eyes on, get a head start by shopping early — especially since there are expected shipping delays and supply issues this year.

“Shoppers who do all their purchasing before Black Friday are more likely to find items in stock, and they have the best chance of getting their purchases shipped in a timely fashion,” Michael Bonebright, consumer analyst at comparison shopping site, told Consumer Reports.

5. Act fast

When it comes to Black Friday, the early bird really does get the worm. Often, the best deals are only available for a limited time and in limited quantities, and if the discount is good, supplies won’t last long. If you see a good deal on a product you want, jump on it before it is too late!

6. Use a different browser

“A website can detect previous visits and browsing patterns from your cookies and couple those data points against internal records to determine how much it thinks you’re willing to pay,” Mike Catania, chief technology officer of coupon website, previously told TODAY.

So, when it comes time to buy on Black Friday, Catania recommends using Chrome and an incognito window to privately browse and avoid those price adjustments.

7. Read return policies

While Black Friday can come with big savings, it can also mean small fine print with details many tend to skim over. During Black Friday sales, refunds and returns, especially with coronavirus as we saw in 2020, is a special case. Before you make a purchase, take your time and check to see if it is returnable and refundable.

8. Sign up for email lists

One of the best ways to get early access to coupons, sales and promotions is to sign up for Black Friday shopping alerts. Consumer Reports also recommends signing up for store loyalty programs to get deals and rewards only available to members. Along the same lines, social media is a great way to find out about exclusive deals and promotions, so actively check Instagram, Facebook and Twitter for updates.

And check back with Shop TODAY for more information as Black Friday draws closer.

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This article was originally published on Sept. 30, 2021.