Is Black Friday better than Cyber Monday? How you can save the most this holiday season

The two biggest holiday shopping days are almost here.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday have long been associated with deep discounts and doorbuster deals, but which day has the best sales?

Both days have become intertwined as retailers offer virtual Black Friday deals and Cyber Monday discounts aren't limited to online. And in recent years, stores have rolled out deals earlier and earlier, making the retail holidays practically a month-long event. 

"If you're really looking for a deal on something, it's probably best to start sort of tracking a couple of places, and then figure out what you're willing to do," said Dallin Hatch, head of communications at e-commerce accelerator Pattern.

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Are Cyber Monday and Black Friday the same?

Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, represents the traditional kickoff of the holiday shopping season, with many retailers offering heavy discounts. 

Cyber Monday, the Monday following Thanksgiving weekend, emerged as an online alternative to Black Friday, which typically attracted large crowds into brick-and-mortar stores.

Over time, however, retailers have blended Black Friday and Cyber Monday, offering deals both in-store and online, and have started rolling out discounts earlierThis year, Black Friday sales started as far back as October

"We have Black Friday, but it's really expanded almost over several months time," said Timothy D. Malefyt, clinical professor at the Gabelli School of Business at Fordham University.

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Black Friday shoppers in Glendale, Calif., in 2020.

Is it better to buy during Black Friday or Cyber Monday?

The differences between the deals on Black Friday and Cyber Monday aren't dramatic, though certain tech products may be the exception, Malefyt said. 

For many items, if you see a good deal now, don't wait to buy, Malefyt said. But it may be worth waiting if you're shopping for electronic products. 

Many shoppers wait until Cyber Monday to get products in part because of fear of missing out on deals altogether, Hatch said. 

"Some online retailers will maybe have their biggest online discounts for products on Black Friday and then still discount over the weekend through Cyber Monday but sort of dial back the discount," Hatch said, noting the move may trigger consumers' worries of deals going away. 

Last year, consumers spent $10.7 billion on Cyber Monday, with toys, video games and electronics among the top-selling categories, according to Adobe Analytics. 

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Cyber Monday has typically been associated with tech deals, and electronics still see deeper discounts on the virtual retail holiday, Hatch said.

"You can probably shop with with pretty high confidence on Cyber Monday online feeling like you're getting a really great deal," Hatch said. 

Many retailers, however, stick to the tradition of offering doorbuster TV deals on Black Friday. 

Catherine Chesnut fills orders at the Amazon fulfillment center on Cyber Monday, Dec. 1, 2014, in Lebanon, Tenn. Cyber Monday is traditionally the busiest online shopping day of the year.

What deals are Walmart, Target offering on Black Friday?

Major retailers Walmart, Target and Amazon are already offering early Black Friday deals on electronics, home products, clothing, toys and more.  

JCPenney, Belk and Macy’s are offering some of the largest advertised promotions on Black Friday, with an average discount of at least 53%, according to personal finance site WalletHub.

Consumer Reports recommends consumers start shopping early, shop online instead of in-stores, use websites and apps to track prices, and stick to a budget. 

An estimated 166.3 million people are planning to shop from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday this year, with 114.9 million consumers expected to buy during Black Friday, according to the National Retail Federation.