A boy waits to enter the Toys R Us in Times Square on November 27, 2014 in New York, United States.
Andrew Burton—Getty Images
By Alejandro de la Garza
November 20, 2018

Black Friday, along with its younger cousin Cyber Monday, are right around the corner. As always, their arrival has left many shoppers scratching their heads over when exactly they should spend their hard-earned money. They also might be wondering what the heck the difference is between all these sale days, anyway.

The answer, it turns out, might be, “not much.“

“More and more, it’s that there really isn’t so much delineation between them as there used to be,” says Rebecca Lehmann, a senior manager at discount-scouting site Brad’s Deals.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are blending together for a variety of reasons. Many retailers are now offering Black Friday deals online as well as in-store, which means that Cyber Monday is no longer the exclusive day to get holiday shopping discounts online. And in recent years, retailers have expanded their Black Friday sales to cover the entire Thanksgiving weekend, gradually erasing the distinction between Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

“With Cyber Monday, we’ve noticed that it’s kind of morphed into a extended Black Friday weekend because in stores a lot of the deals are recycled,” says Phillip Dengler, head of editorial and content marketing at BestBlackFriday.com, another deal-spotting site.

Experts say that instead of choosing which day is better for shopping overall, consumers should consider each item on their shopping list on a case-by-case basis to find the best deals on individual items.

“What we’re seeing on Cyber Monday versus Black Friday isn’t necessarily more or better deals, it’s just a different product mix,” says Lehmann. “It’s not really necessarily a matter of which one is better.”

Dengler adds that, while he “wouldn’t really wait for anything on Cyber Monday,” travel deals are an exception; cheap-vacation-seekers can often find Cyber Monday discounts on airfare, hotels and more.

Still, for most shoppers, especially those who favor buying products online, the difference between this year’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday offerings is likely to be minimal, aside from some variations on individual products. Of course, for the most hardcore deal-hunters, nothing beats the in-store-only promotions offered on Black Friday, according to Dengler. Those heavily discounted televisions, laptops and appliances are often in limited supply, and some customers camp outside in the cold to get them before they run out.

For those of us planning to spend the night after Thanksgiving in bed rather than on the sidewalk, the difference between shopping on Friday and Monday is less noticeable, especially online. Moreover, as Black Friday promotions push earlier into November, even the distinction between shopping on Black Friday and the days beforehand is becoming less apparent.

“Even sales that are listed as ‘Black Friday’ are starting days before the actual Black Friday,” says Dr. Kit Yarrow, a consumer psychologist and former professor at Golden Gate University. “’Black Friday’ has really evolved into a shorthand way of saying ‘big sale.’”

Still, retailers often save the very best promotions for Black Friday (often starting on Thanksgiving) and Cyber Monday. For those true believers craving $79.99 televisions and $2.14 toasters (after mail-in rebate) nothing else will do.

Contact us at editors@time.com.

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