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Black Friday is coming soon. Here's how to snag the best deals now

Don't delay stocking as these deals won't stick around for long.

This story is part of Holiday Gift Guide 2021, our list of ideas, by topic, by recipient and by price, to help you discover the perfect gift.

Normally, Black Friday -- the day after Thanksgiving -- jump-starts the holiday gift-buying season. (Here are the latest ad scans for several retailers.) But holiday shipping delays and the ongoing silicon chip shortage that's related to the COVID-19 pandemic mean you're better off getting your holiday shopping started as soon as possible this year. It'd be a shame if your gifts didn't arrive until after your winter holiday was over.

With the chip shortage and shipping delays, highly sought-after gifts -- like the PlayStation 5 -- are expected to be even harder to find this year.

We're also hearing that deals may not be as spectacular as in years past, so we don't anticipate you'll lose many opportunities by buying now rather than waiting. And again, a gift in the hand is worth two stuck in the mail. (Isn't that how that saying goes?)

We'll tell you how to save on all the products you want ahead of Black Friday. We'll also show you how to get discounts on some of the latest Apple products and other gear with trade-ins and other offers. For deals happening now, we've rounded up the best at Walmart, Best Buy, Target and Amazon.

You'll find CNET's best holiday shopping and deals pages here:

'Black Friday' sales have already started -- but some are better than others

Retailers have already started their sales weeks ahead of Black Friday. Target's deals kick off on Nov. 21, with discounts on kitchen appliances, smart home products and electronics. Amazon already has a ton of early Black Friday deals listed on its Home page, from streaming sticks to games. 

Walmart has a slew of products on sale right now, with more savings coming Nov. 22. And Best Buy has kicked off its early Black Friday sale, too.

But beware that some sales may be repetitive. You'll see the same price drops again and again, with a lot of products dropping back to previous lows they were selling at days or weeks before. And watch out for "fake sales" that try to convince you into thinking you're getting a discount when instead you're being given the retail price. If you come across a fake promotion this holiday season, it's best to alert the Federal Trade Commission

Look for price-match guarantees 

Price-match guarantees are the best way to assure you that you're getting a good deal. For example, Best Buy is guaranteeing Black Friday prices on TVs, headphones and other products. But there's a catch. The guarantee is only for Best Buy Totaltech or My Best Buy members. Subscribers that buy an item marked Black Friday Prices Guaranteed will automatically receive a refund or the difference if the price drops. But members must be signed in when making the purchase to get Best Buy's Black Friday Guarantee. 

Other major retailers, like Target and Walmart, have price-match guarantees year-round to adjust the price if you find a better deal elsewhere. But keep in mind that the price match may only be for select stores and may not work for online retailers.

Consider retailer membership services 

Some gaming consoles and phones will be harder to get this year due to the chip shortage that experts forecast may not improve until 2023. The supply chain's bottlenecks mean that fewer gaming consoles, phones and other electronics will be available as the holiday season gets closer. 

Many retailers that get shipments of these products are giving first dibs to their subscribers, like customers who subscribe to Amazon Prime. Customers who sign up will be given the first choice of hard-to-get electronics, like the PS5 or the Xbox Series X. But if you're not pressed to get the latest and greatest, you may have better luck finding a step-down model, like the Xbox Series S or the non-OLED Nintendo Switch, for cheaper. 

Walmart Plus and GameStop PowerUp Rewards Pro are two membership subscription services that are taking advantage of the product releases, discounts and free shipping for their subscribers. Keep in mind that some memberships, like Walmart and Amazon, require a paid membership for the perks.

Trading in your device can save money, too 

If you're looking for a good deal on the latest iPhone 13, iPad or Apple Watch Series 7, trading in your old one may save you money. Right now, Verizon is offering $200 off the latest Apple Watch when you trade in an older model that's in good, working condition. That means you may be able to get the newest model for half of the starting retail price. 

But there's a catch -- you'll likely have to commit to a two-year contract. You may also be able to get one at retail stores but the deal may not be as good. 

One other savings hack is to check membership warehouse clubs for deals on Apple and Samsung devices. Sometimes you may luck out with extra accessories and services when you purchase a new iPad ahead of the holidays. 

There are other savings that you can shop for when the Black Friday sales end. Best Buy has a Deal of the Day year-round to give you a special offer for one day only. Amazon Prime members can also check Lightning Deals (redubbed "Epic Deals" for the holidays) to get limited-time offers on items and free one- or two-day shipping for Prime members.

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