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Is Cyber Monday 2021 too late to get the best deals? How to shop smarter this year

Thanksgiving and Black Friday have come and gone, but does that mean you should wait until Cyber Monday to cash in on discounts?

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Don't wait until Cyber Monday to snag something you really want.

Angela Lang/CNET
This story is part of Gift Guide, our year-round collection of the best gift ideas.

Black Friday sales have been happening all month long, but Thanksgiving is over and it's the last weekend of November now. That means you only have a couple days to explore those Black Friday deals from WalmartAmazonTargetBest Buy and other retailers -- but should you rush to make a purchase now or wait until Cyber Monday?

Our best advice this year: Don't wait. We'll explain what's shaking up the Black Friday and Cyber Monday landscape and what to know to help make smart decisions, like buying that new TV you're eyeing.

Cyber Monday sales are often the same Black Friday deals with a new name

One reason you shouldn't wait is that many of the prices don't change over the Thanksgiving weekend (if the products stay in stock). So stores might change the terminology in their advertising, but -- in most cases -- you're still getting that Amazon Fire Stick for $25 (or whatever the lower price may be) whether you buy it Friday, Saturday, Sunday or Monday. 

We expect far more stock outages in 2021 because of ongoing supply chain constraints 

You've heard the stories about container ships backed up outside of busy ports, and maybe even seen some empty shelves at your local supermarket or shopping mall. As the manufacturing and retail sectors continue to deal with the supply shocks brought on by the ongoing Covid pandemic, these are expected to be worse than ever as holiday demand ramps up. 

Early bird shoppers have a better chance of getting what they want. Black Friday sales on popular electronics, like TVs, phones and gaming consoles, typically sell out fast -- the PS5, Xbox and Switch consoles are already nearly impossible to get, thanks to the chip shortage. That means if you wait until Cyber Monday, the item you're waiting on -- to drop even more in price -- could already be gone.

Consider services, digital gifts and gift cards as a Cyber Monday alternative

If there's a bit of good news, it's that some things never go out of stock. Disney Plus, Xbox Game Pass and Apple Arcade (to name a few) can be "gifted" up to the last minute. The same goes for gift cards -- physical or digital. (Here are nine gifts that won't go out of stock this year.)

For gift ideas this year, check out these best holiday gifts for under $300, best gifts for $100 or less, as well as the best gifts for $50 or cheaper.

Cash-back deals or other incentives on credit cards can equal more savings

Credit cards often have built-in fraud protection, which is important when you're shopping online, but many people don't think about the other incentives available, like cash back on purchases from certain stores or categories. It is worth it to check what sort of purchases qualify ahead of time, then plan accordingly. Specific store credit cards may offer additional savings, or certain sites, like Amazon, could have rolling partnerships with credit card companies.