Shopping Responsibly on Black Friday

by Ryan Guina

Black Friday is right around the corner, which means lots of crowds and big savings. Now is the time to start planning – not necessarily for the deals you will seek, but how to shop responsibly. But for me, I will be at home, spending some well-earned time off with my family. I’m well aware of the “deals” that will be out there, and there will surely be big savings on some items. But I can’t look forward to spending hours in line or dealing with the masses so I can save a few bucks on some electronics or seasonal gifts.

Why I Will be Home on Black Friday

Shopping Responsibly on Black FridayFor me, the holidays are about catching up with my rest and spending some quality time with my family. Black Friday is no different. These are the reasons I will be at home this Friday, spending time with my loved ones.


Many people camp overnight to be near the front of the line when the stores open on Friday. Sure, some people make it a family event, but that’s not my idea of quality family time. Add in the time waiting in lines, and pushing through the crowds to find some deals and you can waste half a day visiting two stores.


Something about saving money brings out the worst in some people. The mob mentality kicks in and some people go on the offensive, pushing, pulling, grabbing, etc. The unthinkable happened last year and a seasonal worker at Wal-Mart was trampled to death, all in the name of saving a few bucks. Now I’m not worried about being trampled to death, I can always move to the back of the line and avoid the throngs. But I prefer shopping without being pushed about, bumped into, etc.

Limited Quantities

Almost every store flier for Black Friday lists “limited quantities” in the fine print under the most popular products or the steepest price discounts. The limits are often as low as one or two per store, so unless you are one of the first few people in line and are willing to run through the store to find that product, you aren’t going to get it. Most stores don’t offer rain checks either, so if you miss out, your time was wasted.

The “Non-Deal” Specials

Many stores advertise basement bottom prices on select items and use those deals to get people in the door where you may find many items that aren’t discounted at all. If you go out on Black Friday, make sure you know the regular sale prices as well as the Black Friday specials. Sometimes they aren’t that different.

If You Go…

I’m not planning on venturing out on Black Friday, but if you plan on going out, then here are some great tips to follow to help you not overspend and to shop responsibly this holiday season!

Set a Budget

It’s easy to get swept away in the spur of the moment by all the “deals” you will find on Black Friday. But you aren’t really saving money unless you were planning on buying that item at a higher price. The quickest way to get into financial trouble is to spend more money than you can afford – that’s why you should always do Christmas on a budget. When you are making your Christmas shopping lists, first determine how much money you can afford to spend (and be sure to add a little extra for those people you may have left off your list!). If you can’t afford it, don’t spend it. Here are some affordable Christmas gift ideas, with gifts under $10, under $25, and military gift ideas.

Plan Your Shopping Trip in Advance

This goes hand in hand with your budget. Make a “to buy” list and a “wish list” and only fill the “wish list” after you fill your “to buy” list, and only if you have room in your budget. It also helps to plan which stores you will visit and when. Use your budget to construct a shopping plan that will get you to the stores you need to visit to get the best deals.

Determine if the Deals are Really Deals

Most stores only have limited numbers of the premium items, so your best chance at getting the doorbuster deal that you want is to get there early – sometimes hours before the store opens so you can be first in line. If your time is worth the savings and inconvenience of waiting several hours in line, then the deal is worth it. Be sure to factor in your time when deciding how much money you are actually saving.

Consider Gift Cards

I know a lot of people don’t like to give gift cards and gift certificates because they can be impersonal and there is always the chance that if the store folds, the cards will be worthless. But there are several ways to save money on gift cards, which can make them a more attractive gift option. Sending gift cards is a good way to avoid high shipping costs and can be a great gift for college students, people just starting out in a new home, or people who are difficult to shop for.

Use Credit Cards Wisely

To avoid high interest finance charges, don’t spend more than you can pay off this month. The best rule of thumb is that if you can’t afford to buy it in cash, don’t put in on your credit card. If you do plan to pay your credit card off in full, then take advantage of cash back rewards cards and put some of that money back in your pocket.

Watch Out for Store Credit Card Promotions

Saving 10% on your first purchase sounds like a great deal, but not all credit cards are created equally. Opening store credit cards can actually be worse than opening a standard credit card – they count differently against your credit score and they often come with higher interest rates, making them a more expensive long term option if you don’t pay them off immediately. Instead, consider using cash rewards credit cards, which are often a much better deal than store credit cards. Some of them even offer cash bonuses for new accounts, which are often worth more than the 10% you might get for signing up for a store credit card.

Shop Online

If you prefer to avoid the crowds on Black Friday, then you can do your shopping online (this is my preference). You may miss out on some of the “doorbuster deals” if you shop online, but you probably wouldn’t have been able to get them anyway unless you were willing to stand in line for hours before the store opened. Again, shop with a budget and avoid putting too much on your credit cards. A good way to avoid credit card debt is to shop online without a credit card.

  • Some stores may offer a few deals only at their brick and mortar stores in order to get customers through the doors. If you set foot in the store you are likely to spend more money than if you only buy online.
  • Take advantage of online savings through programs like EbatesMyPoints and Upromise.
  • Find online deals through sites like slickdealsBen’s Bargains, and Fatwallet.
  • Shop with online discounters such as Amazon,, and Tiger Direct.

Have Fun and Remember the Reason of the Season

Black Friday can be a busy and stressful day. So take a step back and remember why we celebrate the Christmas season. This is a great time of year, but that doesn’t mean you should go broke buying gifts for your friends and family. Spend some time planning before you go shopping and only spend what you can afford to spend. That way you won’t get hit by any nasty surprises when the credit card bills come in the mailbox in January.

Published or updated November 23, 2016.
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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Curious Cat Investing Blog

I must say I think the whole experience of socially enforced gift giving is not healthy. We really need to find better ways of expressing appreciation than exchanging gifts. Gift are fine for little kids and weddings, anniversaries, the birthday of your spouse, but the huge amount of money spent on gifts is such a waste in many cases.

So often the only thing is serves to do is avoid the potential someone would feel badly if you didn’t give. That is not healthy.

Gifts are great when they truly are gifts. But why do they need to be concentrated at one time? For little kids I understand, but adults? If you want to give a gift, anytime, do it. But don’t feel obligated to give gifts. If you are obligated to do it, then it isn’t a gift.


2 Craig

I understand what the above user is saying, but adults enjoy giving/getting gifts as much as children, and in a lot of ways it’s part of the holiday experience. I have a sort of secret santa tradition with my extended family and it’s a nice way to celebrate together as a family. I do not give or exchange gifts with friends because I don’t think there is any need for it. I do with family.

People need to get over all the black friday and cyber monday deals. All the deals will last the whole season, especially as it gets closer to Christmas.


3 Miranda

Thanks for including my Moolanomy article!


4 Rick Francis@PonderingMoney

>But you aren’t really saving money unless you were planning on buying that item at a higher price

I guess great minds think alike, I came up with the exact same point for my post today! How else could “Saving” thousands make you broke?

-Rick Francis


5 Craig

Online may help but there is something about the whole shopping experience, especially during holiday times. Deals can be great, get there early and stick to exactly what you plan on getting.


6 Ken

The store credit card offers are endless…always having to say no that temptation.


7 Ken

I’ll probably be at home with my boys while my wife braves the crowds (as usual). We’re still crafting out budget for that day. Enjoy your time at home with the family.


8 Ryan

Ken, If my wife were a big shopper, I would probably volunteer to do the same thing. But she isn’t one to go out on days like Black Friday either. So we’ll just enjoy some down time. 🙂


9 Anaida

I agree with you Craig. I suppose online shopping is a better option to save dollars as well as get rid of crowd and queue. And, cash back websites like AAfter Search, BigCrumbs and ShopAtHome are the hottest and most lucrative trend of these days.


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