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
For me, the holidays are about catching up with my rest and spending some quality time with my family. Black Friday is no different. I can understand why some people find Black Friday to be a fun experience, and I can understand that it can be a great way to stretch limited resources. But I find it to be a stressful event at a time when I want to remove all stress from the Christmas season.
So instead of camping out all night, or lining up before the crack of dawn, I’ll be hanging out at home. 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. Serious fights have broken out, people have been arrested, and even the unthinkable has happened when 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.
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 Participate in Black Friday Events…
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. Christmas shopping can be a great way to teach your children about budgets.
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.
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 Ebates, MyPoints and Upromise.
- Find online deals through sites like slickdeals, Ben’s Bargains, and other sites.
- Shop with online discounters such as Amazon, Buy.com, 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.