How to Shop Black Friday Without Losing Your Mind or Money
Black Friday is here! While it’s not Friday yet, Black Friday sales have already started. I shopped online for rain boots a few days ago and bought a pair on sale in what the company called a Black Friday sale. It wasn’t even close to Friday yet! I also woke up yesterday to an inbox full of Black Friday offers. Are you also overwhelmed with all the sales and marketing that’s going on right now? You might feel like you’ll lose your money or your money over the sales this long weekend.
The marketers are out in full force. It makes sense given that Black Friday is one of the most high-revenue days of the year. Last year, U.S. retailers earned $7.9 billion on Black Friday and $19.62 billion between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday last year.
You might be tempted to avoid Black Friday this year to avoid the mayhem and save money. I don’t recommend avoiding Black Friday altogether if there are things you want or need and you have the money for it. This is one of the best times of the year to get great deals on the things you’ve been eyeing for yourself and Christmas presents for others. The tough part is keeping your spending in check when there are so many great deals to be had. So how do you take advantage of all these sales without losing your mind or money?
Make a list
The first thing to do is make a list of what you want or need to buy. I make two lists:
1) Gift recipients
Who is on your list to receive a gift this year? What might they like? I make a list of all my gift recipients, ideas for what to buy them, and a rough budget for their gift. For example, my 5-year-old niece is currently enamored with all things My Little Pony. I plan to get her a dress-up outfit or toy that’s $25 or less.
2) Things to buy for yourself
I make a list of things I want to buy for myself and the house. I accept that I will spend on myself on Black Friday and try not to feel bad for it because it’s things I need. On my list this year is shoes for work and new towels. Those are practical, right?
If you’ve been waiting for a long time for a big item, this may be the right time to get it. Last year my husband purchased a new TV as a gift for a family member. It might seem like a luxurious purchase, but the TV was probably as cheap as it was ever going to be and the recipient really appreciated it.
Scan the sales
Take a look at Black Friday sales ads to see what’s for sale and where. They’re easy to access by searching for your favorite stores online or looking at ads in your local paper. Many stores offer incentives like door deals available to the first couple hundred customers or an extra percentage off when you shop between certain hours. You might have to stand in line or fight the crowds, but you’ll save even more money when you take advantage of these offers.
Another way to find good deals is to look up the items you want and see who offers them at the lowest prices. The other day I went to DSW intent on buying athletic shoes. I found a pair of Nike shoes that I liked but thought I could do better than paying $70 for it, and I was right. I took pictures of the shoe and the information on the box.
A quick Google search at home led me to several sites like Nike, Kohl’s, and JC Penny, where the shoes were selling for about $50 with free shipping and cheaper sales tax. I wouldn’t have bothered to look at Black Friday ads for those stores because I don’t usually shop at them, but my want for this specific item led me to those stores with the best sales.
Plan your route
Do you plan on traveling from store to store to take advantage of sales? Prioritize what you want to buy and where it will be sold. Then give yourself plenty of time to shop because parking may be tough and checkout lines will be long. If you’re dead set on getting multiple items from different places, you may have to enlist family members or friends to help you.
Each person goes to a different store to get the best deals in time.
One person parks the car while the other shops.
One person stands in line while the other finds items to buy.
Hold onto your coupons and loyalty cards and have them ready for checkout.
Several people I know avoid crowds like the plague. If that’s you too, your route may actually be to stay at home and shop online in your pajamas. Save your sanity by avoiding the crowds completely and having the goods come to you.
Nowadays there are websites like dealnews.com dedicated to finding Black Friday deals. You can search by store or item and track any sales as they come online. There are other sites like Pricewatch that help you compare prices and find the best deals for your item. Shopping doesn’t get much easier than that.
Stick to your plan
Don’t forget your budget throughout the whole process. You won’t go wrong by figuring out your budget before shopping and then sticking to it. It may be tempting to overspend, but you’ll feel much better when the credit card bill comes a month or so later and you realize that you have the money to pay for it.
No Black Friday sale, no matter how good it is, is worth going taking on debt and jeopardizing your financial wellness. Breathe a sigh of happiness and relief when you return home from shopping knowing your finances are still in good order. Come January you will pat yourself on the back for sticking to your plan throughout the holidays as well.
Return what you don’t need
Let’s say you do go overboard shopping this weekend. Don’t worry! Plan to return what you don’t want or need. Many stores have generous return policies at this time of year. One store I visited earlier this week posted that all items bought starting in mid-October can be returned through January.
Just be sure to check a store’s return policy before you purchase something. This is especially important for big-ticket items like TVs, electronics, and home appliances. They may not qualify for the same return policy as other items or other times of the year.
Finally, if you want to keep an item but saw it someplace else cheaper, try asking for a price-match. Some stores like Target price match all year round. Others may have it just for the holidays or may do it when a customer asks. It doesn’t hurt to ask to save yourself some money.
Black Friday can be a fun shopping frenzy, but it can quickly damage your finances if you’re not careful with your spending. Stick to your budget, your list, and your plan and you’ll make it to the next week with your mind intact and money still in your pocket.
How do you handle Black Friday? Do you have a shopping strategy to tackle holiday sales?