Money Matters

Black Friday game plan

November 26, 2013 | Alliant Credit Union

Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, is the biggest shopping day of the year. It marks the official beginning of the busy holiday shopping season for U.S. retailers. If you’re planning on braving your local mall, big box store or local retailer this Black Friday, it isn't an excursion that should be taken lightly. The big sales that occur on this day can really tempt you to overspend, so to get great deals without going broke, you’ll need a game plan on how to survive with your budget intact.

Plan your spending
You should already have a budget for holiday shopping, and if you don't have a budget yet, then you should create one before your Black Friday excursion. At minimum, you should know how much you can afford to spend this holiday season, then make your list of gift recipients and do a breakdown of price ranges per person, being sure that the tally of the individual gifts does not exceed your total budget. And once you have your budget, it's important that you know what that budget is. Print it and carry it with you on Black Friday (and throughout the holiday shopping season), so that you can review it and track your expenditures, reducing the likelihood of overspending. It may also be a good idea to consider going cash-only over this weekend to avoid giving into temptation – if you don’t have your credit card with you, you won’t be as tempted to spend twice as much as you’ve budgeted. 

Choose companions wisely
If you're the type of person that prefers to go shopping with company, choose your Black Friday companions wisely. If you're working with a tight budget, make sure you select friends and family that you can count on to keep you on track and not encourage you to give in and buy something that's not on your list or exceeds your budget. Don't go with companions that you know you'll bicker with or end up getting frustrated with too - you'll have enough stress throughout the day dealing with crowds and long checkout lines. You and your companions can reduce some of the stress by having an agreed-upon strategy for specific stores. If you’re shopping with your sister, and you each have both a sale-priced kitchen appliance and a sale-priced toy on your shopping list for a specific retailer, one of you can pick up both toys and one can pick up both appliances, reducing the time you spend navigating crowded aisles to get from department to department.

Do comparison shopping
Don't fight the crowds for Black Friday sale items only to find out that you could have gotten a better deal elsewhere. Do a little research before you go shopping and you'll be rewarded with knowing that you found the best deal, not just a good deal.

Get your smartphone ready
Get your smartphone ready by finding apps that can help you compare prices, score extra discounts and navigate store layouts. This can help you save money and time, plus reduce stress.

Pack the print ads
Some retailers match competitors’ Black Friday prices, so make sure you bring print ads with you to make getting the better price and saving easier.

Know when to quit
Even if you go into Black Friday with a plan to stick to your budget, you may find that after spending several hours at the mall, you’ve started to give in to bad spending impulses. Be self-aware, and if you notice that you're making purchases that exceed or break your holiday budget, or if you’re still on track budget-wise but are starting to feel anxious or overwhelmed, take a break. Checking your budget and gift list throughout the day can also help reduce the impulse to give in to all of the enticing deals. If you’re shopping with a friend, you can take turns driving between stores so that the non-driver can update his/her list and compare actual spending to the plan and budget that was made at home.

Be patient
We've all heard stories about people being injured in crowds on Black Friday, so it is important to be patient to avoid these potential, but rare, disasters. Going into Black Friday knowing that it is going to be hectic and crowded will help prepare you, but also, being patient will make it a better shopping experience for you, your companions and everyone else around you. If you miss a deal, remind yourself that it’s not the end of the world, because you can likely find a similar or better deal someplace else or online before the holiday shopping season is over.

Choose comfort over style
Black Friday can be a long day with lots of walking and standing in line, so dress in comfortable shoes and clothing. It'll make the hours spent on your feet more bearable. If you're going to wait in line before the doors open at your favorite store, remember to dress for the weather and in layers so you can remove them when you get inside. Pack some healthy snacks and water to avoid the mall food court and vending machines to save a little cash too.

Happy shopping and good luck!

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