Thanksgiving is just around the corner. For some that means the four “Fs:” family, friends, food and football (maybe that last one is only in Texas).
For others, it just means the day before the big S: shopping! Or maybe the other big S: sale.
This year, do your best to avoid some common spending traps.
Black Friday Black Holes
- The Big Deal: Often times stores will advertise a so-good-you-can’t-believe-your-eyes deal – like a 50” flat-screen for $199, or a netbook for $49. These deals aren’t too good to be true…they’re just too good to be true for everyone. Stores that advertise these deals often have just one or two in the store on Black Friday, but they advertise in hopes that you’ll get in line early or even overnight hoping to snag one. Once you’ve spent all that time getting invested in the item, you’ll likely not want to walk away without it or a similar item – even if it means paying more. If you get in line for one of these big ticket items, set a price limit for what you’re willing to pay for it. If you can’t get it for that amount, walk away. Better yet, avoid staying in line altogether and shop Black Friday sales online or wait for similar (and more guaranteed) deals to come around on Cyber Monday.
- Catalog Cravings: Preparation is key when it comes to Black Friday success. Make a list of what you want or need – THEN comb the ads to see where you can get the best deals on those items. A deal-addict browsing the ads without a list is a little like going to the grocery store hungry – you want it all and you want it all RIGHT NOW! Don’t get sucked in by deals that you really don’t need. If you feel yourself desperate for an item that you hadn’t planned to purchase, ask yourself how and when you will use it. If you think it could be a good inexpensive gift for “someone” figure out who that someone is and when you will give it. If you weren’t already planning to buy it, a Black Friday deal is helping you SPEND not SAVE (unless it’s free Black Friday stuff!). While this is easy to justify up front, you’ll be sorry when December hits and half of your holiday shopping money is gone…even though half of your presents are not bought!
- Overbuying: Even if your daughter DOES need new pajamas and you can pick them up for $5 at Old Navy, there’s no reason to buy 6 sets. Ditto to $10 jeans, $5 DVDs and almost anything else you can name. If it will be too small, out of season or expired before you can use it, you don’t need it. And if you have one just like it, can borrow it, can see yourself throwing it away in 6 months, or don’t have a place to store it, don’t buy it. Most deals are only deals if you buy small quantities of items that you will actually use. If you buy 4 $5 DVDs and watch two before forgetting about the rest, you just spent $10 per DVD that you actually watched – not so great a deal anymore. Just like for the holiday season as a whole, it’s important to plan and budget for Black Friday sales.
- Price Assumptions: Just because it’s Black Friday doesn’t mean that every single item in every single store is as cheap as it can possibly be. Don’t assume that something is a good deal just because it sounds like one. Do your research online and at other stores – especially for big ticket items like electronics. With free-shipping codes a dime a dozen this time of the year, you can often save money ordering online. And some big stores have been known to mark up prices before the holidays just so they can advertise “big sales” where items are brought to more normal pricing.
The bottom line is that Black Friday shopping should be just like shopping any other day – buy only what you need, make sure you’re getting the best deal possible, and don’t pay more than you planned, even if it is convenient. Remember these tips and you’ll have plenty left over for the rest of your holiday shopping!