How to get your shopping done this Black Friday without breaking the bank

Rose Bak

You can get some bargains on Christmas gifts without going into debt.

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The big meal is over, the leftovers are stashed in the fridge, and it’s time to think about day two of the big Thanksgiving holiday: Black Friday.

Although the term “Black Friday” was first used in the 1950s to describe the holiday frenzy that happens the day after Thanksgiving, it became part of the common lexicon in the 1980s.

Over the years, Black Friday has morphed into a five-day shopping extravaganza that includes Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday.

For more on the history of Black Friday, check out this article.

If you’re one of the millions of Americans who are planning to look for some bargains and get your Christmas shopping done this weekend, use these tips to keep your own budget “in the black”.

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Create a budget — and stick to it.

Sit down before you head to the mall and figure out realistically how much you want to spend.

Once you know your total holiday shopping budget, make a list of everyone you plan to shop for, and how much of your total budget you can spend on each person. Jot down some ideas of what you might buy for each person’s gift, and if you have items that you already know will exceed the gift budget for that person, cross that item off your list and forget it.

And then — and this is the hard part — stick to your budget. Remember, it’s the thought that counts. You don’t need to go into debt to show someone that you care.

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Do some pre-shopping.

Check out the online ads for the stores you might visit and do some price comparisons. Nothing sucks more than buying something at one store and realizing later that you could have gotten a better deal somewhere else.

Most stores use “loss leaders” to get people in to shop there, and those items vary by store. One store might have deep discounts on game consoles, for example, while another store’s loss leader might be televisions.

Go back to the gift list you made, and note which store you hope to get each gift from. It will save you time and also help you make your budget stretch as far as possible.

You know the old saying: “Fail to plan and you plan to fail”.

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Use your debit card or cash for shopping.

Credit cards are not your friend when you’re doing your holiday shopping. It’s way too easy to overspend and think you’ll just pay it off later. Most credit cards have interest rates between 10–20%, which means that your $100 gift will wind up costing you as much as $120 if you don’t pay it off in full by the due date of your card. The effective price of your gift will continue to increase due to interest the longer it takes you to pay it off.

Studies have shown that it’s much easier to stick to a shopping budget when you use your debit card or cash. Or buy yourself a pre-paid VISA card, load it up with your exact budget, and use that card for all your purchases.

No matter how good the sale is, it’s not worth paying exorbitant interest to get, or realizing later that you don’t have enough money left to pay your rent or your light bill.

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Don’t open any new credit cards while shopping.

When the cashier says something like “Would you like to save 20% today by opening a store credit card?” run away. Seriously. Opening new credit cards should be a strategic decision, not something you do at the spur of the moment in the middle of Macy’s or Target.

Also, the busiest shopping weekend of the year is probably not the best time to rely on strangers to safeguard the private information that you need to provide in order to open a new credit card.

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Eat, drink, and sleep before you go.

Let’s face it: none of us is at our best when we’re hungry, tired, or thirsty. Take care of your physical needs before you go shopping so that your decision-making is at its best. Similarly, try to leave your kids at home if at all possible. Distracted shoppers are not careful shoppers.

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Don’t shop at all.

Most of us have too much stuff. We’re drowning in crap we don’t need. Think about doing something more meaningful for the people in our life this Christmas. Instead of hitting the stores, consider one of these options:

  • Make your gifts this year. Pull out your yarn, your scrapbooking supplies, your woodworking tools…whatever craft you like to do can be turned into a fun gift for friends and family.
  • Hit the kitchen. Bake some Christmas cookies or holiday fudge. Bottle your own Kahlua blend. Or make something in a jar, there’s lots of cool soup and cookie mixes in a jar ideas on Pinterest.
  • Give an experience. Movies tickets, a trip to the beach, a coupon for a fun day together — all of these things will be much more memorable than something someone uses once and stuffs in a closet.

What are your best ideas to save money on holiday shopping? Share your thoughts in the comments. And happy shopping.

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Rose Bak is a freelance writer who lives in Portland, Oregon with her family and special needs dogs. She writes on a variety of topics including local news, homelessness, poverty, relationships, yoga, and aging. She is also a published author of romantic fiction. For more of Rose's work, visit her website at rosebakenterprises.com or follow her on social media @AuthorRoseBak.

Portland, OR
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