Time to enjoy the company of family, sip a little cider, cook amazing meals, and…spend more money than you can possibly imagine!
Lately it’s starting to seem like the imperative of spending money has overtaken all the rest of the things we like about the holidays. It’s barely mid-November, yet the retail industry has already pumped the seasonal sales machine into full gear, with the climax being Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.
We’re conditioned to think about that day (which falls on November 25th this year) as a day for shopping and buying. But in reality, it doesn’t have to be. And if you’re trying to get out of debt or build your savings account, it shouldn’t be.
So here are 5 tips (and actions) you can use to make sure Black Friday doesn’t put you in a financial black hole:
1. Unnecessary Purchases are Always a Bad Deal — No Matter the Price
People get excited about Black Friday because they imagine sleek, brand new laptops and flat screen TVs being sold for a fraction of their usual price. But no matter how great the deal may seem for that new gadget or toy, buying it will NOT save you money unless it’s something you absolutely need.
Often, we justify purchases at this time of year by telling ourselves that “this state-of-the-art blender will make a great gift for Uncle Jim, and it’s 50% off!” Nevermind that it still costs $89 and that Uncle Jim has a perfectly good blender already. In other words, the deal justifies the purchase. But not for you. Not this year.
Action: If you feel the need to visit stores on Black Friday, write down a list of things you need before you even leave the house! And only include expensive items like a laptop, TV, or refrigerator if you don’t already have one or if the one you have is broken.
2. Pay with Cash (or Debit)
Taking a credit card into a store on Black Friday is like taking a piece of prime rib into the tiger cage at your local zoo — it’s dangerous. The stores have a ‘feeding frenzy’ mentality on Black Friday, with crowds of people trying to find the best deals and buy them before anyone else — before you!
With a credit card in your pocket, you might end up talking yourself into all kinds of purchases (“Oh, this walnut grinder is 90% off, I can’t pass that up!”)
A lot of people get into debt on Black Friday by taking their credit cards and engaging in some excessive deal-shopping. That’s what happened to Katrina Ryefield, who we profiled recently:
“I got my first credit card right before Black Friday, which was probably the worst idea. And I was visiting family in Georgia, so it was my first credit card, my first Black Friday with all my aunts, and I was ridiculously excited.”
Action: Decide how much you’re willing to spend and take only that much cash (or bring a check or debit card with that much money available). That way, you’ll be forced to stay focused on buying the things you need and won’t be able to go over budget.
Also try limiting your use of plastic with these credit card lockdown stickers. If you do use a debit card, make sure you’re aware of your balance so that you don’t get charged any overdraft fees because of your Black Friday shopping.
3. Understand the Concept of Loss-Leaders and How it Can Hurt You
Retail store managers are smart. They’ve developed highly refined ways of getting you to spend money. One of these ways is by getting you into the store with a few low-priced items (on which the company actually takes a loss), and then leading you toward other purchases. It’s obvious that the truly great deals are limited.
That’s why some people wait in line over night to be the first or second one into the store. So what happens if you get into the store and those great deals are gone? You’ll feel the need to spend your money anyway — after all, you’re already there and that electric toaster over there does look pretty sweet.
This is what the store manager is counting on. Outsmart them. Don’t fall for it.
Action: If you’re willing to wait over night, or if you’ve gotten a heads up on a truly great deal for something you actually need, then by all means take advantage of it. But don’t go into that electronics superstore mid-afternoon on Black Friday and expect to find one of their 90% off laptops or TVs. If you do that, chances are you won’t find the 90% off deal, but you will end up finding something else to spend your money on.
4. Use Online Shopping Wisely
For some people, online shopping is a great way to save money and time on purchases they already planned to make. For others, it can become an addiction that quickly gets them deep in debt. Retail companies are successfully creating a new holiday on the heels of Black Friday called Cyber Monday — which is the online equivalent to Black Friday.
Those who aren’t prepared can get sucked up in the same temptations online as they would in the stores themselves.
Action: If you’re thinking about finding good deals online, either on Black Friday or on Cyber Monday, take a gut check and decide whether you’re the kind of person who can be disciplined about online shopping. If you’re not, be proactive by erasing all your credit card information from online retailers TODAY. Then be sure to stay away from your computer on the Friday and Monday after Thanksgiving, to avoid temptation.
5. Plan Other Activities for Black Friday
In fact, the best way to avoid any and all temptation on Black Friday is to plan some kind of activity that does not involve going to (or anywhere near) a retail store. After all, you can’t spend money you don’t have if there’s nothing to buy, right?
Action: Make plans in advance to do something fun with family or friends that day. Take a picnic at a nearby park, lake, or mountain trail, have a nice brunch and catch a movie, or stay home and indulge in some simple pleasures like reading a book, playing a video game or calling your friends. It’s best if you can make plans that involve other people who want to do non-shopping things together with you. That way, you’ll have even more fun and you won’t be tempted to get in debt.
Good luck saving money on Black Friday by NOT buying unnecessary things, and let us know what you end up doing instead!