Avoid Temptation on Black Friday

November 16, 2006: I See Crazy People If you’re like almost every other American, after you’ve gorged yourself on all the Thanksgiving day feasts, you’ll be headed out to do a little gorging of a consumer variety.  Black Friday is well known as one of the largest shopping days of the year.  Most every retail store has some huge deals for the turkey-drunk shoppers that wander to their doors.  And, like most every other American, you’ll likely spend way more than you had planned on spending.

As your favorite personal finance blogger, I urge you to not do that.  I’m all about buying what we need at a price that is below the normal retail price.  Sales, coupons, and rebates are the way to go when buying things that we need.  But, chances are, the things that will be on sale on Black Friday will not be things that you need.  In fact, they’re likely to be things like big-screen televisions, computers, and the hot toy of the day.  You’re going to be tempted to buy them all, because the marketing department makes it look like such a incredible deal!  Here’s some tips for avoiding that temptation, and coming away from your Black Friday shopping with a happy account balance.

  1. Have a budget.  This should be the only tip you need.  But, you’ll get in the store and be tempted.  But, having a defined budget for how much you are planning to spend is still a good thing!  Even if you go over that budget, you’re much more likely to at least stay close to it if you have a budget, than you are if you don’t have one at all.
  2. Make a list.  You’re likely shopping for gifts for everyone, hoping to make them all happy while saving some money on what you buy them.  Make a list of the people you’re planning on buying for, compare it to the flyers that will be inundating your vision over the next week, and then make a master list of people, with the things you plan on buying for them, and where you’ll be buying them.  Now, stick to your list!
  3. Be aware of prices.  Just because the marketing department put the price in big yellow letters over a big red starburst does not mean that it’s really a good deal.  The stores will be full of items that they are marketing as a big savings, when they really are not.  Be aware of the prices of competitors, sure, but also be aware of what the price for that item was last week and be wary of artificial sale prices that aren’t really sale prices.
  4. Don’t fall for the swap.  Many of the places will have a very limited amount of the big sale items on hand.  When they run out, they’ll “swap” the sale item for a similar item that’s more expensive.  You’re there for the big sale item, and you can’t leave without it, so you pay the little bit extra to get the similar item.  Usually, that “swap” item is regular priced, and not on sale at all.
  5. Free can be bad.  More than any other day in the year, the stores will be pushing free items.  “Buy a tickle-me-broke, and get a free tin can!”  The free item is usually a low cost item (loss leader) that they can afford to give away, while the item you have to buy is usually not on sale for as much as they’d like you to believe, and is a much higher profit item.

The biggest thing to remember while you’re doing your shopping next friday is to be aware.  Be aware that the store isn’t out to save you money.  They want to make money, so they will do what they can to bring you in the doors with a huge sale and then sell you all the high-profit items that aren’t on that huge sale list. We’ve all seen the videos each year of the people trampling each other trying to get one of the ten of those super cool kitchen gadgets, or video game systems.  Don’t be that person.  Be conscious of what you want to buy, how much it sold for before, and what the price should be the day you’re buying it.  Have a set amount you want to spend and stay close to that amount.  You’ll be happier that you did.

What are your plans for Black Friday?  Gonna be in the crowds at midnight?  Or wait until it cools off later in the day?  Or, are you a Cyber Monday shopper?

photo credit: Matt McGee

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