On the edge of your seat in anticipation of Black Friday? First,
let's set the stage: Last year, 79 million Americans swarmed stores
the day after Thanksgiving -- half of them poised to fill their
carts with cheer by 5 a.m., according to the National Retail
Federation. Epic, right?
Well, bargain shoppers and retail stock pickers, hold on to your
stocking hats: This year, the NRF says 138 million shoppers will
venture out at some point over the long Thanksgiving weekend for a
shopping excursion. Another survey commissioned by the National
Endowment for Financial Education found that this Friday morning,
half of U.S. adults who plan to shop for the holidays will wake up
before sunrise, warm up the car, and go forth to conquer shopping
centers and strip malls in the hopes of knocking off at least half
of their holiday shopping list.
In fact, the NRF predicts that this season we'll shell out 2.3%
more than we did last year for holiday cheer. In dollars-and-cents
terms, that's $447 billion. In more personal dollars-and-cents
terms, that's just shy of the $700 that average Americans say
they're going to spend.
Feeling good about your finances, are you?
Ready? Set! Ready to spend!
Professional bargain hunters already have a detailed shock-and-awe
strategy in place. They've pre-scouted the bargains on the Black
Friday sales circular sites, mapped their plan of attack, loaded
price comparison and bar-code-scanning apps on their iPhones, and
bookmarked every coupon code/rebate/secret sales site they can.
This article is not for them. It's for those who've been busy
power-cleaning the guest room for out-of-town visitors and
transferring prepackaged appetizers into plastic storage bins to
make it look like you've been cooking for days.
If on Friday morning, the thought of spending any more time with
your extended family sounds worse than spending hours in a shopping
mosh pit with strangers, then here are a few sanity- and
money-saving Black Friday shopping tips:
Don't overestimate your deal-getting stamina:
Concentrate your cost-cutting strategies on high-dollar purchases
first. No need to drive around all day to find the best price on
wrapping paper and snow globe stocking-stuffers (unless you're
really sick of rewashing the dishes just to avoid the in-laws).
Nail the savings equation right out of the gate, before you run out
Heed the "bird in hand" rule:
Are you really going to remember to send in that rebate? Not
likely. So don't bother driving to another store and fighting
another crowd to get an item just for the rebate discount. Just buy
the one in front of you and get on with it.
Not shopping for electronics? Sleep in:
The real Black Friday bargains are electronics -- TVs, e-readers,
cameras, phones. Friday (and the weekend through Cyber Monday) are
when you will see the best prices of the season (and quantities can
be limited, so wake up early if one of those items is on your
list). Once you've snagged that flat-screen TV for a song, go home
and take a nap. You know you want to. That's because most of the
other items on your list (non-electronic items that cost less than
$100) are still going to be on sale -- and will probably get marked
down even more as the shopping season progresses.
Stay in your PJs and smugly snag sale items:
Online-only retailers such as
make it easy for shoppers to snag sale items while still in their
bunny slippers. Same goes for bricks-and-mortar stores: It pays to
check out their online shops for deals -- and in fact, because
quantities aren't as limited as they are in stores, your chances of
actually getting a coveted item are better.
Excuse yourself from the table and shop on
A lot of online retailers have already posted their Black Friday
sale items. And big box stores will start posting sale items on
Thursday (if they haven't already). So excuse yourself from the
dinner table and get your holiday shopping out of the way before
dessert is served.
If you must go shopping, bring cash:
Yes, credit cards are convenient -- they offer purchase protection,
rewards, an easy way to track your spending (albeit after the
damage is done), and they take up less wallet room. But they're
convenient. Studies show that people spend more -- and more
impulsively -- when no actual cash changes hands. Plastic makes us
devalue what we spend because we don't experience the immediate
loss of buying power that we do when we pay with cash. (Why do you
think they use poker chips and not actual currency in Vegas?) If
you tend to overspend, leaving your credit cards at home during the
holidays might be the best Black Friday savings strategy of