Stay in the Black
Last year, 87 million people shopped on Black Friday, according to the National Retailers Federation. And with all the promotion surrounding Black Friday sales, it’s easy to overspend, image expert Wendy Lyn Phillips warns. To put a number on it: Americans each spend an average of $404 Thanksgiving weekend.
So what are the best strategies for prioritizing what’s worth purchasing? Here are seven essential Black Friday rules. Your wallet will thank you.
To avoid impulse shopping, devise a plan before you arrive at the stores on Black Friday. Merchants will try to tempt you to spend more than you want by cultivating excitement, offering “special” deals, and slamming you with ads. A study in Clothing and Textiles Research Journal calls the phenomenon the “perfect storm for consumer misbehavior” like overspending — or even fighting over items.
Before Black Friday, compare prices online to make sure you’re getting the best deal so you’re not trying to do mental math in crowded aisles. Michelle Madhok, online shopping expert and founder of deal site Shefinds.com, recommends sites like BlackFriday.com and BFAds.net for comparisons. Shefinds.com also posts fashion- and beauty-specific deals all Thanksgiving week, she says.
Prioritize Big-Ticket Items
Sure, toys and apparel may have the steepest discounts on Black Friday, but it may not be the best way to save the most money. Instead, go for a big-ticket item, says Madhok, since the discount will likely be worth much more (70 percent off a TV is of course worth more than 70 percent off something of significantly lesser value, she says).
Have a budget to spend on updating your tech needs? Black Friday may be the ideal time to splurge on name-brand consumer electronics, computers, or a new phone when discounts range from 31 to 42 percent off.
Stock Up on Clothes as Holiday Gifts
You’ll find the steepest apparel discounts on Black Friday. So take advantage of those deals to get gifts (in the $25 to $50 range) for your nearest and dearest. Be warned, though, that clothes are notoriously easy to impulsively buy and then let languish in a closet. Remember that “no matter how much of a bargain you get on an item, unless it’s something you will actually use, and in this case wear, it doesn’t fall into the deal category,” says Phillips. Phillips recommends getting a gift receipt, too — just in case. (Take note: If your sister tries to return that scarf with the receipt, she’ll end up knowing just how little you paid)
Get There Early
When your budget is fixed on a particular item that’s being touted as a big discount, then you must get to the store when (or before) it opens. Popular items sell out fast, says Carolyn Schneider, shopping expert and founder of SavvyShoppingGuide.com and author of The Ultimate Consignment and Thrift Store Guide. The last thing you want to do is show up late and find it sold out, resorting to spending beyond your budget for a more expensive (or less desired) replacement.
It doesn’t matter if you’re planning to dole out hundreds for a new flat-screen TV or a few twenties on a new coat for Mom. Prepare to bring cash to the stores on Black Friday to help you stick to your budget. Study after study shows that when you pay with plastic you tend to spend more than you would with cash. Bring only as much as you’re prepared to spend — and leave your credit cards at home.
Know the Return Policy
Afraid you’ll still go over budget or end up wallowing in buyer’s remorse? Then brush up on the return policy of all the retailers you’re visiting before you walk through those doors. Madhok says to check on restocking fees, how long you have to return, or if you’ll get cash back or store credit (the last thing you want is hundreds of dollars in store credit to a store you won’t visit again). And if you plan on scooping up “doorbuster” items, ask specifically about whether you can return them.
Bring Your Coupons
Be sure to bring your ads with you to the store — it’s okay if they’ve been printed off the Internet. Either way, they can help you stick to your budget. First reason: They’re proof that the item you’re holding in the checkout line is the one on sale. Second, physical coupons can help you get a better deal on an item that may be priced cheaper somewhere else. Some stores will match other retailers’ deals, says Madhok, so “if you find the item cheaper anywhere else, prove it to the retailer and they’ll beat that price.”