Thanksgiving is marked by consumption. While helping yourself to that third serving of your aunt’s mashed potatoes may lead to little more than a stomach ache, spending too much on Black Friday sales the next day could really rattle your finances. Here’s a look at how to avoid succumbing to the many temptations you’ll face over the next few weeks.
Create a budget and stick to it
First things first: make a budget for the big day. Ask yourself how much money you can afford to spend before adjusting your other monthly expenses accordingly. You may, for example, choose to few take-out meals to make up for your post-Thanksgiving splurge. So be it. Partaking in Black Friday may mean making sacrifices in other areas.
You can also benefit from making a detailed list of exactly which items you want to get your hands on, and research prices and availability. Without this type of structure, it’s easier to lose track of what you’ve bought, or exceed your budget after just two or three purchases.
Whatever you do, be sure to stick to your plan. More than half—53%—of consumers set a holiday spending budget, according to consulting firm Accenture. However, 46% say they’ll probably go over their limits. If you own a smartphone, a free app called Level Money can help you along the way, as it automatically links to your account and lets you create daily, weekly and monthly spending plans, while simple graphics show how much you’ve spent.
Be wary of retailer tactics
From extending hours to offering doorbuster specials, retailers use several tricks to get you to spend more than you planned. Some advertise a super sale price on an item but say in tiny type that you have to have a coupon to get the discount. So don’t neglect to read the fine print, and bring the coupons.
At other stores, you won’t find prices cut on the most popular items they sell since the managers know shoppers will probably buy all they have anyway. Apps like PriceGrabber compare prices across stores and send you an alert if a retailer has slashed the cost of an item on your list.
Look beyond Black Friday
Before storming the doors of the mall, remember you can score great deals after Black Friday, too. Cyber Monday the following week features excellent buys over the Internet, and you can shop from the comfort of your home. Keep in mind that prices on certain items, such as linens, are likely to be reduced considerably during January “white sales.”
With the right game plan, Black Friday doesn’t have to be a wallet-emptying, debt-inducing experience. With a little foresight, you can stay on budget while taking advantage of discounts and crossing off at least some of the items on your holiday shopping list.
Tony Armstrong, NerdWallet