The holidays are typically joyous occasions and cause for celebration — as they should be. But, for many of us, the chaos of prime-time shopping also prompts financial stress.
And it all begins the day after Thanksgiving, a.k.a. Black Friday.
Last year, many brands closed their retail stores to in-person shoppers due to the pandemic, but that didn’t stop people from online shopping. According to Adobe Analytics, Americans spent $9 billion online on Cyber Monday last year, up 15% from the previous year
Thanks to widespread discounts and promotions, Black Friday is a popular day to knock out holiday shopping needs. However, unlike a casual trip to the mall, Black Friday is often a frenzied experience. It’s easy to get carried away with your credit card and accidentally break your budget.
So, it’s important to adopt an organized and calculated mindset, especially if you’re adhering to a strict budget this year. By following our Black Friday tips, you can breeze through the holidays without compiling extra credit card debt (and closet-stuffing junk).
8 Black Friday Shopping Tips
Don’t make the mistake of going into the holiday shopping season without any sense of a strategy. Here are eight tips for Black Friday shopping:
1. Make a plan
We can’t stress this enough. Before you open your laptop or line up outside your favorite store, make a plan. That includes a list of the people to shop for, gifts to buy them and your budget for each person.
Remember that your overall holiday budget will include more than present purchases. The National Retail Federation found that the average American spends about $997.79 on holiday items such as decorations and food, and additional "non-gift" purchases. Keep this in mind when you budget for your holiday spending.
2. Do your research
Many retailers, like Amazon, promote Black Friday sales well before the big day. Research these deals online and look at circulars beforehand. You can compile a wish list of sale items so you aren’t scrambling when you get to the store.
Without a plan, you may settle for a low-quality product or spend way more than you intended — just to cross another holiday gift off the list.
Research also helps avoid awkward disagreements. If you receive a coupon or find a discount online, some stores may require a hard copy of the sale ads to get the deal. Make sure to read the fine print on all of the Black Friday deals before hitting the stores.
3. Don’t trust Black Friday “SALE” signs
These big signs are alluring, inviting and, for many of us, completely irresistible. In theory, sales and special doorbuster deals should save you money — but they often have the opposite effect. It’s easier than we’d think to dip deeper into our pockets just to “get a good deal,” especially on items we don’t necessarily need.
Sales are still an opportunity to save, but stay true to your plan. Some retailers promote big discounts on Black Friday, hoping to get shoppers through the door. In turn, they may toss additional, unexpected items into their carts and spend more than they originally planned.
4. Prepare for unexpected expenses
With all the holiday fun, it’s hard to envision something not-so-fun happening. Unfortunately, expenses and emergencies don’t take a holiday break. One slip down an icy staircase or one icicle falling onto your windshield can wreck your holiday budget — and your spirits.
If you haven’t already, establish an emergency fund before you allocate savings to holiday shopping. (And don’t use emergency savings on holiday purchases like gifts and trips.) You never know when you’ll need that money.
5. Shop early
Generally speaking, Black Friday commences the holiday shopping season. But that doesn’t mean you have to wait until then to start shopping. Many stores begin sales during the week leading up to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, so shopping early can pay off.
Keep an eye on your wish list during the days ahead of Black Friday to see if you can snag a steal. Also, sign up for email lists from stores that have items on your wish list and follow your favorite brands on social media. That way you’ll know exactly when the best Black Friday sales start.
6. Ask for gift receipts
We’ve all been there. You open a present that’s not your style, or it’s something you already have. There’s an easy solution: gift receipts.
Get gift receipts (which don’t share prices) for everything you buy and include them with your presents. That gives the recipient the opportunity to exchange their gift for something they may need more.
7. Use a Black Friday app
Santa's Bag helps you track your shopping list, gift ideas and holiday to-dos.
8. Consider opting out
Some companies have de-emphasized Black Friday marketing campaigns to discourage shoppers from buying unnecessary goods or to give employees more time with their families.
For instance, Outdoor retailer REI closes its stores on Black Friday and encourages people to spend time outside instead, ideally participating in a cleanup group. In 2020, footwear brand Allbirds actually increased prices and sent Black Friday and Cyber Monday proceeds to a climate change organization.
Should You Shop on Black Friday?
If you enjoy hunting for bargains and the energy of Black Friday shopping, stick to your spending plan and have fun. But if you prefer to relax at home, explore the outdoors or spend time with family on this day of the year, why not do what makes you happy?
There will be plenty of other opportunities to take advantage of discounts and promotions.
Are Black Friday Prices Really Lower?
Even if you decide to shop on Black Friday, are you really getting the best deal? Not necessarily.
The LA Times reported that many of the discounts featured during Black Friday are generally available throughout the year. So, you don’t have to wait until the last minute to do your holiday shopping. If you start early and monitor promotions, you can score a deal and be done with your holiday shopping before sitting down for Thanksgiving dinner.
The Gift That Keeps on Giving
The holidays can be stressful enough without worrying about your finances. So, implement these Black Friday tips now to get ahead of the game and ensure you stay within your budget this holiday season.