No, your mind isn’t playing tricks on you, Thanksgiving is coming a bit earlier this year. Traditionally observed on the fourth Thursday of November, the festivities are set to unfold on November 23rd, just a day after the earliest possible date of November 22nd.
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.
While Cyber Monday continues to grow each year, many still consider Black Friday to be the unofficial kick-off to the holiday shopping season. However, unlike a casual trip to the mall, Black Friday is often a frenzied experience. With all the sales and promotions, it’s easy to get carried away with your credit card and accidentally break your budget.
The average shopper spends an estimated $480 on Black Friday according to Capital One. That’s a lot of money 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).
9 Helpful 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. CNN is reporting that "non-gift" holiday spending on items such as home furnishing and decorations is expected to jump 25% this year. With as many as 82% of shoppers saying they plan on making non-gift holiday 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 ad 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
Embracing the convenience of apps can be a game-changer in staying organized and uncovering the most enticing deals, both in local stores and online. Here are some apps that have proven exceptionally useful for navigating the holiday shopping experience.
Santa's Bag helps you track your shopping list, gift ideas and holiday to-dos.
Slickdeals is a popular deal-sharing app knowing for their comprehensive lists of online and in-store savings.
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.
9. Stay Safe
While the vast majority of Black Friday shoppers successfully navigate the holiday each without incident, it is always important to be mindful of your safety, especially with the potential for large crowds, long lines, and heightened emotions.
Avoid carrying large amounts of cash, and always keep a close watch on your surroundings. Be cautious as large crowds can make it easier to get separated from belongs. Also try to park in a well-lit area, always lock your vehicle, and avoid leaving valuables in plain sight.
If you are still concerned about your safety, shopping with a friend or family member is a great way to stay safe and can often be a great experience for everyone. Additionally, as online shopping is convenient way to participate in Black Friday without ever leaving your home.
Avoiding online Black Friday scams
Unfortunately, you can also fall victim to Black Friday scams without even leaving your house. While Black Friday is a great time to find deals, it can also be a time when scammers are looking to take advantage of unsuspecting online shoppers.
Be wary of too-good-to-be-true deals. If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. Scammers will often use low prices to lure people in, but once you've paid for the item, you'll never receive it.
One way to avoid these scammers is by always researching a company before making a purchase from an unknown website. Read online reviews to see if other customers have had problems with the company. If an online search yields no information about the company, it often serves as a warning sign that something might be amiss.
Finally, be careful about clicking on links in emails or text messages. Scammers will often send emails or text messages with links that appear to go to legitimate websites, but they actually lead to fake websites that may steal your personal information.
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.
With more retailers offering early “Black Friday” savings throughout November, and the recent emergence of Cyber Monday, Black Friday may not be the huge savings event it once was. Numerous retailers have expanded their 'doorbuster' offerings online. These enticing deals frequently kick off on Thanksgiving Day, even before traditional brick-and-mortar stores open their doors.
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
We know 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. And if you find yourself in need of additional support during the holidays or any time of the year, RISE is here for you with helpful financial wellness content and free tools to build your credit. Visit RISEcredit.com to learn more about the RISE difference.