Between Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, it’s easy to overindulge in the excitement of the holiday shopping season. However, sticking to your budget is key, despite how tempting holiday deals can be.
Let’s take a look at how to get the most out of your shopping experience, all while staying within your budget.
Fail to plan, plan to fail
Planning is key. First, make a list of all the items you really need, then do your homework beforehand.
Include the wish list of each person and write down an estimate of how much you anticipate those items costing based on internet research. Total up everything and make that number your hard budget.1
Special reminder: the holiday shopping season is shorter this year. Thanksgiving falls on the last Thursday of November, which means this is the latest the holiday season can start. To make up for lost time, retailers may offer more exclusive price drops and promotions from Black Friday through Cyber Monday.
Begin looking for the items on your wish list the weekend before Thanksgiving, both in print and online. This way, you’ll know which retailers to go to for what. If you’re having trouble sorting through all of the online retailers, there are websites, such as bestblackfriday.com, that you can go to that show leaked Black Friday ads. Additionally, following retailers on social media and signing up for their e-newsletters the week before Thanksgiving can often help provide you with even more savings via promo codes.
Use credit cards to your advantage
If you use credit cards to pay for your purchases, you may be in luck as many will often provide benefits to their cardholders. While some cards may not offer deals to specific stores, others will offer 5% back on items that fall into certain categories, such as department stores.
It’s definitely worth logging into your credit card company’s website and seeing which offers you can apply to your card prior to shopping. If you do make purchases on your credit card, plan to pay them off as soon as possible to avoid interest charges.
Bring a buddy
Shopping is more fun with friends! When you really need to stick to your budget, bring a friend and ask them to be your accountability partner. Let them know what your budget is and explain to them how important it is that you stick to it. A good friend won’t let you down and will make sure you don’t stray from your shopping list or budget.
There’s an app for that
When Black Friday finally arrives, don’t leave the house empty-handed! Make sure you download a Black Friday app and coupon aggregator. Popular free options include2:
- ShopSavvy - Imagine scanning the bar code of a product with your phone and pulling up competing prices from other retailers. ShopSavvy gives you that power plus up-to-date deals on items on your wish list.
- Shopular - This location-based app brings the deals to you based on where you are. It’s the ideal tool to bring to a mall and also has a built-in rebate offer that gives you 25% off select purchases.
- TheBlackFridayApp - This app is specifically tailored just for Black Friday shopping and has all of the hottest deals, so be sure to download before you go.
- Flipp - Flipp is a coupon aggregator that allows you to upload your shopping lists and loyalty cards to earn points and find the right deal for what you need.
Don’t want to brave the stores?
Go online! You don’t need to wait until Cyber Monday to get online deals. If you already signed up for e-newsletters from retailers and followed them on social media, keep an eye out for when the best times to buy will be. Often, online retailers will offer rolling discounts based on the date and time, and you don’t have to fend off the other shoppers.
Black Friday shopping should be fun, not stressful. At the end of the day, you should have an enjoyable experience that didn’t set your budget back.
*This article has been updated from its original posting on November 21, 2018. Matt Diehl contributed to this article.