Oh lawd, its Black Friday! No need to freak out, calmly step away from the shopping cart and let’s get a plan of attack.
I am not a wait-in-line-in-the-wee-hours-of-the-morning kind of shopper. I am not a fight-in-the-aisles-over-the-last-Tickle-Me-Elmo (or whatever the kids are into these days) kind of shopper. I am not a big-ticket-item shopper. If any of these are you, more power to you. But I prefer a more calm and thrifty approach to Black Friday.
I have been getting bombarded by pre-Black Friday and Black Friday emails and advertisements since Halloween. My email inbox is out of control and I get hundreds of emails daily that I just delete after reading only the subject line. I don’t have time to wade through all those emails to find out who is offering what deals. But I do love saving money (boy do I) and I love Black Friday.
Sure, there are deals to be had but just because something is on sale doesn’t mean that it is the right gift idea nor does it mean that I should buy expensive electronics that I normally pass on just because they are deeply discounted. I still keep my Christmas* spending around $200 because I don’t have much money, I don’t like expensive gifts, and I prefer to give thoughtful and smaller gifts, like books and sweaters, as well as handmade gifts.
So how do I find out where the best deals are that fit the gifts I want to buy and plan a strategy for a sane Black Friday?
1. Outline Your Budget
Let’s be realistic. Planning out your budget for Christmas makes way more sense than planning out what gifts you want to buy people and then trying to find the money for them. So the sane route is to sit down pre-Black Friday and find out what can actually spend on gifts, both throughout the next month and right now. If you don’t have all of your Christmas shopping money right now, you may choose to put some of your Black Friday purchases on plastic until the cash comes in but I tend to forego that route since I tend to overspend that way. Assign yourself a budget, make your list of people to give gifts to, and then divide your budget by your number of recipients. Some people may get a higher budget individually, but make sure that you assign a budget for each person.
2. Brainstorm Gift Ideas
I tend to start a draft gift idea list in October and start identifying the people I want to shop for and the gifts that they may want or need. I get great ideas from that onslaught of advertisements that hit my email or television screen, as well as blogger gift guides and walking though the mall (I love window shopping and getting ideas from displays). Once I have a budget assigned for each person I brainstorm what items I have seen that they will like and will also fit in my budget. Some items may not fit and so then I need to scrap that idea or find a way to find that item at a deep discount. Or check out some other inexpensive gift ideas that may suit your gifting needs.
3. Snag Deep Discounts
Black Friday is best for those gift ideas that are a tad over your budget but will still fit if you can get them at a great price. Check out the Penny Hoarder’s awesome Black Friday Portal where you can find info on what is on sale at your favorite retailer and plan your attack strategy. You can even ask questions to the Penny Hoarder team and they will be working round-the-clock to help you snag those deals. Seriously, they have 20 employees spending the night in the office for 48 hours (starting 3 p.m. on 11/25, ending 3 p.m. 11/27), all hopped up on Red Bull and Christmas cheer, ready to answer your questions about store hours and where the best Xbox One price can be found.
4. Stack Coupons
If you are a virtual Black Friday shopper, make sure that you stack your coupon codes (you can find tons at Retail Me Not) and shop through cash back/points sites like Ebates and MyPoints. Why not use that holiday shopping to get some cash back or gift cards for those after-Christmas sales? Yes please! And if you are shopping in store don’t forget to bring your coupons from the Sunday paper, printable coupons from store sites, or just use the Retail Me Not app for in-store coupons (though check it in advance because some stores want the hard copy coupon). Some stores, like Kohls (my new favorite store), allow you to stack percent off coupons for certain departments AND dollar off coupons for your whole purchase AND Kohl’s cash coupons, so you can get mah-jor savings when you stack. Check your store’s coupon policy before you go. If you need one coupon per item, you may be able to bring a paper coupon and use the electronic coupon in the Retail Me Not app for two different items even if they are the same coupon. I also got a stack like this at Jo-Ann Fabric over the weekend, so come with coupons in hand!
5. Don’t Get Lost
Remember, you are shopping for awesome gifts for people that you love. Don’t get caught up in the sales and buy something they won’t like or use just because it was a good deal and within your budget. I could get every one scented candles every year but I don’t because that’s lame and only one person would be happy about it. So spend the time to think it over before you buy. It is better to have a single thoughtful gift than four lame ones that you got on sale.
*Note: I say Christmas here because that’s what I celebrate and shop for. If you celebrate other religious or non-religious holidays which include gift giving, please apply this same logic and strategy as you see fit. Oh, and Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, Merry Festivus, Happy Winter Solstice, Happy New Years, and Happy Birthday to you as well.