This year was my second Black Friday experience, but I still don’t consider myself a veteran - I consider myself a survivor. However, Black Friday isn’t all bad. There are a few things you can do to help make sure your future Black Fridays are successes and not financial burdens you’ll carry into the New Year.
First, make a list of stores you want to visit. My wife took the time to make a list of stores she wanted to visit in a relative order of importance, while also considering their locations relative to each other and our home. I’m a lucky man for many reasons, but the fact that my wife took the time to have an efficient game plan on Black Friday is certainly another one. It saved us time, it saved us gas, and it kept us from shopping more than we needed to (or I could stand). Sure, we walked in a couple of stores to see something cool we saw from the window, but we primarily stuck to the plan. Sticking to your list of stores is a simple way to prevent overspending.
Second, make a list of the items you’re looking for. We still needed a few Christmas gifts, and my wife and I were both looking for some things for ourselves that we knew could be discounted on Black Friday, so we made a master list of what we were looking for. My wife walked away with a beautiful jacket (that was even more beautiful on sale), but outside of that one, unplanned bargain purchase, we stuck to our list. Limiting your shopping to a single list of items can also be critical in keeping you from overspending.
My third suggestion for you is to have a hard purchase limit. We had a couple of gift cards from birthdays and previous holidays, but we also had a dollar cap in the back of our minds. It doesn’t matter how cute the purse is, how real the leather boots are, or how soft the sweater is, what matters is how far below the “Black Friday cap” you are. My wife and I are careful, thrifty, picky shoppers, and I’m proud to say we got almost everything on our list without coming anywhere close to our self-imposed limit.
Finally, do not open any store-specific credit cards, regardless of how sweet they make the offer. There may be a couple of stores that have decent-enough perks if you are a frequent visitor, but for the most part, just say no. The additional credit inquiries you’ll generate and constant mailings and emails you’ll receive are bad enough, but the main reason for my stance is that I don’t believe people need any more temptation (or capability) to go into short-term debt than absolutely necessary. I’m not one of those screaming debt management gurus who is going to tell you to cut up all of your credit cards, but I am going to tell you to cut up the mostly useless ones, or better yet, don’t even sign up for the mostly useless ones. When my wife and I visited Old Navy on Black Friday, they opened an express checkout line for people willing to apply for an Old Navy credit card, and you should have seen the masses flock. That was dirty, and very well-played by Old Navy, but I waited in the longer line instead of taking the bait. The new card holders may have saved a few minutes, but at least I don't have a new, tempting line of credit!
Black Friday is not all bad, and it does offer a lot of great deals, so fighting the crowds can help you get a bigger bang for your buck. Just remember, 30% off of something you don’t really need is NOT savings – it’s a 70% expenditure you weren’t planning for! If I were a betting man, I bet I’ll get to do Black Friday again on Wife’s Day 2014, but I’ll be ready. Don’t tell my wife or my very manly friends, but I’m beginning to look forward to it.