Wendy Poling
Frequent Contributor

Today is Black Friday and chances are there is a deal or two calling my name that will drive me to venture out into the crowds.


Traditionally, Black Friday is the first day of the holiday shopping season.


I don't always go out on Black Friday, but when I do I'm on a mission. I research the ads and have a plan on what stores I will visit. I recently saw on my new favorite fun site, Pinterest.com, a photo of a "Black Friday Outfit". I laughed when I saw this and it inspired me to plan my outfit for a day of power shopping. Then again, if I'm getting up at 2am I might just show up in my red and black Scottie PJs!


No matter if you are out shopping today, or sipping hot cocoa at home and waiting till Cyber Monday, here are my holiday shopping tips that won't break the bank!


Make a list

Seems simple, but trust me this will make the ALL the difference in your holiday shopping game plan. No matter if you download an app, use a paper and pencil or your computer, make a list of everyone. Once you have the list you can decide how much to spend on each person. Don't forget your pets! By making sure your list is complete and having a set amount for each person, you'll be less likely to overspend.


Number of gifts verses quality of gifts

A number of my girlfriends give the same number of gifts to each child. They settle on a number and they stick to it. This can get difficult with older kids when toys aren't necessarily on the gift wish list. If you opt for quality versus quantity, explain it to your kids so they understand in case they are wondering why they only have one gift, even if it is a drum set! Get creative!


Look for deals on "sets" of things

Often times you can find a set of five pairs of earrings or a set of five watches. Instead of giving the entire set to one person on my list, I break up the set and give one item to one person. This is great for girlfriends, nieces, sister-in-laws, and aunts.


Spread out your budget

Even if you have a holiday shopping budget set aside, there are always extra things that come up. Keep in mind that we have two paychecks between now and Christmas. Divide up the amount you'll need over two paychecks instead of buying everything on the 1st or the 15th. If you also work, divide your total budget by four to include your paychecks. Your budget will thank you for spreading out the amounts.


Bake up some love

Present a friend, neighbor, co-worker or someone you love with something homemade and filled with love! Think in terms of giving to families versus individuals and you'll be crossing names off your list quickly. Bake or make yummy treats like: chocolate covered pretzels, individual wrapped large cookies, reindeer inspired cookies, fudge, banana nut bread, gingerbread men or grandpa's recipe for buckeyes or grandma's sugar cookies.



Everyone loves photos. Break out your camera or borrow one from a friend and spend an afternoon taking candid shots of your family. Print them in black and white and put them in a nice frame. You'll have a gift to give that any mom, dad, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, friend or grandparent would love and cherish forever.



Shopping for holiday gifts for family without your deployed spouse is really not the same. I encourage making a day of it with friends, even if you don't actually have much to buy or your list is very short. Spending time with friends and talking about your spouse with others going through your same situation is key to getting through the deployment successfully. Reach out and make strangers into friends!


Have fun and remember the reason for the season!


Did you find a deal on Black Friday? Leave us comment!

Coming up next: Care Package ideas and just what do you buy your deployed spouse for Christmas?