It’s been a couple of years since I joined the Black Friday fray, but my last encounter with Black Friday left a major impression on my shopping psyche.
Before the pandemic, with the Thanksgiving feast and festivities clearly clouding my judgment, I succumbed to some not-so-subtle family pressure and found myself in the parking lot of a big retailer at 3 a.m. Friday.
The doors opened, the masses crushed in, and the promised once-in-a-lifetime deals were gone, no rain checks. Never say never, but my crystal ball suggests I won’t be joining that race again.
Not long ago, Black Friday stood alone as the gateway to the holiday shopping season and potential (note the emphasis) bargains. But as savvy marketers sharpened their efforts to encourage us to dig deep into our wallets, Black Friday’s unique place has been challenged by a seemingly endless list of super shopping “opportunities.”
That could be a good thing, but if you’re trying to navigate the holiday season without running up a big debt, you’ll have to fine-tune your own set of defensive tactics.
Here are a few strategies for some of the most-hyped shopping holidays, but they are ideas you can incorporate throughout the season:
The idea of shopping at home, perhaps with a cup of coffee and festive music in the background, is attractive for the budget-conscious shopper. You can avoid the frenzy at the store and one of the top challenges for a budget-conscious shopper: impulse or emotional purchases. You can put your prospective purchase in the virtual cart, save it, take a break and after a little contemplation, come back later and evaluate whether spending your hard-earned money still makes sense.
I like this one. It highlights what should be the true nature of the season. From a financial perspective, it also offers the opportunity to look beyond toys, clothes and gadgets to provide gifts with staying power and impact. Yes, I’m talking about charitable gifts (with potential tax benefits) as well as financial gifts for family members. Contributions to a child’s or grandchild’s college savings, savings account or, heck, even cash (assuming it’s accompanied by some financial education) could all be part of the game plan.
Since we are being deliberate this year, let’s not forget the engine of our economy. In the town I live in, there are multiple signs that encourage folks to “shop local.” I love it. Your holiday spending can fuel your local economy. That type of purposeful approach to your shopping, and your finances, will yield big results.
Many merchants offer free shipping during the holiday season. It pays to find ways you can save a few bucks. It’s easy to let the holiday spirit talk you into that peppermint mocha, a gift exchange at work or an impromptu holiday celebration on the town. Take a few minutes to think about your budget and factor in some limits on all those holiday extras.
You’re probably unfamiliar with FC or Financial Contemplation Day. That’s because I made it up. And why not? Spending a little time mapping out what you want to achieve and what you need to do in order to get there makes sense. As a bonus, it will put you on the shopping sidelines for a few hours. Any day can be FC Day.
If the hype has it’s hook in you, Indulge in that extra slice of roast beef or cheesecake if you must, but don't overdo it on bills you won't be able to afford when the holidays have passed.
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