11 Ways to Prepare for Your Best Black Friday
Don't let the success of Cyber Monday fool you: Black Friday is still a massive holiday spending day. According to the National Retail Federation, over 154 million consumers shopped over Black Friday weekend in 2016 — up from 151 million the year before.
Chances are, you're going to be one of those many consumers shopping on Black Friday this year. But you don't have to totally blow your budget in the process. There are ways you can soften the blow to your bank account with advance preparation. Here's how.
1. Put your common indulgences on hold
I like to have my hair cut every two weeks. But when I'm trying to save, I push the cut out to every three weeks. My haircuts cost $17 including tip, and if I adhered to this schedule on a regular basis, I'd save a whopping $148 a year. You may have an indulgence like this that you can honor less frequently or stop altogether while you try to budget more strictly during the holidays. These indulgences usually aren't cheap, and forgoing them will provide a sizable amount of extra dough for you to use for gift shopping.
2. Focus on paying off any existing credit card debt
Before you start swiping your cards left and right, it's important to tackle any existing credit card debt, especially if you've only been making minimum payments up to this point. Concentrate on the highest-interest cards first; you'll save more in the long run by paying those down or off as soon as possible. (See also: 5 Ways to Pay Off High Interest Credit Card Debt)
3. Pause or change your media subscriptions
The holidays are busy. Shopping, parties, pageants — you know the drill. All that running around probably leaves you with little time to use the subscription services for which you're paying a premium. So don't.
"Consider pausing subscriptions for a few months, or temporarily changing services to a lower-priced tier," advises Lindsay Sakraida, director of content marketing with DealNews. "For example, if you pay extra for Hulu without ads, premium Netflix, or extra data cell service, you might want to adjust all of them for a month or two to save some cash for Black Friday and the holidays."
4. Pick up short-term gigs and odd jobs for quick cash
I participate in several "gig" services throughout the year, but this side work really picks up around the holidays — and that helps my disposable income swell. Pet sit via Rover.com, pick up passengers using Lyft, host guests in your home through Airbnb, and deliver groceries with the help of Instacart. I do it all, and I highly recommend looking into any one of these opportunities for quick cash. (See also: 8 Seasonal Side Hustles That'll Cover Your Holiday Spending)
5. Make a gift list and establish a firm maximum budget
Make your list, check it twice, and decide how much you want to spend on each recipient. Once that budget is set, stick to it. Better yet, make it your goal to come in under the amounts you've established for each person so you can treat yourself to a little something special when all is said and done. (See also: The Simple Holiday Budget Anyone Can Follow)
6. Research the Black Friday deals ahead of time
News of many Black Friday offers will be released well in advance — several retailers, like Walmart, Costco, Kohl's, and JCPenny have already whetted consumers' appetites with "leaked" deals — which allows you plenty of time to research the best of the best. There are entire sites, such as Best of Black Friday, dedicated to compiling the deals in one place.
7. Start shopping early to spread out your spending
Why wait until Black Friday if you recognize a great deal when you see one? Just because the day after Thanksgiving receives heavy promotion doesn't mean there aren't other great deals before the stampedes begin.
"Make it a point to get a jump-start on planning and shopping early so you have a few months to purchase gifts instead of waiting until the holiday season," suggests Natasha Rachel Smith, personal finance expert at TopCashback.com. "Also, don't forget about deals on Thanksgiving. Every year Black Friday has crept up earlier and earlier. In fact, in recent years, some deals sell out before Black Friday." (See also: 6 Ways to Score a Black Friday Deal Without Leaving Home)
8. Have a game plan before stepping foot in the store
Similar to never going to the supermarket on an empty stomach, don't head into the holiday season without a game plan.
"Most major retailers will release their deals for Black Friday the week before to give consumers time to plan and get excited about what they want to purchase," Smith says. "Use this time wisely to see what is going to be on sale and compare deals at each retailer. By creating a game plan, you can prioritize any items that sell fast or are at the best-discounted price. Not only will you save time but you'll save money too by planning what to get, when, and where." (See also: 8 Frugal Skills You Need to Survive Black Friday)
9. Consult your cash back apps before heading out
I've been killing it in the cash back game lately, thanks to apps like Ibotta and Checkout 51. The trick is to consult these apps before you go shopping so you know what's available and opt in if required. With Ibotta, for instance, many times it requires you to make purchases through its app — it will launch the retailers' sites for you, like Under Armour, as an example — so it can track your purchase and deposit the cash back you've earned. Every penny returned to you helps. Trust me — you will be thankful for this at holiday time. (See also: 7 Apps That Actually Pay You to Shop)
10. Consider your method of payment for maximum savings
You might think that cash in hand is the best way to shop on Black Friday (it certainly can help avoid overspending if you're disciplined), but you could be disqualifying yourself for deals available through other methods of payment. Capitalize on your Black Friday spending by deciding how you're going to buy things — cash, debit, or credit card — to reap the best benefits.
Scope out all your payment options and use the bonuses and rewards in your favor. If you do the research and find that you want to apply for a specific card, do so a couple weeks in advance to ensure you receive it in time to use it. Using the shopping season to get bonus cash back that has a spending requirement can give you help ease the holiday costs. (See also: Read This to Maximize Your Rewards and Cash Back This Holiday Season)
11. Renew your commitment to financial freedom
It's easy to go overboard during the holidays, whether it's on gifts or social activities. Don't let yourself off the hook on your financial goals just because it's the holidays. Stay committed to them and use the holidays to focus on gratitude rather than the mad dash to grab discounts.
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