Whether you enjoy fighting through the crowds or not, there's no denying you can score some great deals on Black Friday. But sometimes, the deeply discounted prices can cause us to ignore our better judgment and spend more than we planned -- or worse, more than we have.
Make Black Friday a good experience this year by preparing yourself for the deals and the inevitable temptations that come with them. Here are five ways to protect your budget:
1. Set a spending limit for each person
Make a list of everyone you need to buy a gift for and assign a spending limit for each person. You might want to build in a little cushion in case you find the perfect gift that's a few dollars more than you planned to spend, but try to stick to the limit. If you find a small item you'd like to buy for someone, subtract the cost of this item from your spending limit for that person to avoid going over. Keep in mind that your purchase may have sales tax added, so it might cost you a little more than what the price tag says.
2. Create a shopping list
Do some research before Black Friday and lay out your plan of attack. If you know a family member wants a certain item, find out which stores near you have it. Write down everything you plan to buy at each store you're going to visit so you don't forget anything. Going into Black Friday with a shopping list will not only make you more efficient, it will also make you less prone to buying things you don't need just because they're on sale.
You might need to have a backup plan in case the item you want is sold out by the time you reach the store. See if there are any other retailers near you that offer it, or try to find it online instead.
3. Avoid buying things for yourself
You'll inevitably come across one or two things that you really want for yourself, but resist the temptation. Instead, make a note of the item and where you found it and consider suggesting it to other family members or friends who ask what you would like for the holidays. I know in my family at least, people are always asking what they should get others, so it's smart to have a list on hand.
If you can't avoid the temptation to purchase things for yourself, then include a spending limit for yourself just as you would for any other person on your shopping list. Before you buy, consider if that item is really worth spending your limited self-gifting budget on. You may decide it's not, especially if you haven't seen the deals other stores have to offer yet.
4. Use cash
When you swipe a debit or credit card, it's easy to lose track of how much money you're actually spending. Cash gives you a tangible way to measure your Black Friday spending; using it instead of your credit card may actually cause you to spend less. Not everyone will feel comfortable carrying that much cash, but it shouldn't pose a problem for most people as long as you don't leave your wallet anywhere.
You can use this tip in combination with the suggestions above. Have envelopes for each person on your shopping list and put the cash for their gifts in their envelope so you can keep track of how much money you still have to spend on them.
5. Skip it
Black Friday isn't for everyone. If you find it too chaotic, you can always do your shopping another day. Or you could wait for Cyber Monday and shop from the comfort of your own home. If you choose that, keep in mind that some stores may still charge you for shipping, which might limit how much you can spend on each person. Try to shop at as few stores as possible to limit what you're paying in shipping costs.
You can find great deals on Black Friday, but you could also end up frustrated and broke if you wing it. Create a strategy before the day arrives so you know where you're going to go, what you're going to buy, and how much you can afford to spend.