November 22, 2012

5 Tips to Stay Focused and Shop Smart on Black Friday and Cyber Monday

I’m no Suze Orman, but I sure know a lot about shopping, bargains, and getting wrapped up in blockbuster sales around the holidays, particularly on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. I even made my first mistake of the season on Tuesday, when I rushed into the Gap on my lunch hour in order to JUST get winter white chinos, but since coincidentally there was a sale going on, I ended up walking out with 10 items — none of which were the chino khaki pants.

We can all lose our heads and get wrapped up in the grab and go frenzy of deals in store or even from the comfort of our own couch. The Wall Street Journal recently wrote an exposé on Black Friday, coming up with data that prices can actually be higher on this annual shopping day and around the holiday season in general, so you may not be getting the best spend of your time and money after all. Here are some techniques that have worked for me to help stretch your dollar further, make your gifts more meaningful, and most likely have enough left over to treat yourself to something much-deserved.

1) Make a shopping list – seriously
I know it may sound corny, but it’s the best way to tackle head-on divvying up your funds realistically for each person, as well as planning ahead for what you’d really like to get your friends and loved ones. This way, you are less likely to get swept away in impulse purchases that seem to just be “a good deal” at the time, but may shift you away from your focus.

2) Put that list in a easily referenced file for quick referral and updates
This way, you can always have it on you no matter where you may be shopping or sitting at your computer. I like to keep a running list in an email to myself, in an Evernote file, and even as a Google Doc so I can quickly make changes or additions to it, and put a big “X” next to the name of the giftee when I’ve purchased their gift.

3) Got any gift cards? Now’s the time to put them to use!
If you’ve been saving a gift card or two, and can easily check off some of your list items, why not us them? Shopping at stores where you can tackle multiple ages at once, like a T.J.Maxx, Macy’s, or Kohl’s is also a good spend of your time.

4) If you pay with a credit card, immediately after a purchase, make a payment from your bank account for that exact amount just spent.
Take about self-regulation! It’s so easy to get in the habit of just charging away the holidays, but then the total tab is a lot harder to handle when the bill is due. By transferring your money to pay off the credit card, you are keeping tabs on your spending and seeing the actual number in your bank account dwindle — the next best thing, as most financial advisors recommend, to paying only in cash

5) Unsubscribe to email newsletters from stores — NOW
Expect the emails to come pouring in, with almost too good to be true (probably because they are) subject lines with sale information. If you’ve got your list set up, you won’t need these emails to derail you and point you in a direction that you can rationalize buying something because it seems like a good deal. Plus, you can always re-subscribe if you feel you’re really missing out on these emails (but trust me, you most likely won’t ever think of them again!).

-Julia DiNardo

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