15 Tips to Avoid Debt on Black Friday, Cyber Monday

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are some of the biggest shopping events of the year. With deals and discounts on just about everything from electronics to toys to clothes, even those who don’t typically enjoy shopping find deals to get excited about during these holiday sales events. 

With inflation still affecting consumers’ budgets, retailers are starting to tease holiday deals earlier and earlier, but not every deal is as great as you may be led to believe. For example, some of the largest markdowns on televisions around this time of year are on brands and/or models of TVs that are becoming outdated, so make sure you understand what you’re buying, if it’s a need vs. want, or if you’re getting lulled in by the flashing sale signs.

After all, the golden rule when it comes to Black Friday and Cyber Monday is: if you were going to buy it anyway and it’s marked down, you’ve saved money. If you weren’t planning to buy it, it’s not a saving!

15 Tips to Avoid Debt on Black Friday, Cyber Monday

1. Know Your Budget

Before you even look at any of the sales, figure out how much you can afford to spend. This is not exactly the most enjoyable aspect of Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping, but it may be the most important. Especially if you’re already on a debt payoff journey, you know firsthand how exhausting and frustrating debt can be. If you want to avoid, or at least minimize, any kind of financial depression you may experience after the Holiday Season, set a realistic budget for what you can spend and do not spend more than that, no matter how tempting a deal may be.

2. Create a Plan

Once you know how much you have to spend, think about what your goal is for Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals. Are you looking to buy items for yourself, like housewares and clothing? Or are you looking to get a jump start on holiday gifts

If you’re trying to get a jumpstart on holiday shopping, you’ll want to make sure you write a list of everyone you plan to buy a gift for, as well as how much you plan to spend on each person. This way, you can avoid the trap of finding a too-good-to-be-true gift for your older sister that is more than you planned to spend and now feel compelled to buy a few extra gifts for your younger brother and sister. 

3. Compare Competitor Prices

Part of the beauty of Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals is that many stores are competing with one another for your business. This means that they’re posting prices ahead of the sale to entice you to come shop at their store. For those who are looking to snag a deal on an item you’ve been saving up for, like a television, for example, figure out which stores have the item you want and what kind of deals they are offering to ensure you get the best price. 

4. Keep Your Receipts

Have you ever purchased something on sale only to find an even lower price offered on that same item a few weeks later? While Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales usually offer the lowest sales of the season, some retailers offer holiday refund and return policies for this very reason. 

For example, Target offers price match adjustments for anything bought at its stores or online between October 6 and December 24. If you see that the price has dropped, contact customer service, and they’ll refund you the difference. Of course, you’ll need to have your receipts and be proactive about it.

If you’re worried about an item being offered at an even deeper discount before the holiday season ends, familiarize yourself with the store’s holiday refund and return policy. If they have a price match adjustment guarantee, you can shop without stressing about potentially leaving dollars on the table. If a store doesn’t offer this guarantee, consider shopping for your items at a store that does offer that protection. 

5. Shop Online

While many deals will be available in-person at the store, some shoppers find they have better luck snagging the items they wanted online. In an attempt to attract more shoppers who don’t want to fight the crowds, some retailers even suggest shopping for deals at their online stores by offering more options and free shipping. For larger items like electronics, shopping online may be a smarter move as stores only carry so many items in stock at each store.

6. Plan for Crowds

Speaking of crowds, these deals, doorbusters, and special opening hours often attract large crowds. Some stores even have shoppers camping outside of the store for 24 hours or more before the sales begin. These crowds can be overwhelming to even the most seasoned shoppers. We would hate to see you miss out on some deals due to the number of people in a store, so we have some suggestions to help you manage the sea of shoppers:

  • Shop Early

The best time to shop on Black Friday is early in the morning. The best deals and doorbusters usually start around 5 AM, with some opening even earlier. With stores opening this early, it’s no surprise that some of the best deals tend to sell out rather quickly. Not only can items sell out, but the crowds actually intensify as the day goes on. Between 8 AM – 9 AM crowds tend to pick up with a peak shopping crowd reported between 2 PM – 4 PM. 

  • Avoid Being First In the Door

Even if you’re shopping early and are at the store before the store’s scheduled opening, there is no need to push and shove to be the first inside. Sometimes the crowd is so hungry for a deal that there are stampedes. So to avoid injury, hang back for a minute or two and go over your plan for what you plan to buy at that specific store.

  • Guard Your Valuables 

Because Black Friday, in particular, attracts so many shoppers, and stores can get quite crowded, it’s important to keep a close eye on your valuables. To avoid having your purse stolen, keep it on your person, or better yet, keep your cash and payment cards in an interior clothing pocket instead of using a purse. 

  • Use Caution in the Parking Lot

Many Black Friday shoppers have been up for hours in order to save money. In other words, in the parking lot, pay extra attention as some drivers may be more concerned about finding a parking spot, getting into the store, and getting their items, or exiting their parking spot in order to get to the next store where they hope to snag some deals. Use extra caution when walking into and out of the store, as well as when you are driving in and out of a parking lot.

  • Keep Purchases Out of Sight

Just like we recommended keeping an extra close eye on your valuables when shopping in the store, you’ll want to make sure you keep your purchases and shopping bags out of sight in your car to avoid a smash-and-grab. Instead of using the backseat of your car, store items in the trunk of your car. 

7. Sign-Up for Store Loyalty Programs

Especially if you plan to shop at a certain store on Black Friday or Cyber Monday, it may benefit your pocketbook to sign up for the store’s loyalty program. Store loyalty programs often grant members early access to coupons, sales, and promotions. Some even allow you to earn rewards on what you buy. In some cases, you can use a store’s loyalty program’s alerts to find out whether the products you want are in stock or eligible to buy online and pick up at a store, which can save you money on shipping.

8. Buy Multiples When You Find Great Deals

Most stores offer something close to 50 percent off items in their regular Black Friday sales.

If you find a deal of 60 percent off or more on a quality item that would be a great future wedding, baby shower, or birthday gift, consider buying a few of that item, if your budget allows, to have on hand for last-minute gifts.

9. Best Deal of the Season 

Some retailers have begun to notify customers when a deal is going to be the best they offer on that particular item throughout the holiday season. Sometimes these deals are during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, other times, they are offered as early as October. Costco, for example, starts to offer holiday toy deals shortly after Halloween, and for many of these items, once they are gone, they are gone. If you see a deal on an item that is marked as the lowest of the season, don’t wait.

10. Can’t Find Your Size? Buy it Anyway

When it comes to shopping for Black Friday clothing deals, it can be frustrating when an item you had your heart set on appears to be sold out in your size. If this happens, one tip is to buy the item in the wrong size and, after a week or so, head back to the store to exchange the item for the correct size. Caution: This strategy doesn’t work with clearance clothing or items that are labeled as final sale; it only works if the store is expecting more inventory shortly after the sale.

11. Check for Coupons

Usually, stores do not accept coupons or other discounts on top of Black Friday sales, but some stores do, like Bath & Body Works. If you have a valid coupon that doesn’t have Black Friday exclusions or blackout dates, make sure to bring those coupons along with you when you head out to the store.

12. Take Advantage of Mail-in Rebates

Depending on what you buy on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, there is a way to save even more money when you get home: Mail-in rebates. Especially if you purchase small kitchen appliances like slow cookers, griddles, and toasters, look for mail-in rebates to take advantage of. Rebate amounts vary but are usually somewhere between $5 to $150.

13. Follow Retailers on Social Media, Sign up for Newsletters

Just like you can save money by joining a store’s loyalty program, there are also possible savings to be had by following your favorite retailers on social media and by signing up for their store newsletter. Social media and store-branded newsletters are a great way to save money throughout the year, but during the holiday season, you may get insight as to what will be on sale a few weeks in advance. Some retailers may even offer additional promotions or promo codes if you sign up for their newsletter.

14. Plan Your Itinerary

Before you leave the house, put together an efficient itinerary of which stores you’re going to and in what order. Try to figure out which items are most likely to sell out and visit those stores first. Come up with a plan for how long you plan to spend at each store and allow yourself extra time, as parking may be trickier than normal, there’s likely to be much more traffic surrounding the mall, and you may find yourself waiting in a longer than usual line in order to check out. 

15. Create Wishlists for Online Retailers

If you’re planning to shop in person or online, it can be a smart strategy to add the items you plan to buy to a cart or a wishlist. This not only helps you track prices and discounts on the items you plan to buy, but it helps you avoid adding other items last minute to your cart. If you find an item that is out of stock at the store, having your list prepared ahead of time can be a quick way to order the item from the online store before it sells out on the web. And if you’re shopping online, you can save time by having your cart ready to go too.

Are you planning on shopping on Black Friday and Cyber Monday? Whether in-store or online, share your favorite ways to save money with us in the comments below!

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