It's the day after Thanksgiving, and it is the official start of the holiday shopping season, but there's less money to spend and a gazillion ad circulars advertising sales and coupons it becomes truly overwhelming. What to do … here are some suggestions to help with the Black Friday panacea.
1. First and foremost you need to prepare a budget. Write down the names of every person you are buying a gift for and allot a certain amount of money you can afford to spend for the gift. Consult your list often and stick to your plan. As you walk around the stores and mall shopping for the people on your list, do not buy anything you don't need. If you have a large family consider eliminating gifts to all of your aunts, cousins, uncles, etc. Why not have a grab bag choice and everyone picks just one family member? Perhaps consider a Secret Santa gift idea or just buying for the children.
2. Consider sleeping in on Black Friday and not getting out of bed at 4:00 AM. Instead shop online. It's easy to compare prices, but always be sure to read the policies on shipping. Some sites make you spend a minimum of money before shipping for free which could lead you to spend extra money. Unless it is a necessity, do not buy it. You might be able to have the merchandise shipped to the nearest store to you for no charge and then just pick it up. Walmart and Kmart offer such services for free.
3. How about a charitable gift to a worthy cause? Most of us have a passion we would love to support. I find myself going to AC4H.com or PTHR.org to help horses, but there are many charitable organizations like Project Smile or children charities to contact, and they give you a card with the person's name and the monetary gift given in that person's name. It is a gift that even gives back if you choose a 501C3 organization. Check on Guidestar for organizations allowed to give IRS tax deductions allowable by law.
4. Consider buying gift cards. It's far less wasteful than perhaps the gnome garden ornament or the bright green leather purse your friend or relative most likely will store away in the closet and eventually "re-gift" to someone else. Most gift cards have no expiration dates, but make sure you check.
5. Set aside money for travel and entertainment. Budget. Look for coupons and super deals online. Book travel plans now because the closer you get to the holidays, the more expensive those tickets are going to get.
6. Pay with cash or debit card. Guaranteed you will spend less.
7. Consider using a lay-away plan. Such stores as Marshalls, Sears, Toys "R" Us and Kmart offer these programs. Make sure you check for coupons that you can use both in the store or online which will give you additional savings.
8. Set a monetary limit for each gift. If you have young children, set a realistic goal and rein in the number of presents to just a few less. They will not notice. Avoid the extra "emotional " buying.
9. Use ZingSale.com. This is especially helpful when buying technology merchandise and compares prices for you. You can "Create-A-Sale Alert" button. The comparison shopping will already have been done for you.
10. Always look for coupons and shopping codes. Make a list of what you want to buy in each store if you have a long day planned. Macy's will have coupons in the local newspaper for 15% off on merchandise, however there are normally exclusions for cosmetics, jewelry and some designer labels. Also make sure to check if the coupon can only be used with the store credit card such as Macy's often requires.
11. Consider buying at different stores and different brands when searching for the best deals especially on electronics. If you plan on doing a lot of shopping in one store, be organized and have a plan. For instance if one department has a long line, go to the next department to get what you need and come back later in the morning. Try to get there as early as you can. We have all seen the crowds grow as the day progresses.
12. Shopping for children at Toys "R" Us can garner those extra presents for free. A free shopping cart by Fisher-Price ( $21.99 value ) accompanies a Fisher-Price Grow With Me Kitchen or a free Sponge Bob game ($9.99 value) goes with the purchase of eligible Sponge Bob board games.
13. Target is offering a $10.00 gift card with every $100. spent from 5:00 AM to noon on Black Friday. Old Navy will be open on Thanksgiving Day, "Gobble Palooza" and with any $20.00 purchase will be giving a free Lego Rock Band game ($44.00 value)
14. Monitor your shopping cart carefully because the most popular items sell out the quickest and never underestimate the desperate shopping tactics of a parent when it comes to Tickle Me Elmo Extreme TMX or Nintendo Wii Video Game. Also heard to be climbing the popular kid gifts this year are ZhuZhu Pet Hampster featuring Mr. Squiggles and NumNums however they have the potential to be budget breakers if accessories are to be added.
15. Never leave packages in sight in your car as you go back and forth in and out of the stores. Always stay alert while walking in parking lots and preferably do not walk alone. Walk in well-lit areas. Keep your wallet and purse close to you at all times!