You promise yourself every January, “This is the year I shop early for the holidays; no rushing around, no standing in long lines, and no last-minute midnight runs for Uncle John’s gift this time!” Gifting responsibly, managing our time, and caring for our resources sounds good, until Black Friday approaches. Then we check the cash stash, ready the credit cards, and go!
How do shoppers and retailers spend on Black Friday and its close cousin, Cyber Monday?
- In 2016, shoppers spent $3.3 billion on Black Friday and an additional $3.45 billion on Cyber Monday.
- Cyber Monday 2016 broke the all-time U.S. consumer spending record for a single day, and 49% of people surveyed admitted they would be shopping online during work hours.
- In 2013, retailers spent nearly $250 million on print, television, and digital advertising for Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
It’s difficult to resist the click ads, the kids’ wish lists and the constant media attention near the holidays. But control is possible; here are nine tips for a saner shopping season:
- Set Money Aside Every Month: Start a holiday or Christmas Club account as a separate savings and fund it by direct deposit. Set a specific amount every month for this account, and know exactly what you have to spend each year. Check out this article on why it is important to start saving early for holiday shopping.
- Create a Budget: Write a complete personal budget and include a holiday account. Determine your spending in all categories (weekly, monthly, and annually) with budgeting software, a spreadsheet, or paper and pen. Include a holiday spending category in your personal budget, so the end of the year isn’t a surprise.
- Use Cash Only: You can’t spend more than you have. Many people find credit cards an open door to spending temptation.
- If You Use Credit Cards: Use your reward card(s) and earn cash back or points for your spending; the hard work of holiday spending pays you back. Be careful not to overspend, especially if you have high-interest rate credit cards … you may end up paying more in interest than you can afford.
- Shop In-Person or Online: Compare prices and include shipping costs when shopping online sales. Consider the pros and cons of online vs. in-person. Shopping in-person provides the opportunity to check the merchandise for discrepancies however, you save time spent in lines and looking for parking by going online. Weigh your options carefully. Online sales save money with free shipping, but goods can be lost or stolen in shipping, arrive late, damaged, or misdirected to a different location.
- Child-Free Shopping: Between their shorter attention spans and desire to own everything they see advertised, children turn a specific shopping trip into a trunk full of “What was I thinking?” Make arrangements with neighbors or family to babysit each other’s kids while adults shop. Give children the chance to earn holiday spending money doing extra chores, and arrange a separate shopping trip.
- Eat before you go: Spend your shopping budget on shopping, not dining out. Eat a meal before you go, and take drinks and snacks in a cooler. Hunger pangs lead to low blood sugar, dizziness, headaches, and lapses in concentration; all symptoms leading to an expensive meal.
- Shop for a specific time period: Set a shopping time limit. On Black Friday, don’t shop ’till you drop from exhaustion, muscle aches, and blistered feet. On Cyber Monday, don’t sit at the computer for hours. Move around and stretch, do housework, or outdoor exercise between shopping cycles.
- Know when to shop: Some stores open on Thanksgiving Day for early Black Friday shoppers. If scheduling your shopping and your holiday meal on the same day works, it’s a good way to avoid crowds and work off calories. Most Black Friday shoppers hit the streets after 6 a.m., so the very early risers that are willing to hit the stores between 2 and 6 a.m. find the best deals and least foot traffic.