With the average family expected to spend over $800 this holiday season, it’s important to keep your budget in check and have a shopping plan during popular sales events that may otherwise tempt you to spend beyond your means. The chaos of Black Friday weekend can lead even the most organized parent to make impulse purchases and splurges, which is exactly what retailers are hoping for.
To avoid getting ensnared by the “best deals of the year,” prep yourself before your wreck your holiday budget with these seven tips for better Black Friday shopping.
Research regular prices
Determine a list of items you want to purchase this holiday season—from gifts, to decor to new electronics—and begin researching prices ahead of Black Friday. Not only will this help you figure out which goods you’ll have to skip this season in order to stay within budget, but it’s also smart for identifying the real deals from the duds. You’ll likely find that some stores will inflate an original price to make a deal look like a better value.
Sort circulars to find the best doorbusters
The days of waiting for Black Friday to learn about doorbusters are long gone. Now, most retailers “leak” their circulars to create added buzz, and this allows you to make a better shopping plan based on top deals. Study up using sites like BFAds.net, which offers a comprehensive list of scanned circulars and compares prices between competitors, or Dealnews.com, which highlights the best and worst Black Friday buys (both generally and from specific stores) to guide you toward smarter purchases.
Create a shopping spreadsheet
Once you figure out which products you’re planning to buy, use a spreadsheet to organize details by store, based on who offers the best prices. Make sure to include brand/model number, original price, Black Friday sale price, store address and gift recipient. While this may seem like overkill, you’ll be thankful you took such a detailed approach come Black Friday when other shoppers are scrambling to find the best deals.
Stay “in the know”
Keeping up with the overload of Black Friday information can become overwhelming. Simplify the process by following favorite stores on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to get up-to-the-minute news on product inventory and specials, or search by the #BlackFriday hashtag. It’s also a good idea to sign up to various retailer e-newsletters for sneak peaks at doorbuster deals, as well as Black Friday sale updates (you’ll like get a new-subscriber coupon code, too!). To keep these promotional emails from cluttering up your inbox, create a separate account and use it for all your shopping needs, including tracking online orders and organizing digital receipts.
Map out a route
Finding what you need on a normal shopping day can be frustrating. Factor in hoards of people cluttering aisles and hogging salespeople, and you could find yourself in full meltdown mode come Black Friday. Avoid this drama by mapping out the stores you plan to visit in advance. Merchandise might be shifted slightly to highlight top deals (or merchandise the store really wants to push), but the overall setup shouldn’t change much. If you’re heading to a mall or outlet center, you can often find a store map online to help plan your shopping route and identify the best places to park.
Load up your smartphone
Don’t get stranded in the middle of a busy store on Black Friday without a reliable price-comparison tool or mobile coupon app. ShopSavvy compares in-store prices with local and online competitors, and Coupon Sherpa is a must-have for finding additional savings on your purchases with quick access to deals based on your location. Meanwhile, Santa’s Bag keeps your gift list and holiday budget at your fingertips to keep you from overspending.
Skip the long lines and shop online
While there are certain items that are better to buy in store (like apparel and home goods for verifying color and quality of material), you can save time by shopping for many other goods online. Most stores including Target, Best Buy and JCPenney will feature doorbuster pricing on their websites starting Thanksgiving night. Consult your list to determine which items you can purchase online and start loading up virtual carts after you’ve filled up on turkey dinner.