This was originally published on Monday, November 17, 2014, in the Pacific Daily News. Click here to subscribe to the PDN.
You probably noticed the buzz of the holiday season is quickening. The stores started to deck the halls and the Christmas wish lists are starting to grow. The day after Thanksgiving is the largest and busiest shopping day of the year — Black Friday.
Black Friday is not for everyone; some people would rather stay at home and sleep in after their Thanksgiving feast. But if you don’t mind the early start, the crowds, the long lines and the great deals, then get ready to shop. Here are a few tips to help you prepare you for Black Friday:
• Create a list/budget: Decide who is on your nice or naughty list and how much you can afford. Set a limit and create a realistic holiday budget. Prioritize your expenses and decide how much you want to spend on each. Make a list of those you are buying gifts for, include how much you want to spend and what you want to give them.
The hardest part is sticking to your list and budget. Stay within the budget you set and say no to items that will cause you to go off budget.
• Compare: You know how much you want to spend so the next step is to compare prices between stores. Look through the newspapers, sales fliers and online shopping sites. Some stores will guarantee the lowest prices and may match the price of the item if you bring in the competitor’s sales ad. This may take some researching and time but it will save you money, time and gas if you make one less trip or stop.
• Understand the sales times: Some stores may have Black Friday hours of opening early and closing late. But sometimes the sale prices don’t go in effect until a certain time. Read the advertisement carefully.
• Decide how you will pay: Cash is always welcomed at stores. It is easier to keep track of how much you spend but it can be dangerous carrying around large amounts of cash.
If you are going to use a credit card, use only what you can pay for that month. By paying it off as soon as you get the statement you will avoid interest charges. Some credit cards have a cash back policy if you purchase certain items. Stores may offer extra savings if you open or use their store credit card. These discounts are great offers but treat them as you would other credit cards and charge only what you can pay off. The interest rates on store credit cards can be extremely high.
• Bring along a friend: Not only is it more fun but you can also take advantage of certain sales, such as buy one get one half off. You can also help each other by dividing and conquering each other’s lists. It is always helpful for a friend to hold a spot in line for you while you run off to look for an item. Of course your friend can be a voice of reason when you are tempted to go off budget.
• Be aware of extra costs: There are always little costs that sneak up on you and most of the time we do not realize how much it throws us off budget. Some stores offer warranties especially on electronic items. Check if your credit cards have extended warranties on certain items if you purchase them with the card.
You are going to be out and about for an expanded amount of time and you will get hungry. Instead of buying a snack here and there, bring snacks with you. Stores may offer a discount on items if you purchase two or more. If you do not need two, you will not be saving money unless the second item is free.
• Keep the receipts: You may need to return an item and the only way to do so is if you have the receipt. Receipts will help you review your budget’s status and to compare charges on your credit/debit card. You may want to ask for a gift receipt for the person you are gifting. It will make it much easier for them to make exchanges or returns.
Remember to keep calm, wear comfortable clothing, and that if you aren’t one to be out in loud, stressful crowds, there is always Cyber Monday.
Michael Camacho is president and chief executive officer of Personal Finance Center. He has more than 20 years of experience in retail banking and at financial institutions in Guam and Hawaii. If there is a topic you’d like Michael to cover, please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and read past columns at the Money Matters blog at http://www.moneymattersguam.wordpress.com.