Washington, DC – For many, shopping on Black Friday has become as much of a Thanksgiving tradition as turkey, with friends and families whipping up a shopping strategy along with the dressing and gravy.
The National Foundation for Credit Counseling advises consumers to shop smart by planning ahead. Following are five steps consumers should take before hitting the stores on Black Friday, helping them enjoy their shopping excursion without harming their pocketbook.
· Beware of special credit card offers – Issuers are tempting consumers by offering incentives such as no interest balance transfers, extra perks by meeting certain spending levels, and increased cash back in specified categories. However, no deal is a good deal if you can’t afford it. Responsible shoppers will commit to spending no more than what they can repay in full when the bill arrives, regardless of how many bonuses are tacked on.
· Know what you currently owe – Review all existing debt obligations, tallying what you’ve already spent and committed to repay. This reality check may put a temporary damper on your holiday mood, but that’s better than digging the financial hole even deeper.
· Create a plan – Knowing who you’re shopping for, what items you hope to find, and most importantly, how much you intend to spend is critical to a successful shopping day. Commit in advance to stick to your plan, and enlist an accountability partner if necessary, as it is very easy to be caught up in the excitement of the moment and get off course.
· Find the best deals at home – Shop from home before heading for the stores. Compare prices online, as well as local circulars for sales in your area. Be aware of time restrictions, as some prices may only apply during certain time periods throughout the day. Once the actual shopping begins, going directly to the store which has your item at a good price will save you time, gas, money and frustration.
· Remove all unnecessary cards from your wallet – Spreading purchases across multiple cards makes you feel as though you’re charging less and can trick you into overspending. Designate one card for holiday spending, and remove all others from your wallet. This will not only help you stay within your budget, but will also lessen the damage in case of loss or theft.
“It is important for consumers to shop with their head, not their heart,” said Gail Cunningham, spokesperson for the NFCC. “Preparing in advance will help you stick to your budget, in spite of the decorations, carols and Santa himself beckoning you to spend.”