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Personal finances 20 Nov 2018

Tips for making the most of Black Friday

For some of us, Thanksgiving Day with its turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, green bean casserole and pie is just carb-loading for the race that will be run the day after, and by race, we mean the one to be the first one in the doors to nab some blockbuster deals on Black Friday.


Black Friday is widely thought of as the beginning of the holiday shopping season and its origins trace back to at least 1961 when it was used in Philadelphia to describe the traffic that occured the day after Thanksgiving. Indeed, spending money the day after Thanksgiving has become as much a tradition as turkey itself, with the National Retail Federation estimating that this year 116 million people will venture out to take advantage of Friday’s deals, or around a third of the total U.S. population.

If you’re one of them, and you haven’t mapped out how you’ll handle the day, consider these five tips:


1. Have a plan

While it might be fun to head out to the shops on Black Friday to wander and see what strikes your fancy, it might also be a recipe for financial disaster. Unchecked - or unplanned - spending could throw your financial goals off budget and cause you to rack up unintended debt. Instead, spend some time thinking through how much money you can reasonably spend for the season without going into debt and also the people on your list and the gifts you want to buy them. Then take a look at what retailers are offering and where you can get the best price. When you hit the mall, be sure your list is in your hand and check it often so you aren’t swayed by those purple sequined slacks that you think are awesome, but that your sister will return on December 26.


2. Set a budget

This seems like it should be intuitive, but sticking to a budget when shopping can be hard. According to research from the University of Michigan in 2015, shopping can create a type of euphoria that can make buying hard to resist, particularly when the price is right. To avoid this, take your plan, your list and your budget with you. Track the price of each item you buy and be sure to stay within your planned amount because the research also says spending can cause stress.


3. Comparison shop

Store A might be advertising the best price they have ever had on that 75” 4K HDTV you’ve been eyeing, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be matched, or even beaten, by Store B. Even on Black Friday, it pays to shop around - or simply ask if stores price match. Check out this article from NerdWallet, which features 7 free apps for Black Friday shopping that can help with budgeting, managing lists or finding the best deals.


4. Search - or ask - for additional savings (coupons)

Sites such a feature online codes and coupons that can be applied when shopping online at many major retailers. A quick search of the site before checking out may yield additional savings. Also, never be afraid to ask at checkout, either at a brick-and-mortar location or via online help, if there are additional coupons that can be used to make your purchase. Some retailers keep coupons at checkout and happily oblige using them when asked.


5. Remember Cyber Monday and Small Business Saturday

In the heat of the Black Friday moment, don’t forget about the two other key days for holiday shopping, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday.

Small Business Saturday is a great opportunity to support those small stores that make your community what it is, and the Saturday after Black Friday is dedicated to celebrating them. Supporting the stores that support the community just feels good.

On Monday, be sure to check out the Cyber Monday deals. This online shopping day is starting to become one of the largest shopping days of the year alongside Black Friday, with many businesses reporting hours of lost productivity as people take to their computers to find deals and steals.


The holiday season is ultimately about showing loved ones that you care. There are many ways to do that without buying presents or going into debt, from serving up lovingly made baked goods to hosting holidays meals for friends and family. But, if presents are on the docket, it helps the pocketbook when you are able to take advantage of holiday sales. Just be sure to have your gameplan at the ready before heading out.

Happy shopping. And be careful out there.

Click here to learn about the savings options available at BBVA Compass, including money market and CD options.