Inside Hawthorn mall on Black Friday 2006

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This upcoming Friday marks the official beginning of the holiday shopping season. Personally, I started holiday shopping back in September. My husband and I like to spread it out so that the cost doesn’t hit us all at once. Yes, we still have some things left to get, but we are mostly done. It’s a nice feeling. And the reason we get to experience is due to the fact that we plan ahead.

Whether you go out on Black Friday, don’t plan to start until December, or whether you are almost done, advance planning can help you get a handle on your holiday shopping and ensure that you have a more pleasant experience. Here are some tips for better holiday shopping:

  • Make a list: List out everyone you want to buy gifts for. If you have an idea of what you want to get for each person on the list, add that
  • Budget ahead of time: Decide on a budget ahead of time. Figure out how much you want to spend, breaking it down by person if that is how you do things. Then, figure out how much you need to set aside each month to reach your budget goal. Take your total and divide it by home many months you have left. Then set aside a small amount of money each month. Obviously, starting six to eight months early will help ease the cost burden of holiday shopping.
  • Look for deals: Look in sales fliers for deals. Check those deals against your list of gifts. When you see something that is a good deal, you should purchase — and then mark off that person on your list.
  • Coordinate your shopping: Make sure you consult with other members of your family to avoid duplicate gifts. You can also find out what’s available in other areas. My mother asked me to pick up a gift that she couldn’t get in her local stores. And we have done something similar in the past.
  • Organize your Black Friday and Cyber Monday efforts: If you are interested in Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it is a good idea to use the above tips as part of your organization efforts. You should also consider getting up early for the best deals, planning a route that takes you to your preferred stores first, and staying focused on the deals. Get in, get what you’re looking for, and get out as soon as possible. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are not days to be distracted by other potential purchases.
  • Don’t overspend: Sometimes, in the name of the holidays, we want to overspend. Stick to your budget. Going into debt for the holidays is not a good way to adhere to the rules of good finance.

It is also worth noting that many stores will have sales and discounts fairly close to what they offer on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. You should consider the time and hassle involved in shopping on Black Friday, and decide whether the discount is worth the trouble. In some cases, getting 70% off as opposed to 65% off a week later (or 55% off a week earlier) is not worth the time you put into it. Understanding how you value your time is also a big factor in better holiday shopping. Decide what is most important to you, and then devise a plan based on your budget, your time — and your sanity.

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