How to Avoid Overspending and Win at Black Friday

Black Friday is all about using great deals to save a ton of money. But if you let those deals drive you into overspending, you won’t end up with any savings at all!

Black Friday. A day of deals and trampling. Truly a time of contrasts. Quite frankly, it’s unjust that Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving. How are you supposed to coordinate a proper “deal safari” when you’re entirely weighed down by turkey and stuffing and seven different kinds of cranberries?

As such, we recommend you start committing the financial advice in this post to memory—so that parts of it will still be in your brain as you try to shake yourself out of the post-feast coma. Get ready to add “fiscal responsibility” to the list of things you’re thankful for!

Do your research.

If there’s one lesson the pilgrims learned about how to survive the winter, it was to tighten the belt buckles on their hats so their brains wouldn’t freeze. If there’s another lesson, it was to always prepare ahead of time.

“The best way to stick to your budget on Black Friday is to have your list ready before you go out the door,” advised Jason Bauman, an SEO specialist at MyInjuryAttorney (@MyInjuryAtty). “Almost every store has a Black Friday circular/online landing page. Look at the stores you plan on visiting and plan what you want to get for everyone on your list. Then, check the prices of those items as they are now.

“One thing a lot of stores do is list items as Black Friday specials even if they’re the same/nearly the same price as normal. If this is the case, you could hold off on buying until after Black Friday. Or you could buy it now, and that’s one less thing you have to worry about.”

Make a budget.

Holly Wolf, Director of Customer Engagement for SOLO Laboratories (@SOLO_labs), suggested a similar starting point:

“Write it down. Who are you buying for? How much is the budget for that person? What is the average/best price for the item? When you walk in a store with the paper in hand, it’s the information you need to know if you are getting a great deal or not. Writing it on paper has a VERY different feel than keeping it on your phone or computer.

“Budget by the person. If you say you are going to spend no more than $40 on a person and spend $32, that’s ok. There’s no need to hit the top mark and it doesn’t matter if you spent $39 on his sister. When we try to level up–we often go over budget.

“If the item she wanted was normally $40 but it’s on sale for $25, consider that a real bargain and resist the urge to purchase more. I believe these are the biggest examples of how people go over the budget.”

Now it’s time to loosen your belt and get ready to brave the cold and the crowds.

Stick to the plan. 

So now you’ve made your plan and you’re going to the store. You’re wearing your battle armor and you’ve created an escape plan with your family should things get too chaotic in there. What happens when you get inside?

“When you go, there will be a lot of impulse buy temptations,” warned Bauman. “Stores like throwing inexpensive things on the shelves during bigger sales to increase the average revenue per customer. Ideally, you avoid these things, but if you can’t, set a strict budget for them. Remember, these are things you didn’t plan to buy so they’re likely not gifts for anyone.”

Some of those inexpensive items may not be worth purchasing at all, even if you could have a use for them.

“Don’t get duped into buying a cheaply made item,” consumer-finance expert Andrea Woroch (@AndreaWoroch) told us. “Some products are manufactured specifically for Black Friday to keep prices low. These ‘derivatives’ are similar to the regular models sold all year, but with different model numbers and fewer features/lacking key components.

“For example, a TV may have fewer HDMI inputs or a sweater could be made of cheaper material. Make better buying decisions by doing your homework ahead of time. Know exactly what features you want in an electronic item, for instance, and review the product details in full or shop in store for clothing and home goods so you can touch and feel the product to verify quality.”

Go in a group.

Woroch also advised against going alone:

“Not only is tackling the crazy crowds on Black Friday more fun with a friend, but your shopping buddy can wait in line, split costs of bundle deals, and divide and conquer shopping lists so you save time and money.

Find a shopping buddy to hold a spot in line while you scour store shelves or go in on bulk purchases. You can split costs or pay your friend back instantly using a payment app like Zelle, which lets you send money from one bank account to another within minutes as long as both people are signed up, making it easy to divide and conquer your lists together!”

Remember those mail-in rebates.

The price that’s advertised may not always be an easy price to pay.

“An automatic 12-cup coffeemaker priced at $8 is a steal of a deal on Black Friday—and this may be enough to get you through the doors, but make sure you read the fine print before purchasing,” suggested Woroch.

“Often times, such advertised doorbusters highlight the discounted price after the rebate is applied which can be a bit misleading. Specifically, stores such as Kohl’s, Macy’s, and JCPenney typically feature cookware deals that include these rebates which are important to consider when comparing prices between retailers and deciding where to shop.

“Ultimately, many people forget to mail in the rebate and never take advantage of the discount. In fact, found that more than $500 million in rebates go unclaimed every year.

“When you’re comparing offers between retailers, ask yourself if you’ll mail in the rebate before it expires or if you can even provide all the items needed such as the UPC barcode from the original packaging. If it’s a gift, that may not be possible, so you may be better off paying a couple dollars more for a comparable product without the hassle of a rebate.”

Do you really have to?

You could also… not take part in Black Friday. If you have some absolute essentials, this might be the time to get them, but if you don’t, the best way to save money is not spending it. Taking a year off from Black Friday can be nice if you can manage it.

“If it’s too tempting, stay home,” suggested Wolf. “The stores have you believe you HAVE to shop. You don’t. I do the majority of my holiday prep before Thanksgiving so I don’t get sucked into spending too much. The added bonus is that I get to enjoy more holiday festivities instead of being at a store or feeling stressed.”

Plan for the future.

Once you’ve had a successful Black Friday experience, it’s time to start planning for the next one!

“The most important thing you can do is to start planning or your holiday spending as early as possible,” advised Bauman. “The reason I won’t have to go into debt this year buying gifts is that I started saving in December of 2017 for this year. By setting aside a little each month, I didn’t really miss it from my budget, but as the holidays approach, I have a decent amount of money saved.

“Think of it this way: Either you’re saving to make debt-free payments on Black Friday, or you’re charging it to a credit card and paying that money back plus interest until the next holiday rolls around.”

Black Friday can be a great opportunity, but if you take saving into account all year long, you don’t need to worry about it quite as much. Because deals might be important, but time spent with family is priceless. To learn more about saving money, check out these related posts from OppLoans:

What are your best tips for winning at Black Friday? We want to hear from you! You can find us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Jason Bauman is an SEO Specialist for MyInjuryAttorney (@MyInjuryAtty), a law firm in New Jersey. He has four years of experience in digital marketing and ten years of experience repaying student loans. In his free time, Jason enjoys roasting his own coffee and talking about personal finance.
Holly Wolf is an executive with over 30 years experience in banking and healthcare.
Andrea Woroch is a nationally-recognized consumer-savings expert, writer, and TV personality who is dedicated to helping Americans find simple ways to spend less and save more without sacrificing their lifestyle. She is a regularly-featured contributor for popular shows like Today, Good Morning America, FOX & Friends, and KTLA Morning News. In print and online, her advice has appeared in popular media such as New York Times, USA Today, Money Magazine, Cosmopolitan, People, Consumer Reports, Reader’s Digest and many, many more. Read more about Andrea at or follow her on Twitter.

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