“Starting early and preparing a budget are critical tools to start with when determining how much money you will spend during the holidays this season,” said Todd Mark, vice president of education for Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Greater Dallas. “Writing down every purchase you will make for the holiday season from gifts to your family, friends, neighbors and co-workers, to food for dinners and parties, travel expenses, shipping, wrapping and decorating your home is important to understanding the expense you and your family will take on. Creating this list will help keep your budget in line and figure out how much money you can really spend.”
To help shoppers plan wisely for Black Friday, CCCS of Greater Dallas has introduced “Holiday Shopping without Santa’s Budget (http://www.cccs.net/
In addition, CCCS of Greater Dallas offers consumers the following 11 helpful tips to create a Black Friday plan of action.
1. Browse the Sales Ads in Advance. Web sites such as BlackFriday.com have most major retailers’ Black Friday ads posted already. This is critical in determining your shopping strategy, as well as where and what time to cherry-pick the loss leaders.
2. Friend Your Favorite Retailers. Many retailers are offering special discount codes on Twitter and Facebook. It’s a good idea to add your favorite stores to your friend list (at least for the time being) to find extra savings.
3. Take Competitor Sales Ads. Take the ads with you because some stores will match prices if you present the competitor’s ad.
4. Save Your Receipts. Most retailers print their return and exchange statement on the back of the receipt. Make sure you know what the policies are before you shop and keep all of your receipts in a secure place so you’re prepared for returns. Also, be sure to give gift receipts to your recipients so they won’t have any problems exchanging gifts that don’t work out. At some stores, you can ask your retailer to email you a copy of your receipt at checkout as well.
5. Research Electronic Deals. All electronics continue to be the hot items this year, but research the items on sale. Many are last year’s models and may not offer the features needed to function properly with the latest electronic gadgets. Consumer Reports is a great resource.
6. Plan for Cyber Monday. Almost all major retailers are online – most of them offering incredible deals for Cyber Monday (November 26). Online retailers are expected to promote free shipping and many are offering coupon codes for online-only specials.
7. Collect Coupons for Extra Savings. Keep coupons in your car or wallet for stores you plan to shop so you’ll be prepared to receive extra savings when you make your purchases.
8. Rest, Energize and Organize yourself. Make sure you get plenty of rest and eat a good breakfast if you’re one of the brave ones to shop Black Friday. Going hungry means you’ll spend money on food at the mall, and going tired means you’ll end of buying anything to get out of the mall and get home as quickly as possible. Bring your shopping list and sales ads, so you remember where you want to buy certain items, and the master list and (envelopes if using dedicated cash) will help you avoid impulse purchases or spending beyond your means. It may be helpful to plan a timeline of where you want to be when. You might also note that several stores are opening early on Thanksgiving evening.
9. Use Credit Cards and Methods of Payment Strategically. If you plan to use credit, only use your credit cards with the lowest interest rates and don’t charge anything you can’t safely pay off in three months. Many banks have raised their interest rates and cut credit lines. This could impact your shopping plans so if you do not have the discipline to use credit responsibly, it’s best to withdraw your budgeted amount of holiday cash and leave your credit cards at home.
10. Avoid Department Store Credit Cards. Retailers will be promoting extraordinary deals accompanying your submission of a credit application. While a free gift or a 10 percent discount can be tempting when money is tight, remember that signing up for department store cards will only lead to more debt and a diminishing credit score.
11. Money Does Not Equal Love. If you can’t find the loss-leader, or are trying to reduce expenses, the best gifts are rarely the ones you buy at the mall, but gifts of time, expertise, skill and love. This could include a special scrapbook or musical playlist, or an item you cook, knit, paint or craft. Gifts of time and love which are personal and meaningful will be much more memorable, so don’t shun promise coupons for a home cooked meal, massage, oil change, night of babysitting, garage-cleaning, or even doing taxes.
CCCS of Greater Dallas offers free financial education and counseling throughout the year. To schedule a class at your location or attend one of its free seminars, please call 1-800-249-2227. A full schedule and list of webinars on a variety of financial issues can be found at www.cccs.net/