Black Friday Shopping Tips

Well, today’s Thanksgiving and our turkey is in the smoker and our stuffing is in the oven. While we’re getting our dinner ready (it’s an all day affair), we periodically take breaks to skim through the advertisements that were included in the paper today. When you put them all together, they’re bigger than the whole paper is most days of the week.

A picture of people shopping
Black Friday shopping | Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

If you’re reading this, you already know how to shop but here are some things to consider before you get up before dawn in the morning and head out to fight the crowds.

Don’t rely on your tax refund!

An important thing to remember this year is that the tax law changed for 2018. Due to these changes and the way the IRS changed withholding on your wages, your refund might not be as big as you expect. If you historically rely on your tax refund to pay off your credit card after you overspend at Christmas, this year you might not be able to do this. You can get an idea of what your refund might look like by doing a “Paycheck Checkup.” You can read more about it here.

New Sales Tax Rules

Over this past summer, there were some pretty big changes in the way online sales are taxed. The changes are the result of the Wayfair ruling from the Supreme Court. What this means for you is that some of the items you buy online might now be subject to sales tax when they weren’t subject to tax in years past. This all depends on where you live and where your seller is located. All this could result in the presents you buy costing you more than you’re expecting.

Budgeting is your friend

My first tip is to budget the amount you can spend. For this, start with the amount you can afford to spend.

Make a list of gift recipients

Once you’ve determined how much you can spend, make a list of the people you will be giving gifts to.

Allocate the money you have to spend

Now that you have a list of people and know how much you can spend, figure out how much you can spend per person. This allocation might change as you select your gifts but it helps to give you a ballpark for how much you can spend on each person.

Select your gifts

This can be the fun part. Go through your newspaper’s advertisements, the emails in your inbox and search online for the presents that you want to give each person. Obviously, you can get a “better” present if you find something on sale but don’t let sales fool you. Sometimes, the sales aren’t that great of a deal.

If the gift you select for someone costs more than you’ve said you will spend on them, you’ll need to reduce the amount you spend on someone else.

Gift alternatives

What happens when you can’t find a gift for someone within your budget. Well, you can take money from another person’s allocation on your list, or you can consider an alternative. One important thing to remember, don’t just get a gift to have a gift to give them. If they’re not going to use it or appreciate it, don’t get them a gift. Instead, consider doing something special for them. This could be as simple as handwriting out a nice card for them. You might even include a note that instead of a gift, you’d like to take them to dinner to their favorite restaurant and spend time with them during the bleak January time period. Another option might be offering to make your “special” dish for their next party or event.

Plan your shopping

I’m a big fan of buying online if you can find the gift. Most businesses will have an online store so you won’t have to go out and fight the crowds. Take advantage of this when ever possible. However, keep in mind that shipping costs can eat into the amount you have to spend. Plus, changes in sales tax rules might mean you’re paying more sales tax for online purchases  than you used to.

When you do have to get out, figure out where you’re going and when is a good time to go. If you’re not going to get a “Door Buster” deal, stay away from the early morning Friday shopping. I’ve found great gifts mid-afternoon on Friday and there were no more crowds.

Final thoughts

  • It’s OK to save your money and not buy gifts for everyone. Be realistic on what you can spend and don’t feel guilty if you have to leave someone out.
  • Based on the point above, if you give someone a gift and they don’t give you one or they give you a much less valuable gift, don’t get your feathers in a ruffle. They might have a much tighter budget or have more people to give “something” to. I personally think a lot of time we, as a society, go way over board in trying to buy something for everyone.
  • Don’t go into debt in order to buy Christmas presents. You’re not doing anyone a favor in spending more money than you have, other than the retail shops and your credit card company. I would much rather not receive a gift from someone if it meant they had to finance that gift for me.

In short, have fun searching for the presents you want to buy, don’t buy things you can’t afford, appreciate the gifts you receive, and don’t feel bad about not getting everyone a gift.