Budgeting 201
November 9, 2023

Avoid Racking Up Debt This Black Friday

Black Friday is easily America’s favorite shopping day – or week, now that the sale extends before and beyond its traditional day-after-Thanksgiving slot.

If you’re like the hundreds of thousands of consumers searching the internet for terms like “Walmart Black Friday,” “Amazon Black Friday,” “Target Black Friday,” “and “Kohls Black Friday,” you’re probably looking for opportunities to save on your holiday shopping.

But goods are more expensive this year due to inflation, and people are now carrying record-high consumer credit card debt, says the Seattle Times. So how can you find the deals but avoid racking up debt this Black Friday? Here are seven ideas to help you keep your Black Friday shopping in check.

Avoid Debt by Understanding Debt

Why is debt such a bad thing? While a credit card can help you pay for things you might not otherwise be able to buy, that’s kind of the problem.

When you charge an item you don’t have cash for, you’ll carry a balance on your card. In the background, your credit card company is charging you interest on that balance. Those interest rates are high, meaning you end up paying much more than the cost of the item you bought. And the longer you carry a balance, especially if you continue charging new items, the more the balance and interest add up.

If you pay only minimum payments each month your debt will grow quickly, and it can become more than you can handle paying off. That can leave you with dire consequences – like an inability to borrow, bad credit, and even debt counseling or bankruptcy.

If you already have debt, you want to pay it off as fast as possible, usually starting with the highest-interest debt. Once you have all your debt paid off, resist taking on more.

While it may feel like “free money” when you use a credit card, it’s a really bad idea to “charge it and forget it.” The best way to use credit cards is when the money to pay the bill is already in the bank and you pay the balance off in full every month.

The single best way to avoid debt this Black Friday? Don’t use a credit card unless you’ve already set aside the cash for the item and you will pay the full balance off by the due date. Otherwise, it’s better to budget only with the cash you already have and leave the credit cards at home.

Mindful Spending

Mindful spending is just what it sounds like: being thoughtful about what you spend.

This can take a lot of forms:

  • Looking inward and deciding why you want the item.
  • Thinking carefully about what you want versus what you genuinely need.
  • Making a wish list rather than buying an item when you first want it.
  • Not making impulse buys, but instead pausing intentionally before buying something new.
  • Choosing the peaceful security of savings over the temporary thrill of a purchase.
  • Making purchasing priorities.

Not only can mindful spending help you save, it can help you find more meaning in life and appreciate the things you already have.

No matter how you choose to implement mindful spending, thinking about your purchasing habits and priorities is a great step toward taking control of your finances – and Black Friday spending.

Explore Budget-Friendly Gift Giving

Just because you’re avoiding debt doesn’t mean you can’t give great gifts.

There are a lot of ways to gift that are budget-friendly.

  • Talk with family or friends and set gift-giving rules. This could mean setting a spending limit, giving gifts only to the kids in your family, or giving no gifts at all. It’s about whatever works for you and yours.
  • Gift your time – creatively. Gift friends or family a night of babysitting, or pet sit for their next vacation. You can make creative “gift cards” to let them know. If you know carpentry and your sister is dying for a built-in bookcase, consider a homemade gift certificate for the work. Making dinner or doing chores are great ways to help someone without spending a dime. It may be far more useful to them than a standard gift.
  • Get artsy-craftsy. Make something crafty with your DIY skills (see the next section for specific ideas).
  • Give to a charity in someone’s name. Making a small donation in someone’s name may mean much more to them than buying another gift. This may be especially true for older family members and those trying to cut down on their stuff. Consider a charity that’s close to the recipient’s heart.
  • Regift. While there are some caveats here – like never, ever regift to the original gifter – there can be good ways to do this. Gift cards are easy to regift and are likely to be appreciated by any recipient. Gift baskets that don’t suit your tastes, candles you don’t like the scent of, even clothing that isn’t your taste – as long as you match the gift to the recipient’s taste, it’s a good gift.
  • Go in together on gifts. This is a great option in the office. Rather than buying the boss a gift alone, see if coworkers want to go in together on a gift. This works for birthdays and baby showers, too.
  • Try an organized gift exchange. This is a great option for groups of friends or coworkers. Try a white elephant exchange or a Secret Santa exchange. You can find plenty of variations online.
  • Wrap creatively.  Gift wrapping is an easy target for savings.  Try our 3 Tips to Save on Holiday Gift Wrapping for ideas.

Any or all of these options could mean NO gift buying and no new debt this Black Friday!

Avoid Holiday Debt with DIY

If you have artistic, crafty, or practical skills, consider applying them to your gifting.

  • Carpentry. If you know how to build, you could use scrap wood to build a tiny picnic table, dollhouse, or other gift for your kids, nieces and nephews, or grandkids.
  • Art. If you have artistic skills, make a painted sign from a salvaged wooden pallet with your friend’s last name or other message for their home. Make a mobile for a new baby. Or make your parents a painting of one of their favorite photos. Pinterest is the land of 1000 ideas.
  • Photography. If you’re a good photographer, take family pictures for your friends or gift photos of beloved pets.
  • Knitting or crochet. Make friends and family hats or scarves in their favorite colors.
  • Sewing. Consider making friends a small quilt, sewing dolls or clothes for your nieces, or doing some alterations for free.

As long you target your handmade gifts to the tastes and needs of your recipients, you’re bound to hit a home run with the gifts you make.

The only limit to these gifts is your creativity. And since sales go year-round on supplies, there’s no need to do all your shopping at once or wait for Black Friday deals or Black Friday ads.

Use Smart Black Friday Shopping Strategies

The best way to shop on Black Friday is to make a holiday budget, and then a list.

First, determine how much you can afford to spend for the holidays without going into debt. This may require you to look at how much you make, how much you have saved, and all your expenses in a month. If you need decorations or are hosting a family meal, you may need to subtract those amounts from your holiday budget to get your gift budget.

Next, list each person on your gift list. Divide your gift budget by the number of people to see how much you can spend per person; you can also prioritize your recipients if you want to spend more on some than others.

Finally, look online for the best Black Friday deals on what you need. Take notes. You can hit just the stores with the best prices on items you need, saving time, gas, and the money you’ll inevitably spend going into stores when you’re “just looking.”

If you have items you’d like for yourself, make a wish list. If there’s money left over after all the above spending, decide what you can afford from your wish list without going into debt. If you can save a lot of money on one item by buying on Black Friday, consider getting that item first. You can buy yourself other items from your wish list throughout the year as you save up the cash.

If you’re already in debt, put any leftover money toward paying off your debt before buying yourself a gift.

Set Financial Priorities

To help you avoid taking on Black Friday debt, think about your financial goals. If you want to buy a house in the next two years, spending a lot of money on Black Friday sales may seem less important. If you want a more minimalist lifestyle or want to be more environmentally conscious, for example, think about whether the Black Friday purchases you’re considering align with your aims.

You’ll also want to consider what purchases are necessary. If you can gift for free, that may be a way to eliminate spending. If you don’t need an item on your wish list at the holidays, just wait. Be sure you don’t add unnecessary spending to an already expensive month.

Extra Ways to Save

You can also look for other ways to avoid unnecessary spending. Save on gas by shopping online. Look for stores that offer free delivery so you don’t pay shipping. Use coupons, Groupons, and gift codes wherever you can. And check out December sales or deals with small or local businesses.

You can even look for non-gifting ways to save. For example, avoid buying too many groceries if you’ll be out of town, or freeze items for later. Turn down the heat, especially when you’re asleep or out of town. And remember to turn out the lights when you’re not in a room. You can put your holiday lights on a timer, too.

Every little bit of savings counts, especially at the holidays, because being debt-free is the best gift you could give yourself.

FAQs: Black Friday

When is Black Friday?

Black Friday is always the day after Thanksgiving. Many “Black Friday” sales run before and after the day, however.

When do Black Friday deals start?

Some say Black Friday deals have already begun. Both Walmart and Amazon ran deals in October to kick off holiday shopping.

What to do on Black Friday?

It’s up to you what you and your family choose to do on Black Friday. But if you don’t have money to spend, look for a non-shopping, non-spending activity like watching football or setting up holiday decorations. Staying out of the stores and away from online shopping is your best bet for avoiding more debt this Black Friday.

Who has the best Black Friday deals?

This depends on what you’re looking for. Try searching online for the item you want and comparing prices from different sellers.

Do prices go down for Black Friday?

Many do, but some items are discounted more than others for Black Friday. The best way to know is to do your research online before Black Friday. This is easier now that stores make their ads available ahead of time.

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