7 Tips for Keeping You in the Black this Black Friday

November 23, 2010Keeping your own finances in the black this Black Friday

If you’re a Black Friday junkie, before you head out the door this Friday morning (likely EARLY Friday morning), please consider the following 7 suggestions for keeping your own finances in the black:

  1. Have a simple financing plan in place. There will be WAY more cool and attractive stuff on sale than you could possibly afford, so you’ll need to decide AHEAD OF TIME for whom you are purchasing the items, and how much you’re willing to spend for each person on your list. Create a simple chart with the names of gift recipients down the left hand column and the amounts you’re planning to spend on them in the right hand column. If you want to be more detailed, you could split the “Amount” column into two, with “planned amount” in the middle and “Absolute Maximum” amount on the right. Aim to spend no more than the middle amount, but commit now NEVER to exceed the right hand amount.
  2. Leave the cards (credit and debit) and the checkbook at home. You can’t overspend if all you’ve got is cash.
  3. Take a shopping buddy… but NOT JUST ANY shopping buddy. Go with the friend, family member or neighbor with whom you enjoy spending time but who will also keep you on financial track. Verbally commit to each other to stay within your stated spending limits.
  4. Budget for your Black Friday breakfast or brunch. Many make this meal part of their holiday traditions (in fact, for many, if may be the first time since consuming the Thanksgiving meal 20 hours or so earlier that they’re even able to eat). Just make sure you have a limit, you know restaurant’s price range, and you stick to your plan.
  5. Compare prices online: Make sure you know how much competitors are listing the items on your want list for. Check out their web sites. Of course, you have to take shipping and handling costs into account.
  6. Think in dollars, NOT percentages. Forget the sale signs. “75% off” doesn’t mean anything to your purse or wallet. The reality is NOT how much you’re saving but how much you’re spending. Remember that sales come and sales go. What’s “hot,” “in” and “cool” this year will be next year’s forgotten fad. However, you only get to spend the dollars in your wallet once. After that, they’re gone, and they’re not coming back. Make sure you’re spending them on your own priorities and not what the stores are telling you your priorities should be.
  7. Make your Christmas about the people in your life rather than the “stuff” you’re buying for them. We all know that relationships are more important than things, yet too often we get caught up year-after-year in buying and consuming. This year, get creative by spending MORE TIME with the important people in your life and spending LESS MONEY for stuff that will sooner or later likely end up in the attic, garage, or, worse, the dump just taking up space.

I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving, Happy Holidays, and (although still a few days early by my standards, but if you can’t beat ’em…) a very Merry Christmas!

Todd Christensen
Director of Education
www.NationalFinancialEducationCenter.org
Facebook: MoneyDay2Day
Twitter: Day2DayMoney

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Santa’s Not Comin’ to Town Quite Yet

November 15, 2010

I’ve always thought that Thanksgiving gets the short end of the stick when it comes to fall holidays. Christmas seems to invade stores almost as soon as kids are back on the school playgrounds after summer. Maybe that’s why I love Thanksgiving some much. It hasn’t been (and hopefully never will be) commercialized. Hopefully it stays the most home-centered of gatherings of our society.

Additional Thanksgiving expenses on decorations, travel, and entertaining can add upStill, just because it’s not been co-opted by Madison Avenue doesn’t mean we don’t, as a nation, spend a lot of additional money on the holiday. Thanksgiving generally means extra expenses in:

  • Travel: If you’re flying to your destination, you’ll generally spend anywhere between 10% and 50% less if you DON’T travel the day before Thanksgiving and the Sunday AFTER Thanksgiving.
    TIP: Consider flying out TWO days before the holiday and coming home on Friday.
  • Meals: Often, a portion of the extra money we spend on Thanksgiving meals can be recouped by enjoying leftover turkey sandwiches for a week or two afterwards.
    TIP: To make leftovers easier to deal with, separate them into smaller portions, place them in freezer bags, and pack into the freezer. That way, you won’t have to pull huge portions out of the freezer to use all at once.
  • Decorations: After travel, decoration expenses can be considered to be the most expensive “optional” expense of Thanksgiving. Whether it’s new Thanksgiving-themed plates and serving dishes, front door wreathes, pewter turkey-shaped napkin holders, or other household ornamentation highlighting the joys of fall, a spendthrift household could easily lay down an extra $200 or $300 each Turkey Day in making their dinner more festive.
    TIP: If children or grandchildren are available, use their pictures or artwork to decorate the house. Back a small photo of a family member with some construction paper and tie them around the napkin as a holder.
  • Entertainment: More and more families are deciding to spend the afternoon or evening of Thanksgiving at the movie theater. Whether Hollywood pushed for it or reacted to it, the demand is definitely there. That’s why many blockbuster movies often debut on Thanksgiving Day or that weekend.
    TIP:  Games at home can be more affordable and usually much more interactive, but if you insist on going to a movie, make the decision to skip the high-priced treats. After all, you’ll probably still be feeling as stuffed as the turkey was just a few hours before.

Have a wonderful, safe, and happy Thanksgiving Day and holiday season!

Todd Christensen
Director of Education
www.NationalFinancialEducationCenter.org
Facebook: MoneyDay2Day
Twitter: Day2DayMoney