For many retailers, Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving that typically kicks off the holiday gift-buying season, marks their best opportunity to pull a struggling enterprise out of the red ink and onto the profitable, or black ink, side of the ledger.
But for consumers tempted to spend too much, Black Friday can take on a darker meaning, signifying wrecked budgets and an overemphasis on commercialism that mars the true spirit of the holidays.
As a busy mom and financial advisor, I have some tips for keeping things in perspective when whipping out the credit cards and hitting the mall or the online store:
- Make a realistic budget, then list the people you will be giving gifts to. Remember to factor in sales tax, wrapping and delivery and shipping costs when determining how much you can spend on presents.
- Consider gifts that will continue to give value long after the Christmas tree has been hauled out to the curb–help in paying down a student loan or a deposit to a child’s college fund, for example. For those who have everything they need, or who don’t want to accumulate more things, think about making a donation in their names to a favorite charity.
- Gifts of your skills or creativity can be personally meaningful without causing you to max out your credit cards. If you’re a good baker, wrap up some of your homemade bread or cookies; if you’re a talented photographer, give a photo package; if you have writing skills, offer to help a recent college grad put together a resume or a LinkedIn profile.
- If you must shop, get smart about using technology to help you find the best bargains. Use websites such as Ebates, Honey, Slickdeals, and others. Amazon, for example, has already rolled out many of its Black Friday deals, and the bargains are going to get even more plentiful after Thanksgiving. The online retailer also allows shoppers who can’t–or don’t want to–buy on credit to put a deposit into a personalized secure account, Amazon Cash, to use instead of plastic.