How to Avoid 7 Common Black Friday Shopping Pitfalls

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Even though a large portion of the U.S. population hate the idea of shopping on Thanksgiving Day — or even Black Friday — millions of Americans will hit the shops, both in the real world and online. Last year more than 150 million Americans did one or the other, or both.

If you do plan to shop for holiday gifts on the Black Friday weekend, it is probably a good idea to have a plan and a budget. Otherwise, you may find that by Monday, you’ve purchased stuff you didn’t intend to and that your entire holiday budget has evaporated.

According to Andrea Woroch, a nationally recognized consumer and money-saving expert, the average shopper will spend more than $930 this holiday season. If you’ve got your eye on Black Friday as the day to hunt for the best bargain, Woroch has provided a list of tips to help keep spending in check and how to spot some common deceptive retail practices.

Here’s her list of seven Black Friday shopping pitfalls to avoid:

  1. Shopping without a strategy.
    Heading to the mall on Black Friday without a list or strategy often results in a devastating blow to your budget. That’s because it’s easy to lose track of your spending as you wander from store to store to check out their sales. Shopping with a list keeps you focused on your gift list and keeps you from making impulse purchases. If you don’t have a large purchase on your list, consider leaving your credit cards at home and only bring cash so you can’t spend a cent more.
  2. Allowing big discount claims to influence spending.
    Store ads will have you believe that nearly everything will be 50% off or more on Black Friday. Make sure you read the fine print and compare prices, keeping in mind that some retailers will inflate the original price to make that doorbuster sale appear to be a better value than it is. Research prices on popular items ahead of the event and don’t allow big discount claims to influence your spending.
  3. Falling for derivative products.
    Some products are manufactured specifically for Black Friday and may be missing certain features or key components so the brand can sell it for less. This means you could get stuck with an item that isn’t really what you wanted! Last year’s Roku SE is a great example of a derivative product which was released in mid-November and discounted to $25 to Black Friday shoppers, despite barely being on the shelves for $49.99 prior to the holiday weekend. Research model numbers and compare features to ensure the product isn’t missing key components.
  4. Battling crowds on Friday.
    Most retailers will be starting Black Friday early and opening their doors on Thanksgiving. JCPenney, for example, is opening at 3pm on Thanksgiving, while Macy’s will welcome customers starting at 5pm that day. However, many Black Friday deals will be available online prior to doors opening, with Kohl’s offering online shoppers access to Black Friday doorbusters as early as Monday, Nov. 21. Consult BFAds.net for scans of Black Friday ads from popular retailers to determine what you can buy online, what you must buy in store, and exactly where you need to be and when so you can schedule your Thanksgiving dinner accordingly.
  5. Assuming the sale price is the best price.
    With prices advertised at all-time lows, consumers are easily convinced that coupons and other discounts don’t apply. However, it’s important to read the fine print and use a deals’ site like CouponSherpa.com to seek out extra savings. For example, a Bon-Ton coupon will be available for an extra $10 off any item of $10 or more (sale or regular price) for purchases made between 5pm on Thursday and 3pm on Friday, according to Bon-Ton’s Black Friday circular. Same goes for online shoppers, who can score an extra 30% off sale or regular-price items at Michaels during certain periods on Thursday and Friday with promo codes.
  6. Failing to mail a rebate.
    The sale price of select Black Friday doorbusters can be misleading, since some require mail-in rebates to reach the low price. The $10 price tag on JCPenney’s deal for a Pyrex 8-piece bowl set, for instance, requires a $15 mail-in rebate. That means you’ll pay $25 at the register! With over $500 million in rebates going unclaimed every year, this sales tactic gets shoppers through the door and results in huge profits for stores. Make sure to keep your receipt and the packaging for products that require rebates, and complete and mail the rebate immediately.
  7. Blowing your entire budget on Black Friday.
    While there are plenty of good deals on Black Friday, there are plenty of bad ones, too. Some items are better to buy on Cyber Monday like clothing and beauty products, and you may find bigger savings closer to Christmas as retailers cut prices further to move merchandise before the holiday passes. Wait for sales later in the season and take advantage of Free Shipping Day on December 16, when up to 2,000 retailers will offer free shipping with no minimum order requirements and other discounts, plus delivery by Christmas Eve.