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6 ways to save your sanity (and money) on Black Friday


Here we are at the start of Thanksgiving week and we only have a few days left until Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the two consumer-driven ‘holidays’ that retailers look forward to every year. I’m hoping consumers will open up their wallets this year and shop until the economy improves. However, with gloomy news (fiscal cliff and Sandyrecovery) in the air, the retailers may have another subpar holiday season. Now that I don’t work full time anymore, I am even more reluctant to spend money on these popular spending holidays. While I might not want to spend any money, Black Friday is still a great time to pick up a bargain. We definitely don’t want to overspend though, especially when remembering my Epic Fail on Black Friday 2010. Here are 6 ways to save money on Black Friday.

Ignore It!

Thanksgiving should be all about family. The best way to save money is to ignore all the hoopla surrounding Black Friday. If you have any consumer debt at all, then you should concentrate on paying it off first before spending any more money. Only buy the things that you really need to replace.

My parents are in town this year and we’ll be cooking a huge meal on Thursday. I’m not quite sure if we’ll even make it out to the stores on Black Friday. We’ll have to see how we feel on Friday morning.

Prioritize your list

Keep your sanity and money on Black Friday

Make a Black Friday list and prioritize the items on it.

Here is my initial list.

  • Boxer shorts. Last week, I squatted down to pick up Baby RB40 and my boxer shorts just ripped right down the middle. This series of boxers are quite threadbare and really need replacing.
  • External hard drive. I want an external hard drive so we can back up our laptop more easily. This was on my 2011 Black Friday list, but I don’t think we made it out the door last year.
  • New business laptop. See the laptop shopping post from last week.
  • 16GB Flash drive. If I see a deal, I’d like to buy one so my dad can take some digital pictures back home.
  • Xbox 360. My Xbox broke a few months ago and I’ve been going through (game) withdrawal.
  • A USB wired mouse. I have been using a wireless mouse and I hate dealing with the rechargeable battery.

We can reprioritize the list to 1) needs, 2) wait, and 3) wants.

  1. Needs – Boxer shorts, mouse, and external hard drive.
  2. Wait – We can probably wait on the laptop. If I find an deal I can’t refuse, I’ll get it, but otherwise we’ll use the old one until it stop working.
  3. Wants – Xbox 360 and flash drive. I don’t really have time to play games anyway.  I’ll see if I can find an old thumb drive that I can give to him instead of buying a new one.

If you are a little low on cash, then just concentrate on the Needs for Black Friday. Put off the Wait and Wants for now.

Wait for Cyber Monday

Another good trick is to wait for Cyber Monday. Actually, I like Cyber Monday much more than Black Friday. I can make the purchase online without having to wake up at 3am to go wait in a line. Waiting a few days to make a purchase can also make a huge difference. I find that I change my mind and end up not purchasing the things that are low on my priority list quite often.

Impose a time limit

Some people can shop for 10 hours and feel great afterward. On the other hand, I get exhausted and cranky after a couple of hours of shopping. [Ahem:  Mrs. RB40 says I get exhausted and cranky after 10 minutes of shopping.]  If you are one of those marathon shoppers, then perhaps imposing a time limit can help you save money. Impose a 3 hour shopping time limit and once that’s done, it’s over. This way you can’t keep spending money and you’ll be able to pick up the highest priority items on your list.

Leave your plastic at home

Leaving your credit cards at home will help you stick to your shopping budget. It’s hard to resist great bargains and I always end up with more things in my shopping cart. One way to avoid overspending is to just bring cash. Once the cash is gone, your Black Friday shopping is done. I know that using a rewards card is a great way to get some money back or accumulate miles, but it also makes spending money too easy.  People tend to spend more if they use plastic.   If you only have cash, you’ll be able to stick to your list better and reduce impulse buying.

Research ads and prices

Preview Black Friday sales online and pick up a local newspaper on Thanksgiving. The Thanksgiving edition will have all the door busters and last minute deals. You can also look for deals and coupons on the retailer’s Facebook page. Bring the paper when you go shopping in case you need to price match. Check price comparison sites such as PriceGrabber and Techbargain to see if that Black Friday bargain that you want is really a good deal. In my case, a 1TB external hard drive costs around $80. If I can purchase one for $60, then that would be worth the effort.

Are you planning to brave the Black Friday madness? I’m still undecided. We’ll have to see how we feel on Friday morning. If you are going out, don’t spend too much time shopping. Get it over with quickly so you can enjoy more time at home with the family. Have a great Thanksgiving!

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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. He spent 16 years working in computer design and enjoyed the technical work immensely. However, he hated the corporate BS. He left his engineering career behind to become a stay-at-home dad/blogger at 38. At Retire by 40, Joe focuses on financial independence, early retirement, investing, saving, and passive income.

For 2018, Joe plans to diversify his passive income by investing in US heartland real estate through RealtyShares. He has 3 rental units in Portland and he believes the local market is getting overpriced.

Joe highly recommends Personal Capital for DIY investors. He logs on to Personal Capital almost daily to check his cash flow and net worth. They have many useful tools that will help every investor analyze their portfolio and plan for retirement.
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{ 23 comments… add one }
  • Moneycone November 19, 2012, 5:00 am

    I just stick to Amazon! I don’t think anything is worth being trampled upon! 🙂

    • retirebyforty November 19, 2012, 8:15 am

      I’ll check Amazon first. 🙂 Usually by the time we get out the door, the crowd is more manageable.

  • Michelle November 19, 2012, 5:28 am

    I definitely do not plan on shopping on Black Friday. The things that we tend to buy ourselves usually are not discounted on Black Friday, so it would really just be a waste of time for us.

  • savvyfinanciallatina November 19, 2012, 6:47 am

    We are planning to buy an xbox 360! I read an article yesterday Best Buy is having an amazing deal…Xbox 360 250GB with Skyrim game for $200.

    • retirebyforty November 19, 2012, 8:16 am

      Nice deal! I’m waiting for the next gen system. I don’t have time to play games anymore though… 🙁

  • FI Fighter November 19, 2012, 6:59 am

    Can’t wait for the shopping to commence this Friday! Luckily, I don’t really need to buy anything this year, so my shopping list turned out to only consist of “want” items.

    So, I devised another shopping list which I think will better serve me in the long run.

    Have a great holiday. I defnitely agree, “Thanksgiving should be all about family”!

  • Budget and the Beach November 19, 2012, 7:10 am

    I’ve only been to one black friday event, and that’s because I was dragged by my ex’s sister and mom, and like you, shopping drains me. It’s also a solo sport. ha ha! If I WAS going to shop, I’d wait for cyber Monday. Not this year though…

  • Financial Samurai November 19, 2012, 8:19 am

    I plan to do everything on Amazon on Cyber Monday! No way am I going shopping in person on friday!

    • retirebyforty November 19, 2012, 11:37 pm

      Why not? It’s fun. 😉 We’ll probably hit one or two stores and that’s it.

  • Kurt @ Money Counselor November 19, 2012, 8:59 am

    I observe Buy Nothing Day! It’s no stress and saves loads of money! 🙂

    • retirebyforty November 19, 2012, 11:37 pm

      Love it! 🙂

  • [email protected]&More November 19, 2012, 10:25 am

    I don’t think I will go unless we are bored or find a crazy deal in a store that I can’t find somewhere else online. I have never been a huge fan of black Friday.

    • retirebyforty November 19, 2012, 11:38 pm

      I think we’ll have to hit Fred Meyer for the 50% off socks. 🙂

  • krantcents November 19, 2012, 12:00 pm

    I tend to ignore it! My wife has a budget and a list. She will cour the earth to find the deals and usually she is good at it.

    • retirebyforty November 19, 2012, 11:38 pm

      My wife is terrible at this. She is super picky and needs a lot of time when she goes shopping.

  • Sin Camisa November 19, 2012, 1:44 pm

    For your boxer shorts; look at Costco. Great company; loved by its employees, and local (Pacific NW).

    I need a laptop. Which one are you looking at?

    • retirebyforty November 19, 2012, 11:41 pm

      I would love any of the new ultrabooks. We might have to wait for the price to come down further though. 🙂

  • 101 Centavos November 20, 2012, 4:55 am

    Pass on Black Friday. It’s a time for leftovers and catching up w/ family.

  • Mike November 20, 2012, 5:13 am

    I tend to go to the stores to check out the product that I need to see if it is something that I really need. Then I tend to check Amazon/eBay/Half.com for the things that have passed the initial phase of potential usefulness for what I do. The essential part of this whole thing is to avoid Black Friday/Cyber Monday, since every shopping can be a ‘Cyber Monday’. However, this may not work for things that are the essentials-gas, food, clothing, laptops.

  • RichUncle EL November 21, 2012, 7:04 am

    In my family people sleep in late on black friday. So we usually do not get together that day. I usually hit up one or two stores in the late afternoon if there is a good deal, but only once the rush is gone.

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