Sue Ogrocki, Associated Press
More than half of Americans are planning to do more of their Black Friday shopping online this year, according to a study conducted by the popular couponing service RetailMeNot.
Parents in particular are embracing online shopping this season, according to RetailMeNot’s survey, with 63 percent of respondents with children saying they plan to use the Internet for their shopping, allowing them to avoid the crowds and lines of more traditional Black Friday fare.
Although some may be skeptical of Black Friday’s reputation as “the best” shopping day of the year, by most accounts it deserves the title of “the biggest.” According to the Consumer Electronics Association, 61 percent of adults in the US plan on doing some holiday shopping during the Thanksgiving weekend.
Electronic items make up the bulk of America’s Black Friday shopping interests, with the CEA also projecting electronic tablets to be this year’s most popular buy.
However, among all the excitement of “doorbuster” deals and “this day only” sales, here are some suggestions to avoid traps and keep your finances in check.
Sticking to the budget
Following a strict budget closely may not be easy, but it’s necessary to avoid overspending.
“What we’re finding is that while people do budget, they have a very hard time sticking to it,” RetailMeNot’s senior editor Trae Bodge told DeseretNews.com.
Bodge says that RetailMeNot’s research suggests that people struggle during the holidays to keep within their means because “they see a gift that they would really love to give and they want so desperately to do something nice. It’s really a gesture of love and generosity, but it gets us into trouble.”
The most important thing to remember while setting a budget this year, according to Bodge, is to be realistic.
The credit trap
RetailMeNot’s various surveys also suggest that using a credit card for holidays can be more dangerous than many expect.
“They end up in January with a big fat credit card bill that they can’t pay off quickly enough and then they end up saddling themselves with this debt that goes through the year,” Bodge said. “It ends up being this never-ending cycle.”
One of the best remedies for this cycle of behavior, Bodge says, has been the ever-expanding holiday shopping time frame.
The rising consumer disdain for what seems to be the “overexposure” of the holiday shopping season has been well documented, with journalists such as CNNMoney’s Annalyn Kurtz reporting on potential boycotts aimed at retail stores that remain open on Thanksgiving to compensate for a shorter window for this year’s Christmas shopping.
While not defending stores being open for Thanksgiving, Bodge suggests that starting well before Black Friday is one of the best ways to avoid resorting to credit.
“If you’re being opportunistic throughout the season, starting in September for instance, looking for great deals year-round, you will often find them in certain categories and get those out of the way.
“We found that 40 percent of consumers were shopping as early as October last year and this year’s numbers are very similar,” Bodge added. “It’s actually quite prudent, because you’re lightening the monthly impact on your budget.”
Avoiding ‘deal envy’
Bodge and other personal finance experts believe that deal envy, or the feeling that rushes over a consumer after a few days of binge shopping that leaves them wishing they hadn’t spent so much, is an avoidable phenomenon.
“Being that (Black Friday) is the No. 1 shopping season of the year, it’s really important once again that we be realistic with what we can spend,” Bodge said.
The best way to plan for a more “realistic” shopping experience is by arming yourself with information, he said.
“If you know the item you are looking for is at Macy’s, Bed Bath and Beyond and Target, then you should be using one of the many apps developed to help shoppers, like Google Shopping or Nextag. That way, you can see which retailer offers it for the best price.“
RetailMeNot has its own app that alerts users of available deals they might be interested in when they walk into a store. It was developed because RetailMeNot's research led developers to believe that an organized and curated presentation of various holiday deals was sorely lacking.
“There is such a thing as deal overload.” Bodge said toward the end of the interview. “If we can’t make educated decisions then (all these deals) aren’t doing you any favors.”