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7 ways to avoid overspending on Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Black Friday

Holiday shopping is stressful — fighting crowds, picking the right gifts and finding good deals can be exhausting.

But for many Americans, the worst part about holiday shopping comes from the many financial pressures the season brings, including saving enough for all the gifts you need to buy and struggling to stick to your budget. In fact, about 60% of Americans say they typically spend too much during the holiday season, according to a survey conducted by Experian.

Overall, about 63% say that holiday shopping puts a strain on their finances. Yet experts say that there are some easy strategies you can employ during those tempting Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales to limit your overspending.

Here are seven ways to help you stick to your holiday shopping budget this year.

1. Set spending limits

Gift exchanges and white elephant parties at work regularly impose limits on how much you’re allowed to spend per person, such as $5, $10 or $20. But you can do the same with your friends and family, Rod Griffin, director of consumer education and advocacy at Experian tells CNBC Make It.

“Set your limits and make them known — there’s nothing wrong with doing that and people will respect that,” Griffin says. Talk with your family and come up with an amount per person that makes sense for everyone. Or you can set your own limits, such as $20 per person and let your family and friends know in advance what you’re planning to do this holiday.

2. Know your spending triggers

“People overbuy for a number of reasons, but you can control your spending by identifying what causes you to shop on impulse and buy needless things, says consumer savings expert Andrea Woroch.

For example, many people can’t resist a sale. But not all bargains are created equal and shoppers should be wary of the “buy more, save more” types of deals, Woroch says. “You think you are getting a better value when you see $10 off $50 or $20 off $50, but it’s the same percent discount so don’t let that discount claim make you spend more,” she says.

Some triggers are more subliminal, such as music. Music alone can cause shoppers to spend more, especially if they are impulse buys, according to a 2005 study presented to the American Psychological Association. Make sure you’re keeping track of what you’re buying and how long you’re spending in each store, no matter how great the shopping experience is.

3. Have a game plan

Before you head to the store to do your holiday shopping, take the time to do your homework. Especially if you’re planning to hit up Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. Retailers release their ads in advance, so you can compare the advertised prices and promotions.

Not sure something is truly a deal? Check out this Black Friday calculator, where you can plug in the type of promotion, the original price and the discount and it will tell you if the deal is worth considering.

From there, you can create a list of gifts you want to buy from each store, which will save you time and money. It may also be helpful to have a back-up gift idea too, especially if you’re aiming to take advantage of limited-supply doorbuster deals. That way, if the store runs out, you’re not scrambling at the last minute and overspending.

“You have to make a list and you have to check it twice — Santa’s advice is always good,” Griffin says.

4. Put yourself on a cash diet

“Credit isn’t for everyone,” Griffin says. Nearly 60% of respondents to Experian’s survey say that they are planning to stick to cash this holiday shopping season.

“If you can’t resist a sale, you may be better off shopping with cash especially on Black Friday so you can only buy that which you budgeted for,” Woroch says. You can even put yourself on a “cash diet” for the day.

Let’s say your cash allowance is $200 during Black Friday. Withdraw that cash from the ATM and take that with you to the store. When the cash runs out, you’re done. Simple, yet effective.

5. Track your spending

Cash may be king, but it’s challenging to take advantage of Cyber Monday online shopping deals with just cash. If you do want to use credit cards, Woroch says it’s important to monitor your spending.

“People often overspend and get into debt during the holiday season because they get caught up in the ongoing sales and don’t watch all those purchases,” Woroch says. You can do this by checking your credit card transactions or using an app like Mint, which links to all your financial accounts and sends real time purchase alerts.

Woroch also likes the Santa’s Bag app. which allows you to create a shopping list of gift recipients and then input different purchases you make, while tracking how much you’ve spent. “Seeing the numbers on a screen will help you make better buying decisions because it holds you accountable,” she adds.

6. Avoid spending to save

“You can save yourself deep into debt,” Griffin says. And by that he means that retailers make it easy to spend an extra $5 or even $50 to reach that free shipping or additional discount. Instead, look for that same item from a store that doesn’t charge shipping.

“Unless the free shipping minimum is near your total and the extra you add to your cart is equivalent to what the shipping fee will be, it’s better to stick with the lower purchase total and just pay for shipping,” Worch says.

7. Shop in advance

Don’t wait until the last minute to do your holiday shopping. Instead, buy holiday gifts early, Griffin says. And he means really early. “Holiday shopping ideally starts in January, not in December,” he says.

That’s because Griffin regularly shops the post-holiday sales and end-of-season discounts that happen year round. It takes some planning (and remembering what you purchased), but he finds that it’s easier to stick to a budget that way. And you can space out your expenses.

In the end, the objective is to have “a wonderful holiday season that’s minimally stressful.” By the time February rolls around, many of us can’t even remember all of the holiday gifts we’ve received, so don’t stress yourself out about overspending for that perfect gift, he says.

“All you remember is the friends and family and the time spent together,” Griffin adds.


This story originally published on


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