By Raechel Conover, Cheapism.com
Extreme price slashing during the holiday season can easily lead to overspending. Half-off deals, two-for-one deals, and other discounts give the illusion of saving money, when in fact, consumers may spend more because such low prices are hard to pass up. Considering that the next two months are the busiest of the year for consumers and retailers, discounts will show up everywhere. According to the National Retail Federation, holiday spending is projected to reach $602 billion this year, up 3.9 percent from 2012. That breaks down to roughly $738 per shopper on gifts and holiday-related paraphernalia.
Related: Walmart, Target, & Kmart showdown
Not sure you can or want to spend that much on the holidays? You're not alone. Here are six tips to help you form a reasonable Black Friday and holiday budget that you can actually stick to.Start saving now.
1. Start Saving Now. The point of a Black Friday budget is to spend no more than you have. For most of us, that requires setting aside money ahead of time. If you haven't already started, jump into saving mode now. Figure out how much money you have stashed away and how much you can comfortably save out of the next few paychecks. Try putting your Black Friday budget money into a separate bank account; many employers let you automatically divvy up your take-home into multiple accounts.
2. Save Up Gift Cards. Any form of cash-like assets can be put toward a Black Friday budget, so get in the habit of saving up gift cards for Black Friday sales. While you're at it, dig out old gift cards that may only have a few dollars left and take them with you when you shop; every little bit helps.
3. Avoid Using Credit Cards. Once you've decided on a Black Friday budget, you must stick to it. Credit cards are the enemy here - they tempt us to spend now and worry about it later. This is hardly the mantra you want in your head when hitting the Black Friday sales. Plan to pay for this year's holiday shopping with cash, check, or debit card so you won't be able to spend more than you have. Be prepared to walk away from Black Friday sales once you've hit your Black Friday budget limit.Develop a savings plan.
4. Develop a Spending Plan. Once you know the size of your Black Friday budget, you need a spending plan. Make a list of everyone you want to treat with a gift and note down the amount you're willing to spend for each. Make sure the bottom-line total does not exceed your Black Friday budget. Remember to consider greeting cards, holiday decor, and food supplies. These items also come out of your Black Friday budget.
Related: Which stores offer price matching?
Review your list and look over Black Friday ads for gift ideas. If you know what you want to buy you can comparison shop for the best deals, especially on Black Friday. In fact, the Better Business Bureau urges consumers to check prices at several retailers, both online and offline, and scour Black Friday ads before heading out. All this preparation will save you time, money, and hassle. To control crowds and increase overall holiday revenue, some retailers discount specific products on certain days during the week; check retailers' ads to find out which items will be on sale when.
Price matching during the holiday shopping season is a boon for frugal consumers. Many retailers maintain specific holiday price-matching policies that are more generous than usual. Hang on to all the ads and be ready to pull up online prices on your smartphone while shopping so you can show proof of a better deal and get the price-matching benefit. We also noticed that many stores honor price matching up to 14 days after you make a purchase, so put receipts in a safe place in case an item is marked down further or you find a better deal elsewhere. Our price matching guide lists the retailers with the best price-matching policies.
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