Shop smarter, not harder on Black Friday

(Photo: CNN)
(Photo: CNN)

(RNN) - Black Friday - It's an all out assault on the shopping senses, with sales and door busters clamoring for your attention, and hoards caffeine-and-sleep deprived shoppers making a beeline for your $5 toaster or $25 DVD player.

It can be easy to get caught up in the frenzy of the moment and end up busting the budget you thought you were stretching by going for Black Friday deals in the first place.

"It's not the best scenario for making an intelligent shopping decision," said Christine Frietchen, editor-in-chief of

If hyped up emotions aren't playing you, the store's ads might. Store circulars can be carefully laid out landmines, set to blow up a consumer's budget.

"During the holidays, retailers throw every marketing trick in the book at consumers," she said.

Frietchen cites several tactics retailers use to draw shoppers in.

  • The product is indeed a bargain, but the product itself gets lousy reviews.
  • The product looks like a good deal, but only because the stated "regular price" is inflated in the ad.
  • The discount is decent but only after you jump through a hoop - mail in a rebate, buy an additional product, etc.
  • The product is shown as "on sale" but it's available online right now for the same price or less.
  • Only three or four of the "doorbuster" deals will be available at each store so there's a slim chance you'll snag one.
  • "Retail store managers are smart. They've developed highly refined ways of getting you to spend money. One of these ways is by getting you into the store with a few low-priced items on which the company takes a loss and then leading you toward other purchases," said Rod Ebrahimi with, a website dedicated to helping people get out of debt.

    So how can you avoid getting ambushed?

    "Really, the No. 1 advice I could give to anybody is have a game plan. Think before you go in, know what you're going to buy, and set a spending limit for yourself," Frietchen said.

    Do your homework ahead of time. Since you can only wait in one "early bird" line, compare deals between stores, as well as the store price versus what you might pay for the same item online.

    Check out product reviews online before Black Friday so you know what you're getting. Is the product a quality one? Does it deliver on its promises? Consumer reviews can help you figure out if others who have purchased that item are happy with the money they spent.

    A good game plan also includes laying out the landscape of your Black Friday doorbuster store of choice.

    "The last thing you want is to make it through the door and say, 'Where's the appliance section?'" Frietchen said.

    If you can visit the store ahead of time that gives you a less kinetic atmosphere to figure out if the product fits your needs, instead of being forced to make a decision with little information in the Black Friday frenzy.

    "If you can go the day before, there's nothing you can do that will serve you better because you'll be relaxed and can actually look at the product," she said.

    Impulse buys can wreck your best-laid savings plans. It may seem obvious, but only buy what you need and what you've determined ahead of time to purchase. Just like Santa, make a list, check it twice and, most importantly, stick with it.

    "People get excited about Black Friday because they imagine sleek, brand new laptops and flat screen TVs being sold for a fraction of their usual price," said Ebrahimi. "But no matter how great the deal may seem for that new gadget or toy, buying it will not save you money unless it's something you absolutely need."

    And, if you're prone to overspending, give yourself no room to be tempted. Carry a predetermined amount of cash with you and leave the credit card at home.

    "Taking a credit card into a store on Black Friday is like taking a piece of prime rib into the tiger cage at your local zoo - it's dangerous. With a credit card in your pocket, you might end up talking yourself into all kinds of purchases," Ebrahimi said.

    The best bet may be to forego Black Friday shopping altogether.

    "There will be $300 TV's the next weekend and the weekend after," Frietchen said.

    "If you want to go Black Friday shopping, go because it's fun and you enjoy it, not because you think you're going to miss out on some spectacular deal. There will be other spectacular deals to come."

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