Black Friday Shopping 101 (or 5 Ways to Keep from Spending Money You Shouldn’t)

Gifts I’m not a big Black Friday shopper. Never have been. Given the choice between crowded stores full of crazed holiday bargain hunters and my warm bed at 5:00 in the morning, I choose my warm bed. But I respect those of you who plan to brave the long lines and madness to save some money and get a jump on your present buying. As long as you’re wading out into the mayhem, here are some strategies from that will help you out:

Make a list. If you head into Black Friday unprepared, you’ll be jumping at every store special that catches your eye. But “on sale” doesn’t mean “free,” so you could end up emptying your wallet for things you didn’t need to begin with. Make a plan and stick to it.

Take only cash. Really want to practice some discipline? Take your plan (as referenced above) and figure out how much money you’ll need to buy what you want. Then take cash with you instead of plastic. It’s a guaranteed way to stay within your holiday budget (and resist the pull of all of those discounted electronics).

Skip the extended warranty. Many stores will try to sell this to you on your way out, but if you’re using a credit card (i.e. you’ve ignored the advice I just gave you), it will often offer a warranty of its own. Call your credit card company to see what your card covers.

Beware the bait and switch. Some retailers are advertising crazy low prices on some items—but only “while supplies last,” and those supplies may be unreasonably small. Their goal is to get you in the door so you’ll shop for other things, but if they don’t have what you want, move on down the road.

Do your homework. Use’s price comparison tool to make sure you’re getting the best deal. And if you’re shopping at a store with a price match guarantee, take a printout of the lowest advertised price with you to take advantage of it.

Will you be braving the post-Thanksgiving masses this year?