Your Guide to Black Friday Shopping- Part 5

Ok, so you’ve scoured the ads, you’ve made your holiday budget, and you’ve decided what gifts you want to give everyone.  How do you make a game plan and prepare for the big day?

Depending on what time you go, you’ll probably want some coffee to take with you.  You don’t want to be late to the sales just because you had to drive through to get a coffee or because you stepped out of the line!  Whether you are a night owl or an early bird, some coffee can help you wake up and get ready for the challenge of Black Friday shopping.  Just make sure you brew it at home to save money, and take a thermos with you to keep it nice and hot!  If you’re not a coffee person, bringing some hot cocoa is a must, especially if you will be waiting outside a store for it to open.  A couple times during my Black Friday adventures, stores have had employees handing out cups of hot cocoa, but I wouldn’t count on that!  It’s best to be prepared to you don’t impulse buy a hot drink.

You’re also going to want to make sure you bundle up if you will be standing outside for awhile.  Think about what you would wear to a cold Husker football game.  For late night and early morning shoppers, the sun will be down, and temperatures will drop.  Throw on hats, scarves, gloves, and heavy coats.  Just make sure you have coat pockets that will fit your gloves so that once you get in the store you can take them off and grab all of the good deals!

You also need to make sure that your cell phone is completely charged.  It may also be wise to have a car charger in your car if your phone doesn’t hold a charge very well.  If you are going with another person/s, one person can stand in line while the others shop, and you’ll need to be in communication with them.  And of course, remember to get as much sleep as you can if you’re going to be waking up early, or schedule some extra sleeping time in the morning if you’re going to stay up late so that you aren’t cranky while you’re watching the Nebraska/Iowa football game. 🙂

You’re going to want to make a game plan before you go.  Figure out what stores have the deals you want to get.  Then write down the store name, the items, and the time the store opens.  If multiple stores open at the same time, you will have to decide which store you want to go to the most.  Plan for 1.5- 2 hours for the first store and be flexible with your schedule.  If you have a prioritized list, then you can easily see the next store you want to go to.  If you get to a store and they are out of what you want or you determine that the line is too long, you can quickly head to the next store on your list.

Just remember to have fun, and don’t take it too seriously.  There will be items that will run out before you get there.  Your plan B can always be to look out for the items you missed online during the weekend or on Cyber Monday.  Remember, you will still have almost a month after Black Friday to finish your Christmas shopping!  It is always more pleasant if you can make small talk with the other people in line while you are waiting.  Keep in mind that everyone is trying to get good deals on gifts for their loved ones, just like you.  There is no need for pushing, cussing, or hostility toward one another.  Have fun and good luck getting the great deals!

 

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Your Guide to Black Friday Shopping- Part 4

So you’ve decided you’re going to brave the cold and the crowds and go Black Friday shopping.  How do you look for deals?  Most of the Black Friday ads for brick and mortar stores are out on the store’s websites right now.  You’ll probably also get a bunch of ads in the mail in the next few days if you haven’t already.  After you’ve made your holiday budget and made a list of things you want to get for each person (see part 3 of our Black Friday guide if you need help), you can start to look through ads to see what deals are available.  Begin by looking at ads from your favorite stores.  My favorite stores to go to on Black Friday are Target, Walmart, and Kohl’s because they have a large selection of items and I can usually pick up gifts for multiple people at each store.  There are a lot of Black Friday phone apps that can help you consolidate ads in one place and many of them have a search function so that you can search for a particular item and find what store is advertising the best price.  Here’s a list of apps recommended by Cheapism: http://www.cheapism.com/blog/3239/black-friday-apps

How do you know if the advertised price is a good deal or not?  Use one of the aforementioned apps or a Black Friday website to compare prices.  Keep in mind that you have to stick to your budget.  If it is out of your budget range, you simply cannot afford it, no matter if it is a great deal or not.  It is also helpful to start in early November to see what the regular prices of items are for comparison purposes.  Sometimes the “sales” are not much less than the regular price, yet customers get caught up in the excitement of Black Friday and impulse buy the item anyway.  Also remember that you may be able to get the item cheaper online on Black Friday or Cyber Monday.  Check out part 2 of our Black Friday series for more info on online shopping.  Here’s a great infographic that shows when some of the most popular items are most likely to be offered at the best price: http://www.shefinds.com/2014/what-to-buy-on-black-friday-and-every-other-sale-day-of-the-season/

Watch out for prices that are only contingent upon mail-in rebates.  If you are following the cash budgeting system we suggested in the last blog, make sure you are looking at the fine print!  You don’t want to get to the register and find out something is $20 more than you expected because that great price in the ad is only after a mail-in rebate.  Many people will forget to send in their rebates, which is one of the reasons companies like to offer rebates.  Consumers will pay the higher price now, thinking about that great after-rebate price, and then forget to send in the documents to get their rebate money.  And remember, you also have to pay for the stamps and envelopes you need to send in those rebates.  You also want to make sure that you read all of the rebate details and do everything correctly.  I recently had a rebate rejected because I forgot to circle the price of the item on the receipt!  You don’t want to lose $20, $30, or more because of a little mistake.  If you think you will forget to send in rebates, only buy items without rebates.  Here are some more rebate tips and tricks on Cheapism’s blog: http://www.cheapism.com/blog/3248/black-friday-rebates

Have fun looking through the ads and make sure to stay organized.  Here’s one more infographic with even more Black Friday & Cyber Monday tips and tricks: http://www.valpak.com/media/how-to-shop-on-black-friday-and-cyber-monday.jsp  Tomorrow’s Black Friday part 5 blog will have tips on how to prepare for Black Friday and how to make a game plan for your shopping adventure.

Your Guide to Black Friday Shopping- Part 3

Black Friday can be both fun and overwhelming.  There are so many people and so many good deals, and it is easy to get caught up in the excitement.  One of the most important things to keep in mind while Black Friday shopping is your budget.

So how do you make a holiday budget?  Start by looking at your monthly budget.  If you don’t have a monthly budget, you should make one so that you can see where all of your money goes.  Following a budget allows you to successfully save for retirement, repay debt, and spend money without feeling guilty or worrying about overspending.  Budgets allow you to allocate money to different spending categories so that you know how much money you can safely spend on say, clothing, or food.  To start making a budget, check out our spreadsheet templates at http://www.unl.edu/smmc/besttools.shtml or try mint.com. You can also download a free budgeting app or check out your bank or credit card’s website to see if they have a budgeting tool.  And of course, UNL students and alumni can schedule an appointment with us online at https://unlsmmc.youcanbook.me/  We would love to help you make a budget!

Once you have your regular monthly budget set up, see if there are any categories in which you could reduce spending for a month.  Maybe clothing, food, or household supplies could be reduced to free up some extra money for holiday expenses.  Keep in mind you may be doing extra baking, traveling, or even clothes shopping for holiday parties.  Ideally, it is best to put a little away each month in preparation for holiday spending.  You want to avoid a situation where you charge everything on your credit card and you end up with a January bill that you can’t pay.  The best way to do this is to make a holiday budget.

To start, make a list of all of the people you will need gifts for.  Make to sure to include any cookie plates you may be making for neighbors, small gifts for the mailperson, and white elephant gifts for work.  After each person, write down gift ideas and an estimate of what those ideas might cost.  Then add everything up, and if you can’t afford that total amount, try to find cheaper gifts or reduce the number of people you are giving gifts to.  Or, if you don’t have any ideas yet, write down the maximum amount you could spend next to each person, then look for gift ideas in that price range.  For UNL students, we will be at the University Health Center’s Stress Free Zone events on East Campus Union on Dec. 2 from 11 am- 2 pm and here at the City Union Crib on Dec. 3 from 11 am- 2 pm.  We will handouts on homemade gift ideas, food gift ideas, and cheap and experience gifts, in addition to holiday budget templates.

If you have trouble avoiding impulse buys, try only bringing cash with you on Black Friday.  Plan out exactly what you are going to buy and how much each item costs, and bring that much plus a little extra for if you see something small you know someone would like.  By not bringing along credit and debit cards, you won’t be able to overspend.  If you stick to your list of items, you will not allow yourself to be persuaded to buy more things you don’t need.  Tomorrow’s blog will talk about how to make a game plan for Black Friday shopping.

 

Your Guide to Black Friday Shopping- Part 2

Besides Black Friday itself, there is always a lot of talk about Cyber Monday, which has basically become Cyber Week.  So what is Cyber Monday?  Cyber Monday is the Monday after Thanksgiving (three days after Black Friday).  It is a day where many online retailers offer deep discounts on their items, very similar to Black Friday.  Last year, even more people shopped on Cyber Monday than on Black Friday!

One of the pros of shopping on Cyber Monday is that you can do it in the comfort of your own home.  No standing out in the cold waiting for stores to open, no standing in line waiting to check out, no fighting over the last Frozen dvd.  In addition, items MAY not run out as quickly online.  A retailer may choose to continue to sell the item at the discounted price, even if their stock has run out.  This is a great benefit because in the store on Black Friday, if the item is gone, it’s gone, and you can no longer get it at that great price.  Make sure that you are reading the fine print to see when the item will be delivered if it is going to be back-ordered, however.  You want to make sure you get it before your holiday deadline.  There is no use buying a present at a great price if you can’t give it to the recipient in time!

There are also some cons to Cyber Monday shopping.  For one, many people have to go back to work on Monday and cannot shop online.  Luckily, there are a lot of deals to be found online on Black Friday as well.  In addition, some retailers are extending Black Friday/ Cyber Monday sales through the week after Thanksgiving, and some have sales going the whole month of November!  Another con is that you cannot try on clothing when you buy it online.  Make sure you know your measurements so that you get the right size the first time.  You don’t want to buy a new outfit for a holiday party only to find out that it doesn’t fit and you won’t be able to get a new size sent to you in time.

Retailers are also able to add and remove deals very quickly online.  You might not have a lot of time to decide before an item runs out or the sale is over.  Make a list of the things you are shopping for and the highest price you are willing to pay so that you won’t impulse buy.  You don’t want to end up with a credit card bill that you can’t pay.  We’ll talk more about planning for Black Friday/ Cyber Monday shopping in a later blog post. Make sure you know when your favorite retailers are starting their sales.  For example, Target is having a Cyber Week starting on Sunday, Nov. 30th.  Check out retailers websites to see when their sales start.  Many sites will not let you preview the Cyber Monday sales, unlike Black Friday.  Stay tuned for more tips on Black Friday shopping!

Your Guide to Black Friday Shopping- Part 1

Everyday this week we will be writing about Black Friday shopping.  Tune in each day for a new blog with tips and tricks on how to save money this year!  Our first Black Friday post is about what Black Friday is and how to decide whether or not you should participate.

What is Black Friday?  Black Friday is always the day after Thanksgiving, which is always a friday, and it is a day that many stores offer great discounts to customers both in store and online. According to http://www.csmonitor.com/Business/2013/1125/Black-Friday-trivia-quiz/name, “The name “Black Friday” was coined by the Philadelphia Police in 1966 in reference to the chaos caused by massive traffic jams, car accidents and congested sidewalks and shopping centers that resulted from the shopping day. The more commonly known explanation, that stores operating at a loss for most of the year turned a profit for the first time on Black Friday, putting them “in the black,” appeared later.  Though the name “Black Friday” wasn’t coined until the 1960s, the tradition of shopping on the day after Thanksgiving dates back to 1924, the year of the first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.”

The drawback to Black Friday sales is that you will probably have to stay up late or get up early if you want to get the deals at multiple stores.  Another negative is that you often have to wait in line to checkout for a very long time.  If you go when a store opens, it is not uncommon to have to wait 45 minutes or more to checkout.  Going to a store an hour or two after it opens can be beneficial because there will probably be a shorter wait or no wait at all.  However, stores often have only a limited supply of their sale items, and because of the huge volume of people (141 million people went shopping on Black Friday last year!) that go shopping on Black Friday, the stores are usually not able to restock items that run out.  Additionally, many of those sales may only be good for that day (no rain checks).

Traditionally, Black Friday sales started in the early hours of the morning.  Just a few years ago, the earliest stores would open would be 6 am.  In the past couple of years, many stores have pushed their opening hour earlier and earlier.  This year, some stores are even opening on Thanksgiving night!  Store opening times vary, so you have to check (here is one website: https://blackfriday.com/black-friday-store-hours) to see what time all of your favorite places open.  It used to be that stores all opened around the same time in the morning, so you really had to choose which store you wanted to go to the most.  One advantage to the earlier openings of some stores is that you can now be at multiple stores at their opening times as opposed to just one.  This can be a huge benefit because often the store has a limited amount of their great sale items, so “the early birds get the worms.”  In addition, many stores, including Target and Walmart, have staggered sales, meaning that some sales are only good for certain times during Thanksgiving or Black Friday.  Make sure you check the ads carefully, so that you go at the time when your favorite deals are offered.  For example, Target opens at 6 pm on Thanksgiving, but they are offering 10% off gift card purchases only from 6 am- noon on Black Friday.  In addition, Target has some deals that are only good on Saturday.  You will have to do your research and decide if you want to go to the same store multiple times over the weekend.

So is it worth it to go Black Friday shopping?  Many people are boycotting because they don’t want to go shopping on Thanksgiving.  That is completely understandable.  In my family, we always have Thanksgiving at noon, so we are back in town by the time stores open.  We usually go shopping as a family, and sometimes cousins or other relatives come with us, so for us, it is just an extension of Thanksgiving.  However, not everyone wants to stand in line just to give a store your money!  Keep in mind that it can be a great way to save money on gifts, and get a lot of your holiday gift shopping done at one time.  Stay tuned this week for Black Friday posts on Cyber Monday and online shopping, how to find the best deals and make sure they are actually a good deal, how to prepare and plan for Black Friday shopping, how to avoid overspending, and more!

William H. Thompson Scholars Presentations

Last week we did two presentations for William H. Thompson Scholars.  On Monday, we presented “Money 101” which included information on budgeting, credit, insurance, and investing.  We looked at examples of student budgets and talked about average expenses.  Then we discussed wants and needs and how we could find cheaper alternatives for our wants.  We shared some favorite coupon services used by UNL students and then looked at different methods for paying off debt.  Next, we talked about how to stick to a budget (we have a new handout on this in our office!) and the importance of avoiding overspending and not wasting money.  Lastly, we talked about creating financial goals and an emergency fund.  To cap off the budgeting portion of the workshop, we did a budgeting activity together to practice budgeting money toward expenses.

In the credit section we talked about the differences between a credit score and a credit report.  Then we told students how they could get a copy of their credit report for free.  We also told them how they could build a good score or repair a bad one and how their credit score would affect them throughout their lives.  Then we discussed credit cards and their Ncard.  At the end of the credit section, we did the money personality activity with the scholars and discussed each type of money personality activity.  Finally, we talked to the students about insurance and investing.  In particular, we discussed using insurance to avoid financial risk, how to know if you’re ready to start investing, and why investing is so important in preparing for retirement.  We had almost 60 students attend this session!

On Thursday, we presented on the topic of Moving Off Campus.  Almost 25 students attended this session where we discussed all aspects of preparing to move off campus.  First, we looked at average rent and utilities costs to give the students an idea of what it really costs to live off campus. We also talked about making a budget to figure out how much money they could spend on an apartment, and how living with a roommate would cut expenses.  Then we discussed one-time expenses to watch out for, and how to start searching for an apartment in their price range.  Next, we talked about credit and cosigning in regards to renting an apartment, and talked a little about how to understand a lease.  Finally, we discussed ways to save money on gas, food, utilities, decorating, and furniture.

We had a great time meeting so many WHT Scholars and we hope that each of them learned something new!  If you would like the SMMC to present a workshop to your group, please let us know!

The SMMC on Social Media

Did you know that the SMMC is on multiple social media platforms?  We are active on facebook, pinterest, and twitter.  We post different financial tips and info on each platform!  On facebook, we post once or twice a day with interesting quotes, articles, and events relating to saving money and personal finance.  You can like us on facebook here.  Recent posts on facebook include: an article explaining how your credit score is calculated, a how-to on getting your free credit report, and an article on 9 benefits of having a good credit score, just to name a few.  On twitter, we tweet every couple hours with fun and free events for UNL students, personal finance articles, and links to awesome financial resources.  You can follow us on twitter here.  Recent tweets include: resources in the office, ways to make some extra cash before the holiday season, announcements of free events on campus, and retweets of money management advice.  Lastly, we have a ton of boards on our pinterest page, which you can follow here.  We have many boards on saving money on everything from apartment decorations, to travel, to textbooks, to holiday decor and gifts.  Some of our most popular boards include our Homemade Gifts board, our Crockpot Recipes board, and our Budgeting board.  We also just created a new Thanksgiving/Fall board to give you ideas for cheap Thanksgiving and Fall decorations!  Follow and like us on all of our social media platforms for personal finance info and money saving tips everyday!