Black Friday has officially come and gone! And now is the time for the online version, known as Cyber Monday.
Black Friday is the one day of the year everyone gets up super early (or stays up super late, or both) to trample down other people to get a good deal on stuff. Well, almost everyone.
I did not participate in the normal Black Friday madness. I much prefer an event in which I can participate in my pajamas. And no, shopping at Wal-mart doesn’t count.
In fact, I even put off posting on Friday so I could spend more time with Monkey. He wakes up earlier than necessary on my days off work. Necessary usually comes at 7am when the Monkey decides it’s time to play as he calls out from his bedroom.
While I still have shopping left to do, I will not be going to a big box store to do it unless absolutely necessary.
I will also not do as I have done in the past and sit on Amazon refreshing the page every 30 seconds to find the next thing on sale and see if I think it would be nice to have. This has gotten me (and many others) in trouble and caused me to spend way more money than I originally planned. I will, however, have a plan to complete my shopping, some done today on Cyber Monday.
If you do have shopping left to do, hang out here with me, and I will give you tips to save as much money as possible.
Planning your shopping
Impulse is a huge driver in our culture, and the big companies know that. They lure you into the store with a great deal on a computer (of which they only have 3 at that price) and when the deal is gone, you settle for an okay deal, but not as good as what you went for. And you probably end up picking up a few more things that you see and like. They may even have sale signs on them for 10% off. Woo Hoo! Oh, and while you are out, you might as well stop by stores 2 and 3 just to see what they have. 10 stores and hundreds (or thousands) of dollars later, you are headed home with a car full, busting your budget and maxing out credit cards in the process.
To keep this from happening, you have to plan out your shopping, something you should be doing for every purchase, but we will get to that in a later post.
Before you begin making any purchases, you have to plan for things that you actually need.
Start by making a list of everyone for which you need to buy. Make sure you cover everyone, but don’t add extras like your sister’s best friend’s dog. That dog probably has enough gifts/toys/treats.
Next, set a budget for each person. Add up your total budget, and ensure the sum you get does not exceed your total gift budget you identified in your family budget. If it does, go back and reevaluate.
Finally, make a list of ideas of things you can buy, or make, for each person on your gift list.
Shopping around for gifts
Now that you have your list of gift ideas, you can actually start to do some (window) shopping. We aren’t purchasing yet.
Cyber Monday is a great time to do some major price comparing.
- Check online yard sales (many are on Facebook). See if someone is selling the items you are looking for new or gently used. Many things I have seen are in very good condition, and you cannot even tell anyone used the item before. For Monkey this year, we were able to get him a really cool Lego/train table with accessories for $10. This* is the exact one, and it sells for $63 new. Children definitely don’t know the difference. And you save money in the process. Win, win!!
- Head over to Craigslist and see if you can find what you are looking for there. The same rules apply here as for online yard sales, and you can save some serious cash.
- Compare the item you want to buy at different stores. Many stores have great websites you can check to find prices. Amazon, Wal-mart, Target, etc. all have Cyber Monday deals, and you can bargain shop without ever leaving your home.
- Compare name brands versus off-popular brands. Always look at the reviews on all websites to see how well people like the item. Sometimes it is worth paying a little more for an item to get one with great reviews. I always try to go for items with at least a 4.0 out of 5.0 rating. Instead of a Keurig, try something like this*. We have it and love it!
- Check the historical price on Amazon purchases by using CamelCamelCamel. This website allows you to put in an item and see all of the price history on Amazon. This will let you see if you are actually getting a good deal on the item or if the price has recently been raised. If an item is low stock, the price may go up because the demand for the few items left is increasing. Say you are looking for a cast iron skillet, like this one*. You can look it up on CamelCamelCamel and see that the price fluctuates greatly, but goes down below $14 quite frequently, and up as high as $22 often. This allows you to buy when the price is low.
- Check for alternate items to see if you can find a better deal or a better gift for someone. Do you have an idea to get your dad a tool, but it is still a bit too expensive? How about getting him an organizer* for his small hand tools or a magnetic caddy* to hold screws and nails while working.
Once you know you can get the best deal available, then you can purchase it. But only as long as it is within your budget.
If you are making gifts, you need to price compare for that, also. You want to ensure you are getting the best deal you can.
Start shopping really early
It is a little late right now for you to implement this year, but we like to buy things year round. This is something you can start on right after Christmas for next year! As toys, books, and other items go on sale/clearance, we like to buy items we know we will need for gifts later in the year. This allows us to get great deals and spread our spending over the year. It is harder to plan when you have a large financial hit at the end of the year. This also allows us to have some gifts on hand for birthdays along the way if we forget to pick something up or make something.
When buying something for yourself on Cyber Monday, don’t buy anything unless you truly need it and have had it on your ‘to buy’ list for a while. You don’t want to get tricked into impulse buying and completely blow your budget. Keep in mind: don’t have an astronomically large budget just so you know you will never bust it.
Enjoy giving without going broke
If you have already spent way too much Money on Black Friday or just normal everyday shopping, do not fear. You can probably still recover. And if not, you can definitely make a conscious decision – and promise to yourself – to not make it worse.
If you did go over your budget already this year – maybe Black Friday shopping – go back over what you purchased and ensure you did not make unnecessary purchases. If you did make random purchases, return those items. You may think some of the purchases weren’t random. Take a look at them against your Christmas list and see if it matches. If there are items you can return, get elsewhere for less money, or find better alternatives that don’t break the bank, do that!
If all else fails and you determine that everything you bought was necessary, make a pact with yourself to not spend more for the rest of the season and do better with your planning and spending next year.
Don’t use it as an excuse to spend loads of money you don’t have. And if you have excessive amounts of money, you still don’t need to spend bookoodles of dollars. True friendship and love cannot be bought. But we do enjoy giving gifts.
Making gifts for people is always a great idea. To me, it means more than a store-bought gift. It usually means that you actually spent time to make something you thought they would love. As corny as it sounds, a gift from the heart means so much more.
How do you save money on your Christmas shopping?
While this post was mostly geared toward Cyber Money and Christmas shopping, it can apply to every purchase you make.
If you need help making a budget, check out this post. It will definitely help you on your journey to becoming frugal and fulfilled.
*This post contains affiliate links.
Note: If you are a friend or family member reading this post, know that we do not expect gifts from anyone. But we do really love spending time in your company. It would actually thrill us if you tell us that we don’t get gifts this year because you are becoming frugal and want to retire early with us.