How to Shop Responsibly on Black Friday

how to shop responsibly on Black Friday



3 years ago | 7 min read

Every year, thousands of customers come together for the shopping spree that is Black Friday. If you’re not careful, it’s easy to make impulse purchases and before you know it, you’ve accumulated products that quickly become dust collectors.   

It doesn’t help that Black Friday ads are being released as we speak, and you’ll come across an incredible deal or two (or three) and start obsessing over how that additional HDTV will look in your spare bedroom. 

Every year, people walk away wishing they’d been more prepared. This spree requires planning; it’s more than just a rush to finding the cheapest big-ticket items. It’s important to go into your shopping knowing what you’re looking for and how much you should spend.

Don’t be tempted by all the bold colors in the ads that draw you in and especially the low prices that get your attention. During this year’s biggest shopping event, be a smarter shopper. These 7 Black Friday shopping tips will help you find the best offers and keep the frustration—and overspending—to a minimum.

1. Make a Budget

Don’t go into debt for your holiday shopping. It’s easy to get swept away in the spur of the moment by all the “deals” you will find on Black Friday. But you aren’t really saving money unless you were planning on buying that item at a higher price. 

The quickest way to get into financial trouble is to spend more money than you can afford. Before you start getting excited about upcoming Black Friday deals, know how much you can afford to spend.

Write down your holiday budget now. Be prepared to spend extra money November and December, and set aside money if you can. Don't forget about those extra non-gift purchases when thinking about your Christmas season budget.  As you plan your budget, you’ll want to consider gifts as well as food, decorations and charitable donations. 

Be as clear as possible, a hazy idea of what you can afford is not a budget. Avoid overspending on frivolous items that seem heavily discounted. No matter how good the deal is, it’s not saving money if it’s something you don’t need. It’s really easy to get caught up in the excitement and overspend. Decide ahead of time how much you want to spend on your Black Friday shopping spree, and do your best to resist impulse buying, especially if you’re not sure how good a deal is.

2. Make a list

This goes hand in hand with your budget. It’s important to make a list of what you want to buy to avoid impulse buying. The deals are tempting but remember, if it’s not something you need to get, buying it on sale doesn’t mean you are actually saving money. 

Brainstorm every gift you need to buy. A common mistake is leaving out all of the little gifts that can add up. Make a list of the people you want to buy for, what you hope to buy for them, and the advertised prices you see online or on flyers. Assign a dollar amount to every line item. Every person and event needs a specific budgeted amount.

Make a “to buy” list and a “wish list” and only fill the “wish list” after you fill your “to buy” list, and only if you have room in your budget. It also helps to plan which stores you will visit and when. Use your budget to construct a shopping plan that will get you to the stores you need to visit to get the best deals.

3. Do Your Research

Along with your budget and list, do your research and compare prices in advance so that you know you’re buying quality items. 

As you make and check your lists, look for the best deals on the item you want. Keep your eye out for alternatives or similar items you can swap out to stay within your budget. Check out deal sites like or Forbes Black Friday Preview.

Compare the prices between brands to ensure you’re getting the best possible deal, without allowing yourself to give in to any affordable unknown brand at the last minute. This will help to protect you from scams.

Research prices now on the items you want to buy. When the sales start, check to make sure it’s actually a real discount. Not all Black Friday deals are good ones. 

Add these expected prices to your lists and don’t spend more than the best deal you find. If you’re shopping online, don’t forget about shipping costs. Those added fees can cut into your budget if you’re not careful.

See if the deal that’s being put out is actually a great deal. If there is not much savings and a lot of hoopla, you should wait for a better deal during a different time of the year. Remember, there are incredible deals throughout the year. Also, if two competing retailers are putting out the same deal, see if one is offering a free gift card or other offer with it. By comparison shopping, you’ll always get more for your money. 

4. Start Early

Start early. We don’t mean standing outside of Target at 4 am. In any case, stores are usually the busiest when they open their doors. Avoid going during opening hours and you’ll probably have a happier and efficient shopping experience.

With the COVID-19 pandemic affecting how we do many things today, many stores are moving their deals online, so make sure to pay attention to online sales as well. 

Start looking around for sales on Thanksgiving day - many retailers start their discounting during the days before Black Friday. Not only because deals are kicking off earlier but also because hot products may quickly sell out or fail to arrive at your doorstep in a timely manner.

Walmart, for example, has three "Deals for Days" events staggered throughout November that kick off online and then move to stores. Target's "Deal Days" will also span the entire month of November. 

To judge how good the deals really are in crunch time, you need to track prices leading up to Black Friday. The same goes for Cyber Monday, which now stretches into a week of online specials.

5. Check all store policies in advance

Several major retailers—including Best Buy, Target, and Walmart—have already announced they’ll be closed on Thanksgiving. At those retailers still holding in-store events, expect to find COVID-19 safety protocols in place this year, such as mandatory mask requirements and limits on the number of people allowed inside the building at one time. That will probably mean fewer doorbuster stampedes and fewer die-hard shoppers lined up in the wee hours of the morning waiting for the doors to open. 

It’s also always good to know a store’s price-match and return policies. Almost all the major retailers have some form of price-match policy, and they’ve been expanding them almost every year. The 14-day price match holds for competitors, though some stores do suspend their price-match guarantees on certain items during the Black Friday weekend so read the fine print. Check the return and exchange policies for Black Friday sales to make sure that the store won’t charge a restocking fee for any item you bring back.

6. Shop Online

There will probably be fewer big in-store promotions this year—no reason to attract crowds—and more emphasis on online shopping, with either free delivery or ship-to-store programs with curbside pickup. Especially in today’s world, if you prefer to avoid the crowds on Black Friday, then you can do your shopping online.

 You may miss out on some of the “doorbuster deals” if you shop online, but you probably wouldn’t have been able to get them anyway unless you were willing to stand in line for hours before the store opened. It may also be easier to stick with your budget if you’re shopping online, if you set foot in a store it could be easier to get sidetracked. You can also take advantage of online savings through programs like Ebates, and MyPoints. Or use browser extensions such as CamelCamelCamel and Honey to see price histories and get price alerts or coupons for any product you shop for online.

7. Avoid Credit Card Debt

Armed with your budget, your list and your knowledge of available deals, you’re ready to shop. To avoid high interest finance charges, don’t spend more than you can pay off this month. The best rule of thumb is that if you can’t afford to buy it in cash, don’t put it on your credit card. If you do plan to pay your credit card off in full, then take advantage of cash back rewards cards and put some of that money back in your pocket. But if you have a rewards credit card and you know you can pay it off responsibly, use it to reap rewards for you while you’re doing the bulk of your holiday shopping. Review your card policy before you start shopping so you know when and where to use it to best effect. 

To recap, Black Friday weekend can be a huge opportunity to save money, but also a potential pitfall. Following the above tips can help you from impulse buying. As you continue to shop, check in with your transactions and your budget to help you stay on track. 

Spend some time planning before you go shopping and only spend what you can afford to spend. Be savvy; the festive season and the longest month of the year (January) are right around the corner. These months have their own expenses. Aim for a debt-free Black Friday, and start planning to ensure you can keep your head above water. Looking for more ways to stay financially free? Check out the Meratas blog!


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