Black Friday season is all about managing your personal finances and staying on a budget. Finding your path in a sea of fantastic bargains can be a huge challenge, especially for a student with limited finances. Moreover, we often tend to overspend and end up buying what we don’t need. And while the trend for more conscious consumption dominates among consumers for a while now, all our mindfulness magically disappears when we see an attractive banner “40 percent off, today only.”
You can indeed get amazing discounts on valuable items. Still, you should spend within your budget and stick to shopping lists. Here are ten tips to help you come through Black Monday and Cyber Monday in style and on a budget. Some of these tips, like a “stop list,” are useful for advancing your shopping and money management in general. It is crucial to create a conscious system around your personal finances, and below, you find helpful building blocks. That’s a really great deal!
Track your Finances
This advice does not relate to spending wisely on Black Friday or other crazy deals, but it could become a cornerstone of managing your personal finances. If you know your spendings and limits, you will successfully navigate through shopping malls and online offers. Moreover, having a transparent personal finance system helps you deal with credits effortlessly.
What does tracking personal finances entail? First, you should group your spendings according to several categories, like education, groceries, eating out, learning, transportation, clothing, and books. Set up realistic limits for each group and get into a habit of tracking how much you spend on each category. Don’t be scared of adjusting your limits, but be consistent.
How can you track your expenses? Some banking apps have budgeting options, and they will automatically categorize your spendings—that is the easiest way to go! With third-party apps like Claritymoney, Wally, and Mint, you can sync these apps with your accounts or check in your spendings manually. Although it sounds tedious, such a manual practice makes you more aware (oh, 5 dollars here, 3 dollars for coffee there). Some people swear by tracking finances on paper or in an excel spreadsheet. If it works for you—great, but it might not be extremely convenient for everyday expenses. On the other hand, it is handy for planning yearly financial goals.
What does financial tracking teach you? Knowing how much you spend on each category affects your future choices. I’ve recently realized that my coffee budget was way higher than I thought it would be. I had to rearrange my routines and preferences (a personal coffee mug was a deal-breaker). It is just a silly little example, but tracking your spendings is a great habit that will help you throughout your life. If you want to get to know more about personal finances, get educated by reading these books on investing, the Latte factor, retirement, and your productivity.
And here is the final tip within this general advice. If you have an active income and want to set a part of it aside, pay yourself first. Whenever you get your pay, immediately set aside 5-10 percent to your savings account. If you do it at the end of the month, you might realize that not much is left…
Well, let’s move on to shopping on a budget hacks!
Essentials List vs. Wish List: Know the Difference
Avoiding impulse shopping is our first goal for remaining conscious amidst Black Friday deals. In other words, keep away from buying things you don’t need! Remember that a discount is not a good enough reason for getting something useless. Therefore, take some time to create two lists: an essentials shopping list and a wish list (or revise those you already have). The idea behind an essentials list is quite clear: put on this list those items that you already use regularly. When shopping for these things, you know which brand to choose, have quality expectations, and can estimate the price range.
A wish list is for something you want to get for a while but might survive without. For these things, you need to do research in advance. Especially if you’re buying some big and expensive items (given that you have the budget for that), check them in advance: what model do you need? What are the specifications that matter to you? You can also choose colors and look up sizes beforehand, be it a new wireless headset or a winter jacket. Conducting research on these items will help you understand if you really want them and, if yes, you will know what to look for exactly. This way, you will avoid buying a pair of jeans you won’t really enjoy or a TV that doesn’t fit in your room.
What are other items to put on your wish list? Don’t leave out treats for yourself—even a small self-gift can boost your mood and make you happy. And don’t forget about productivity apps and tools for studying since you can get many of them with a hefty discount as well.
Create a Stop List
While thinking of items you want is natural, this list is for things you need to avoid at all costs. It takes time to understand what should go on your stop list. Usually, these are the things you buy quite often but never find time or occasion to use. For example, you have a collection of watches (and you keep on buying new ones), but in the end, you don’t wear them because you have a smartwatch that tracks your activity, and it’s much more convenient.
Maybe you often buy notebooks for your studies. You already have a shelf full of those, but it’s hard for you to resist! In reality, you have completely switched to taking study notes on your laptop—well, you clearly don’t need to buy any more notebooks, no matter how much you like them. In these two examples, watches and notebooks go on a stop list. It works the same for books, clothes, and food. Such a list is priceless on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but it will be of great help throughout the year; you will see!
Think of Christmas Presents
Many people use this shopping week to get Christmas presents—and for a reason, it saves you a lot of money and time during the Christmas rush. However, you also need a system when buying presents. It’s an excellent tip to keep a list of possible gifts throughout the year in your Notes, noting what your family members and friends would like to have. If you don’t have such a list, it’s time to make it!
Categorize it based on the people you usually give presents to and develop ideas within your budget limits. You can consult these people’s wish lists or ask them directly if you are out of ideas. This way, you won’t create extra waste by getting something not entirely useful.
Don’t buy an item if you catch yourself thinking, “Wow, an amazing thingy! It can be a gift for somebody at college; I will decide later.” Even if you end up needing an emergency present, you will buy it when it’s actually required. Don’t create more waste by buying unnecessary Santa mugs and Christmas sweaters.
It is advantageous to plan a present strategy together with your friends and family members. Can you get a present for your parents together with your siblings? This way, you will get a better collective gift and avoid overspending.
Set your Budget in Advance
Knowing how much money you spend in a month and how much you have in savings makes it easier to define your budget for Black Friday. Some of your spendings will fall into everyday needs (especially those on the “essentials list”), while to afford some other items, you would need to dig into your savings. This is the moment when keeping track of spendings is incredibly useful! But it’s not enough to know that you can spend a certain amount; you need to estimate how much you can spend per item and maybe adjust your shopping list and set priorities.
Are you low on budget? You can look into some easy ways to get some cash as a student! If you have old textbooks lying around your room, you can sell them on BooksRun for real money. Giving a second life to used books is essentially sustainable and conscious. Since it is Black Friday week, you can earn even more with BooksRun! By using a promo code BFRIDAYB, your buyback will be increased by 5%! The code is valid until December 6 and can be used only once.
Say “No” to Credit Cards
It is a very personal and sensible thing, but we advise you not to use credit cards when shopping on Black Friday. It is much harder to track expenses when shopping on credit since it gives you a feeling that you can buy absolutely anything! Try to use the money you actually have within a budget designated for Black Friday shopping and getting Christmas gifts.
Moreover, don’t use the resources from other “saving jars.” If you have been putting money aside for a holiday trip, don’t use them now. You might bitterly regret it if you get a few new sweaters instead of a journey you’ve been looking forward to for quite a while.
We rely more and more on online shopping for our Black Fridays (and especially on Cyber Mondays). And that happens for a reason! Online shopping helps you remain conscious of what you want, and it’s more convenient and efficient. Shopping malls set up too many tricks for us that are really hard to resist! However, online marketing is also tricky, so be mindful of pitfalls! For example, don’t get hooked on the “spend 30 dollars more and get a free delivery” trick. Your goal is not only to get the best deals but to consume consciously—and that means not buying more than is enough.
Look for Best Black Friday Deals 2021 in Advance
Some shops reveal their discounts a few days before the shopping week starts—take advantage of that and note that shop. Moreover, share deals with your friends (you can spread the news about BooksRun promo BFRIDAYB among your college friends) and look for FaceBook communities or other websites that accumulate information about discounts.
It is essential to be aware of false bargains: marketing might fool you into thinking that a particular deal is good, but it’s not even close to that. Also, check the shop’s return policy for discounted items. In case a clothing item doesn’t really fit, it is advantageous to have a return option available. Discover these tricky details in advance to avoid spending on something that is not perfect for you.
One thing is quite clear—don’t get more than you need and really want. Careful budgeting and wisely made shopping and “stop” lists will definitely help you with that. When about to buy a discounted item, ask yourself, “Would I buy this thing for its full price?” If you tend to answer “no,” reconsider your decision. Do you really need this thing?
Another tip is to order only from two or three online shops (if possible) to reduce the amount of packaging and space used for shipping. You should also be conscious of your choices: buying from producers that swear by sustainable production or supporting some appealing initiatives. There are many other ways of being sustainable at college.
Don’t Become too Agitated
Black Friday can pressure us to spend. But here is a secret—you don’t have to. Many shops have good deals on other days of the year as well! Moreover, keeping your personal finances in order usually helps plan expenses and afford things you really want, even without a discount.
Black Friday is not only about getting good deals and being on a budget. We often spend too much time and attention, and these are also valuable resources! So be conscious about your health and mental state. For example, set time limits on your in-store or online shopping activities. And again, operating within your shopping lists and financial abilities helps you not stress too much—you have your budget and wishes under control.
Shop wisely! Happy Thanksgiving!