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8 Simple Hacks to Be a Black Friday Power Shopper

8 Simple Hacks to Be a Black Friday Power Shopper

In case you didn’t already know, this year, Black Friday is on November 25th. Before you head out to the biggest shopping day of the year, we want to make sure you’re prepared. Whether it’s your first time Black Friday shopping, or you’re a seasoned bargain hunter, follow these sure-fire suggestions to find the best deals and have a positive Black Friday shopping experience.

Do Your Homework: Check Prices Early

While items are marked down on Black Friday, sometimes it’s hard to tell if you’re really getting that great of a deal. The whole point of the shopping event is to get unbeatable bargains, so it’s good to know how much items sell for normally.

Do some research on the items on your list. Check the weekly ads and in-store prices leading up to Black Friday, this way you’ll know if the sales are really that great, instead of making a spur-of-the-moment decision.

Use the Web

There are now several websites dedicated entirely to Black Friday deals. You can find out which stores will have the items you want, which places will have the deepest discounts, and double check which stores will be open and when.

You can also find some killer deals online, and if you’d prefer to avoid the crowds and long lines, you can do your shopping entirely online during Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Some people prefer to do their shopping online either for better deals or to avoid the craziness of in-person shopping. 2013 was the first time Cyber Monday overtook Black Friday as the biggest shopping day, and according to this survey, 47 percent of respondents say they plan to shop on Cyber Monday instead of Black Friday in 2016.

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The great thing is you don’t necessarily have to choose. Depending on what you’re looking for and how much time you have, you can take advantage of in-store and online deals and knock out your Christmas shopping in one weekend.

Get an Early Start

Don’t worry, I’m not telling you to wake up even earlier on Black Friday. Instead, take advantage of stores that open their doors to shoppers on Thanksgiving. If you don’t have any post-dinner plans, you can score some early bargains.

Also, some places have Midnight Madness, where they open their doors at – you guessed it – midnight. Check your local ads to see which stores in your area will open for Thanksgiving and/or Midnight Madness.

Stick to Your Budget

Even if items are marked down significantly, it’s still very easy to overspend on Black Friday. In 2015, the average Black Friday shopper spent $299.60. Planning ahead can help you save money instead of breaking the bank.

Make a list of your must-have items and come up with a figure you’re willing to spend. Then, take your list with you and stick to it!

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It defeats the purpose of markdowns if you go way above your budget and buy items you don’t need just to take advantage of a deal.

Have a Game Plan

Decide which stores you want to hit and plan your route before you leave the house. Keep in mind that there may be crazy traffic, and account for unusually long lines.

Most stores will send their ads out early or post their deals online. Keep up with these listings so you can prioritize where you need to go to get the items you want.

Double Check Store Policies

This essentially means read the fine print. Will a store price match? What is the return policy on sale items? Can you exchange items or do they only offer store credit?

Double checking store policies can keep you from ending up with unwanted items. Also, while Consumer Report predicts that more stores will have price-match policies in 2016, do your research, as they may not apply to certain Black Friday items.

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There’s an App for That

Navigation apps like Google Maps and Waze may help you maneuver around the throngs of people, but there are also some great shopping apps that can help you with those game time decisions.

Black Friday has a mobile app that will let you see store ads from your mobile phone or tablet, and there are some excellent price-match apps like Shop Savvy that will let you scan bar codes and compare prices instantly.

Divide and Conquer

Most people don’t Black Friday shop alone, but a savvy companion can help you hit more places in less time and find deals.

Enlist a friend to drive the getaway car, or if you go to a mall or location with lots of different stores, have him or her hit one while you take care of the other.

You may also want to enlist a companion to help you pass the time in line.

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Be Prepared

You’ve done your homework, you know where you can find the best deals and which stores you should hit, but you also need to be prepared for the unexpected. Make sure your phone is fully charged, pack snacks for long lines, make sure you have water, wear comfortable shoes, and dress in layers you can easily add or remove.

You’re in for a long night so plan ahead!

Bonus Tip: Be Safe

This one may not help you score an unbeatable deal but it will help you escape Black Friday unscathed. Use caution on the roads and in busy parking lots, don’t go to areas that aren’t familiar and watch out for fellow shoppers in crowded stores. Since 2006, there have been seven deaths and 98 Black Friday-related injuries. We know everyone is looking for a good deal, but it’s not worth getting hurt!

Follow these tips for a safe, successful Black Friday experience. But remember, it’s not all about searching for deals. Don’t forget to reflect on the things you’re grateful for!

Looking for more Black Friday shopping tips? Check out these 10 hacks to have the best Black Friday, ever!

Featured photo credit: 1-0-1471600607127.jpg via media.lifehack.org

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Maile Proctor

Freelance Writer

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Last Updated on August 20, 2019

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

Finances can push anyone to the point of extreme anxiety and worry. Easier said than done, planning finances is not an egg meant for everyone’s basket. And that’s why most of us are often living pay check to pay check. But did anyone tell you that it is actually not a tough task to meet your financial goals?

In this article, we will explore ways on how to set financial goals and then actually meet them with ease.

5 Steps to Set Financial Goals

Though setting financial goals might seem to be a daunting task but if one has the will and clarity of thought, it is rather easy. Try using these steps:

1. Be Clear About the Objectives

Any goal (let alone financial) without a clear objective is nothing more than a pipe dream. And this couldn’t be more true for financial matters.

It is often said that savings is nothing but deferred consumption. Therefore if you are saving today, then you should be crystal clear about what it is for. It could be anything like kid’s education, retirement, marriage, that dream vacation, fancy car etc.

Once the objective is clear, put a monetary value to that objective and the time frame. The important point at this step of goal setting is to list all the objectives, however small they may be, that you foresee in the future and put a value to it.

2. Keep Them Realistic

It’s good to be an optimistic person but being a pollyanna is not desirable. Similarly, while it might be a good thing to keep your financial goals a bit aggressive, going out of the line will definitely hurt your chances of achieving them.

It’s important that you keep your goals realistic in nature for it will help you stay the course and keep you motivated throughout the journey.

3. Account for Inflation

Ronald Reagan once said – “Inflation is as violent as a mugger, as frightening as an armed robber and as deadly as a hitman”. And this quote sums up the best what inflation could do your financial goals.

Therefore account for inflation whenever you are putting a monetary value to a financial objective that is far away in the future.

For example, if one of your financial goal is your son’s college education, which is 15 years hence, then inflation would increase the monetary burden by more than 50% if inflation is mere 3%. So always account for inflation.

4. Short Term vs Long Term

Just like every calorie is not the same, the approach towards achieving every financial goal will not be the same. It is important to bifurcate goals in short term and long term.

As a rule of thumb, any financial goal, which is due in next 3 years should be termed as short term goal. Any longer duration goals are to be classified as long term goals. This bifurcation of goals into short term vs long term will help in choosing the right investment instrument to achieve them.

More on this later when we talk about how to achieve financial goals.

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5. To Each to His Own

The journey of setting financial goals is an individualistic affair i.e. your goals are your own goals and are determined by your want to achieve them. A lot of times we get on the bandwagon of goal setting only to realize later on that it was not meant for us.

It is important that your goals are actually your goals and not inspired by someone else. Take a hard look at this step at all the goals you’ve set for after this step, you will be on the way to achieve them.

By now, you would be ready with your financial goals, now it’s time to go all out and achieve them.

11 Ways to Achieve Your Financial Goals

Whenever we talk about chasing any financial goal, it is usually a 2 step process –

  • Ensuring healthy savings
  • Making smart investments

You will need to save enough; and invest those savings wisely so that they grow over a period of time to help you achieve goals. So let’s get down to ensuring healthy savings.

Ensuring Healthy Savings

Self realization is the best form of realisation and unless you decide what your current financial position is, you aren’t heading anywhere.

This is the focal point from where you start your journey of achieving financial goals.

1. Track Expenses

The first and the foremost thing to be done is to track your monthly expenses. Use any of the expense tracking mobile apps to record your expenses. Once you start doing it diligently, you would be surprised to see how small expenses add up to a sizeable amount.

Also categorize those expenses into different bucket so that you know which bucket is eating the most of your pay check. This record keeping will pave the way for cutting down on un-wanted expenses and pump up your savings rate.

2. Pay Yourself First

Generally, savings come after all the expenses have been taken care of. This is a classical mistake which almost everyone of us do. We pay ourselves last!

Ideally, this should be planned upside down. We should be paying ourselves first and then to the world i.e. we should be taking out the planned saving amount first and then manage all the expenses from the rest.

The best way to actually implement is to put the savings on automatic mode i.e. money flowing automatically into different financial instruments (for example – mutual funds, retirement corpus etc) every month.

Taking the automatic route will make us lose control of our money and hence will compel us to manage in what’s left with us thereby increasing the savings rate.

3. Make a Plan and Vow to Stick with It

Budgeting is the best to get around the uncertainty that financial plans always pose. Decide in advance how spending has to be made.

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Nowadays, several money management apps and wallets can help you do this automatically. It’s easy and who knows, you may just end up doing what people fail to do.

At first, you may not be able to stick to your plans completely but don’t let that become a reason why you stop budgeting entirely.

Make use of technology solutions you like. Explore options and alternatives that let you make use of the available wallet options and choose the one that suits you the most. In time, you will get accustomed to making use of these solutions.

You will find that they make it simpler for you to follow your plan, which would have been difficult otherwise.

4. Rise Again Even If You Fall

Let’s be realistic. It’s not like the world will come to an end if you made one mistake. This isn’t called leniency but discipline.

If you fail to meet your budget for a month, don’t give up the entire effort just like that. Instead, start again.

Remember that flexible plans are the most realistic plans. So go forward and try to follow your financial goals as planned but if for some reason, the plan gets out of hand for you, do not give up on it just yet. This has a lot to do with your psychology rather than any material commitment.

All you have to do is to stay on the road and vow to stay on it, no matter how much you fall down.

5. Make Savings a Habit and Not a Goal

In the book Nudge, authors Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein advocate that in order to achieve any goal, it should be broken down into habits since habits are more intuitive for people to adapt to.

Make Savings a habit rather than a goal. While it might seem to be counter intuitive to many but there are some deft ways of doing it. For example:

Always eat out (if at all) during weekdays rather than weekends. Usually weekends are expensive. Make it a habit and you would in turn be saving a great deal.

If you are travelling buff, try to travel during off season. Your outlay will be much less.

If you go out for shopping, always look out for coupons and see where can you get the best deal.

So the key point is to imbibe the action that results in savings rather than on the savings itself, which is the outcome. Focusing on the outcome will bring out the feeling of sacrifice which will be harder to sustain over a period of time.

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6. Talk About It

Sticking to the saving schedule (to achieve financial goals) is not an easy journey. There will be many distractions from those who are not aligned with your mission. And it would be rather easy to lose the grip over your discipline.

Therefore in order to stay the course, it is advisable that you keep yourself surrounded with people who are also on the same bandwagon. Daily discussions with them will keep you motivated to move forward.

7. Maintain a Journal

For some people, writing helps a great deal in making sure that they achieve what they plan.

So if you are one of them, maintain a proper journal, where you write down your goals and also jot down the extent to which you managed to meet them. This will help you in reviewing how far you have come and which goals you have met.

Use this journal to write down all essential points such as your short term, mid term and long term goals, your current sources of income, your regular expenses which you are aware of and any committed expenses which are of recurring nature.

When you have a written commitment on paper, you are going to feel more energised to follow the plan and stick to it. Moreover, it is going to be a lot more easier for you to follow you and track your progress.

At this point, you should be ready with your financial goals and would be doing brilliantly with savings; now it’s time to talk about the big daddy – Investments.

Making Smart Investments

Savings by themselves don’t take anyone too far. However savings when invested wisely can do wonders and we are at that stage where we will talk about making smart investments.

8. Consult a Financial Advisor

Investments doesn’t come naturally to most of us therefore rather than dabbling with it ourselves, it is wise to consult a financial advisor.

Talk to him/her about your financial goals and savings and then seek advice for the best investment instruments to achieve your goals.

9. Choose Your Investment Instrument Wisely

Though your financial advisor will suggest the best investment instruments, it doesn’t hurt to know a bit about them.

Just like “no one is born a criminal”, no investment instrument is bad or good. It is the application of that instrument that makes all the difference.

Do you remember we talked about bifurcating financial goals in short term and long term?

It is here where that classification will help.

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So as a general rule, for all your short term financial goals, choose an investment instrument that has debt nature for example fixed deposits, debt mutual funds etc. The reason for going for debt instruments is that chances of capital loss is less as compared to equity instruments.

10. Compounding Is the Eighth Wonder

Einstein once remarked about compounding,

Compound Interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it… He who doesn’t… Pays it.

So make friends with this wonder kid. And sooner you become friends with it, quicker you will reach closer to your financial goals.

Start investing early so that time is on your side to help you bear the fruits of compounding.

11. Measure, Measure, Measure

All of us do good when it comes to earning more per month but fail miserably when it comes to measuring the investments; taking stock of how our investments are doing.

If there is one single step where everything (so far) can go wrong, it is at this step – Measuring the Progress.

If we don’t measure the progress timely, then we would be shooting in the dark. We wouldn’t know if our saving rate is appropriate or not; whether financial advisor is doing a decent job; whether we are moving closer to our target or not.

Do measure everything. If you can’t measure it all yourself, ask your financial advisor to do it for you. But do it!

The Bottom Line

This completes the list of tips for you to set financial goals and actually achieve them with not so great difficulty.

As you can see, all it requires is discipline. But guess that’s the most difficult part!

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Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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