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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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Published on May 7, 2019

How to Invest for Retirement (The Smart and Stress-Free Way)

How to Invest for Retirement (The Smart and Stress-Free Way)

When it comes to stocks, I bet you feel like you have no idea what you’re doing.

Everyone who’s not a financial expert has been there. I’ve been there. But, time is passing and you need to be crystal clear with how you’re investing for your retirement.

Otherwise, it’s back to work until you can afford not to. So, how can you invest for retirement when you’re not a financial expert?

You take the time to learn the fundamentals well. If you do, you can grow your wealth and retire happy. The best part is that you don’t need to be a financial expert to make smart investment decisions.

Here’s how to invest for retirement the smart and stress-free way:

1. Know Clearly Why You Invest

Odds are you already know why should invest for retirement.

But, maybe you know the wrong reasons. It’s time you get clear on why you’d like to retire. Here are some questions to help you get started:

  • Will you spend more time with your family?
  • What does retirement mean to you?
  • Are you looking to launch that business you’ve been holding off for years?

Everyone wants to retire but not for the same reasons. Once you’re clear for why retirement is important for you, you’ll focus on making it happen.

Investing in the stock market allows you to take advantage of compound interest.[1] All this means is that your money earns money on top of its interest. A reason why investment in the stock market is one of the best ways to plan for retirement.

2. Figure out When to Invest

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”– Chinese Proverb

It’s true if you’d had started investing when you were 10 years old, you’d have a lot more money than you do today.

The reality is that most people don’t start investing until it’s too late. So, if you’re currently waiting for the perfect time to start an investment, it would be today. Open your calendar and block out 2 to 3 hours to choose how you’ll invest for retirement.

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A quick way to get a snapshot of where you stand is to use Personal Capital. Input all your personal information and spend some time setting your retirement goals. Once completed, you’ll know where you stand with your retirement.

Having a savings account for retirement isn’t planning for retirement. Why? Your money loses value when you factor in US inflation.[2]

3. Evaluate Your Risk Tolerance to Create the Perfect Portfolio

Investing your money well depends on your emotions.

Why?

Because when the market drops most people panic and withdraw their money. On average, the US stock market yields an annual 6% to 7% ROI (return on your investment.) But, this won’t happen if you’re worried about short-term loses.

Before you invest your next dollar, know your risk tolerance.[3] Your risk tolerance determines the number of risky and safe investments you’d have.

Regardless of your investing style, you need to view investing for retirement as a long term game. Know that some years you’ll lose money but recoup this in the long-term.

Avoid watching market-related new. Also, create a double authentication to log in your investment account. This way you’re less likely to withdraw your money.

4. Open a Reliable Retirement Account

Depending on your circumstance, you may need to open a new brokerage account. This is the account is where you’ll invest your money.

If you’re currently working for a company, odds are that they offer a 410K investing account. If so, here’s where you’ll invest most of your money. The only problem with this is that you’re limited to the stock options that are available.

You do have the option to open a separate IRA (individual retirement account.) Here are some of the best brokers:

  1. Vanguard
  2. TD Ameritrade
  3. Charles Schwab

5. Challenge Yourself to Invest Consistently

Committing to invest for retirement is hard, but continuing to do so is harder.

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Once you’ve started investment for your retirement, you run at risk from stopping. Often you’ll want to contribute less, so you’d have more money in your pocket.

That’s why it’s important that you create a budget that allows you to invest each month. If you’re working for a company, you can set a percentage for the amount you’d like to contribute each month. Most people by default contribute 1% but aim to contribute 10% to 15%.

Be the judge for how much you can afford to contribute after covering important expenses. To stay motivated, use Personal Capital to view your net worth.

A benefit to contributing money to your retirement account is not taxed. For example, if you earn $100 and invest 10%, you’d contribute $10, then get taxed on the remaining $90. As of 2019, the most you’re able to contribute towards your 401K is 19K but this can change.

6. Consider Where to Invest Your Money

The most common way to invest your money is in stocks, but it’s not the only way. Here are other ways to invest:

Robo Advisors

Robo-advisors[4] are fancy algorithms that’ll choose the best investments for you. Sites like Wealthfront make it easy for first-time investors to invest their money. You’d input information about yourself and set your risk tolerance.

Then, set your monthly contribution amount and your robo-advisor would do the rest. Robo-advisors charge a fee to manage your money, but less than regular advisors.

Bonds

Think of bonds as “IOUs” to whomever you buy them from.

Essentially, you’re lending money and charging interest. Like stocks, not all bonds are equal. Some will be riskier than others depending on their rating.

Here are the different types of bond categories:[5]

  1. Treasury bonds
  2. Government bonds
  3. Corporate bonds
  4. Foreign bonds
  5. Mortgage-backed bonds
  6. Municipal bonds

Mutual Funds

Picture a group of people dumping all their money in a jar that’s managed by a professional. This is how mutual funds work. The fund manager manages the money looking to earn capital gains (interest.)

One of the best types of mutual funds is index funds. Since these funds don’t try to beat the market and instead follow it, they need less research. Because of this they often charge the lowest fees and yield the best long-term results.

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Real Estate

Yes, buying a home is an investment when done correctly.

Imagine buying a home and using it as a rental property. After repairing it, you receive a monthly surplus check of $100 to $200.

This may not sound like a lot, but repeat this process enough times and you’d earn a large amount of passive income. That’s why real estate is one of the best investments to not only retire but become wealthy.

But, it requires a lot of money to start and you should expect losing money along the way as you learn the process.

Savings Accounts

Your money can still grow in a savings account. Nowadays most online banks offer a 2% annual return. Although the average inflation is higher your money will be available when you need it.

7. Master Disincline to Dodge Short Success

Investing for retirement is a long-term strategy. That’s why you need to master delayed gratification. All this means is delaying short-term pleasure for something bigger in the future. Research shows that those who have delayed gratification are more successful.[6]

So how can you master delayed gratification?

By building your discipline.

Think back to what retirement means to you. A clear purpose will help you avoid withdrawing your money during a market downturn. It’ll help you contribute more towards retirement when you’d want to waste it instead.

Your journey towards retirement will be long, so reward yourself along the way. Choose a reward that’s relevant and meaningful, so that you reinforce positive behavior. For example, after contributing more towards retirement, treat yourself to dinner.

8. Aggressively Invest on This One Investment

I’ve mentioned several types of investments but haven’t covered the most important one.

It sounds cliche but here’s why you’re your best investment towards retirement. The more you know, the more money you’ll be able to make. The more good habits you adopt, the more secure your retirement will be.

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More importantly, investing in yourself is an investment that no one can take away. There’s no market downturn nor tragic circumstance that’ll wipe your knowledge and experience.

But, how can you invest yourself?

Reading books, blogs, and anything that’ll help you learn new topics daily. Listen to podcasts and audiobooks on your commute to/from work.

Save money to buy courses and hire coaches. I used to believe hiring coaches was a waste of money when I could learn the subject alone.

But, coaches see your blind spots and hold you accountable. Hiring the right coach will help you achieve your goals faster than you would’ve alone.

Retire Happy with Excess Money

The key to a secure financial future doesn’t only belong to financial experts.

It’s possible for you and I. What if you were able to retire earlier than most people and weren’t a financial planner? What if you were able to focus on what you enjoy doing the most while your money was working hard for you?

I know this sounds impossible now, but the truth is you’re capable of taking charge of your retirement. I’m not a financial expert but I’ve learned how to invest my money by reading books and learning from others.

Investing your money is scary. So start small and invest a small amount of your money with a robo-advisor. Feel your money drop and rise for a month or two. Then, invest more and keep this up until you’re aggressively saving for retirement.

One day, you’ll wake up with a net worth you’re proud of – confident about your retirement. You now know a few strategies you can use to invest in your retirement. Will you take action to retire happy?

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Featured photo credit: Matthew Bennett via unsplash.com

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