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8 Tips For Surviving Black Friday

8 Tips For Surviving Black Friday

    If you’re celebrating Thanksgiving today, you might be considering venturing out to the Black Friday sales tomorrow morning. After all, there will be at least a few great deals — and you can do all your holiday gift shopping in one crazy sprint. In order to make it out with your sanity — and your wallet — intact, there are a few Black Friday tips I’d like to share.

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    1. Make Your Shopping List First

    When I was little, I could sit for hours with the Black Friday ads (especially Toys R Us), telling whoever was listening that I wanted pretty much everything on each page. I may have grown out of Toys R Us, but I still see plenty I want flipping through the sales papers. Sometimes, I can even convince myself that I really need some great gadget that I hadn’t actually intended to buy. So, before I even start browsing through the sales papers, I make a list of items that I’m particularly looking for. While I might adapt my list to what’s on sale — maybe swap out a movie title or choose a different video game based on what is available — I make an effort to stick to my list when I start going through the sale papers.

    2. Check The Online Deals

    Many retailers offer online deals for Black Friday. When you add in gas money and the time you might spend standing in line on Friday morning, online sales are even better. Before you brave the crowds, take a look at your favorite websites — and the stores you’re planning to visit. Many sales will kick in at midnight, so you’ll be able to check no matter how early you’re planning on getting in line at the local big box retailer. For some stores, you can order items online and pay the Black Friday price, then pick them up at your local store.

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    3. Pick A Shopping Buddy Who Will Match Your Pace

    My mother will be getting up at 4 AM Friday morning. While I admire her dedication, her Black Friday will be much longer than mine. I prefer to shop at a more comfortable pace, though, so I’ll be going with a different shopping buddy. My mom and my sister — both power shoppers — are much happier pairing up and letting the slow poke (that’s me) go on my own. I do think that having a buddy does make the whole process much easier, though: one person can stand in line while the other person grabs whatever is on the list. Even better, a buddy can help you stick to your list and your budget, avoiding unnecessary spending.

    4. Bring Your Ads With You

    There’s a chance that your discounted item may not ring up as on sale when you actually get up to the cash register. Instead of trying to recall exactly what the sale paper said, pull that ad out and ask the clerk to double check it. You can avoid confusion by carrying your ads with you — and, if you go to a store with a price-matching policy, you may be able to get the same prices that another store is offering. If you’re relying on ads you found online, you might have a harder time getting a deal, though. Some stores won’t even honor the prices listed on their own websites. Printing off the ad can help you convince a clerk, but it’s not guaranteed.

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    5. Be Prepared For Returns

    Returns policies seem to get tighter every year, and they can be worse for Black Friday. For some items, stores may have only a short return policy — and they may charge you a restocking fee. If you aren’t sure if you’ve bought the right size (or are otherwise considering a return), plan on making your return as soon as possible. Keep your receipt handy and pick up gift receipts where necessary.

    6. Use Your Credit Card

    Normally, I’m against using a credit card for most purchases. It’s too easy to run up a big bill, but there are some definite benefits to using plastic on Black Friday. Many credit card companies have much better return protection than stores: a purchase made on your credit card may have guaranteed refund up to 90 days. Credit cards often offer warranty coverage for free on purchases — a much better deal than most of the service contracts offered by stores. Lastly, some cards offer sale price protection. If the price of your purchase is marked down further than the price you paid within a certain time frame, you can get a refund of the difference.

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    7. Forget The Big Electronics

    If you’re planning to find a great deal on an HDTV on Black Friday, I’m afraid that you’re out of luck. Even on Black Friday, it’s rare to see much in the way of sales on big ticket electronics. The small sales are generally just not worth the hassle of trying to get a sales person to help you with anything time intensive when they’re getting slammed with hundreds of shoppers. Trust me, a better deal will come around on that TV.

    8. Skip It Entirely

    There’s nothing wrong with skipping the Black Friday sales. If there’s nothing on sale that you’re interested in, why bother? The entire day is set up to let retailers sell as much stuff as they can — to take as much of your money as they can. But there’s no better place for your money than in your wallet or bank account. So, stay home, relax and take advantage of your leftovers. You’ll be saving money even if you wind up making a few full price purchases down the road.

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    Last Updated on August 16, 2018

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system”.

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    The power of habit

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being six hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The wonderful thing about triggers (reminders)

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to make a reminder works for you

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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