12 Ways to Save More, Spend Less on Black Friday
Black Friday -- the day after Thanksgiving often considered the start of the holiday shopping season -- is synonymous with crowded stores and crazed consumers in search of deep discounts. It’s a tradition for a lot of people to get up at the crack of dawn and camp out in front of stores to scoop up deals. However, you won't catch me battling the crowds on Black Friday. I savor my sanity too much to step foot in a store November 23.
I'm not the only one who feels this way. A survey by online-deal site Offers.com found that only 18% of U.S. adults plan to shop in stores on Black Friday this year. The reality is that there are better ways to spend the day after Thanksgiving than in a mall. Worried that you'll miss out on savings? Well, there are actually plenty of ways to save money, improve your finances and even earn extra cash by staying home on Black Friday. Here are 12:
1. Shop online. A lot of doorbusters (those deeply discounted items retailers use to get consumers in the door early Friday) will be available online, too -- especially on big-ticket products. Plus, shopping online makes it easy to compare prices at several retailers to find the best deal and saves you the cost of filling up the gas tank and paying for parking at the mall. See The 10 Best Ways to Find Deals Online for money-saving tips, including ways to score free shipping on your online purchases.
2. Make gifts. Sometimes homemade gifts are the best gifts of all. They show the recipients that you put time and effort into creating something special just for them -- and they can be more affordable than store-bought items. Even if you're not crafty, you still can make something the recipient will treasure, such as an album of family photos. You can make photo books online at sites such as Snapfish and Shutterfly, or go the old-fashioned route by compiling pictures in an album. For more homemade gift ideas, see this post on the Bargaineering blog.
3. Declutter. Use this opportunity to go through your house to collect items you no longer use and clothes you haven't worn in a couple of years. If you itemize on your tax return, take all that stuff to Goodwill or any other charitable organization and claim a deduction for your contribution. Or generate some extra cash for your holiday shopping by selling your wares on eBay, Craigslist and other sites (watch this video). You can sell clothing, furniture and home accessories that are in good condition at a consignment store. Expect to split the profit 50/50 with the store. (Ask for details, though, because store policies vary.)
4. Toss paper files you don't need. While you're decluttering, take the time to get rid of documents you no longer need and go digital with the rest. See Toss Paper Files You Don't Need and 7 Steps to Convert Paper Files to Digital for help. This exercise can help you uncover receipts that can be used for tax write-offs or for reimbursements from your flexible spending account and perhaps prompt you to find ways to streamline more of your financial responsibilities (by setting up automatic bill pay, for example, and eliminating all those monthly paper bills).
5. Review your insurance coverage. As you dig through old documents, pull out your insurance policies to review your coverage. See 10 Reasons Your Insurance May Need a Checkup to find out whether you need to update your policies. This is also a good time to look for ways to lower your insurance rates. To find out how, see Reshop Your Insurance in 2012.
6. Clean out your portfolio. That asset allocation you worked so hard to achieve by picking the right percentage of stocks and bonds to reach your goals might have been thrown off over the past year. Or maybe you never had the right mix of investments to begin with. See Declutter Your Portfolio to get organized and take control of your investments. And see 12 Smart Year-End Tax Moves for help making investment decisions to reduce your tax liability.
7. Check your credit report. Checking your credit reports from the three major credit bureaus is a good idea because you can catch errors that might be hurting your credit score. You can order your TransUnion, Equifax and Experian reports from AnnualCreditReport.com. You can get a free report from each credit bureau once a year (you can also request a credit score for $8). If you find an account that doesn’t belong to you or even a misspelling of your name, you can file a dispute with the credit bureau. See How to Fix an Error on Your Credit Report for more information.
8. Sell unwanted gift cards. The average household has about $300 in unspent gift cards, according to Plastic Jungle, a Web site that lets you buy, sell, exchange or donate gift cards. Comb through your drawers, wallet or purse for cards you know you'll never use, then visit sites such as Plastic Jungle and Gift Card Granny to turn those cards into cash. (Note: You won't get the full value of your card -- up to 92% at best.)
9. Switch to a bank with lower fees. If your bank is among the many that have hiked fees over the past year or so, consider moving your money to another financial institution. Community banks and credit unions are more likely to offer free checking, as well as interest-bearing accounts without minimum balance requirements (see What to Look for in a Checking Account). You can search for a community bank near you at the Independent Community Bankers of America site and look for credit unions at www.culookup.com or www.asmarterchoice.org. If you're ready to make a move, see Switch to a Bank With Lower Fees for tips on making a smooth transition.
10. Prepare an emergency kit. The damage wrought by Hurricane Sandy is a good reminder that it pays to be prepared for disasters. So use this day to gather important documents -- such as your will, Social Security card, insurance policies, deeds to property, and medical and investment records -- and put them in a fire-resistant home safe or lock box. Compile account numbers and contact information for creditors, service providers and anyone from whom you receive a bill so you can let them know about your situation when a disaster strikes. And create a portable survival kit with food, water and supplies to last at least three days. You can pack your own, or you can buy a pre-made kit at the American Red Cross Store for $90. See 7 Must-Haves for Your Emergency Kit for items that will help you get by when the power is out.
11. Tackle home maintenance projects. Now is a good time to prepare your home for cold weather. See 10 Energy-Efficient Moves to Do in a Weekend for simple projects that can help lower your utility bills and 15 Fall and Winter Maintenance Tips for steps you can take to protect your home and your investment.
12. Relax. If you're like I am, you might feel like there's always something you need to do. For one day, though, just do nothing and relax. Take a break and enjoy time with family and friends. And, yes, this is also a way to save money because you're not out spending it.