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Don't Let Black Friday Put You In The Red

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If you've read my recent articles, you know how I feel about the importance of saving. It might not surprise you then to learn that I am a huge fan of Black Friday! Having said that, in order to be successful on this Friday (or Thursday, or Saturday, or Monday, whenever those deals pop up this year) you must have a plan.

Ironically, many Americans overspend on Black Friday. The deals are just too good to resist. TVs are 50 percent off... Fantastic deal, but you don't have to buy seven of them to take full advantage of the deal.

Our collective self-restraint and fiscal discipline could use some help. Holiday spending is expected to rise by 4.1 percent this year. That should be good news, and in some ways it is, but keep in mind that there are plenty of Americans who are still in debt from last year's holiday season. Don't perpetuate the irony and drive yourself further into the red on Black Friday.

One fall when my kids were young, they decided that they wanted to buy a small television with money they had saved. I insisted that they researched what they wanted, found the best price and calculated the sales tax. When they saw how small the set that they could actually afford turned out to be, they were disappointed. I explained about holiday sales and promised that if they could be patient for another month, I would take them shopping on Black Friday.

My kids had seen the crowds line up in years past at seemingly ungodly hours waiting to get into the stores. I think they were shocked that I agreed to go brave the crowds and elements with them, but I knew the deals that waited. I also knew that it would be a fun and memorable experience with my kids.

I had my kids make a plan. They had to figure out where we were going and what time we should get there. They were so excited. We braved the mobs and they bought a television nearly twice the size of what they would've gotten if they hadn't waited.

Their patience paid off and we had a wonderful time.

There are two extremely important things to remember if you want to make your Black Friday shopping experience a success:

Plan in advance:
Make sure that everyone in the family has a gift-planning calendar. Trust me, this pays off in more ways than you might think. Of course, you know the dates of Chanukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa or any other holiday on which your family exchanges gifts, so these will be easy to mark. Add birthdays, anniversaries, graduations or any other special events that will call for a gift. You may even want to include your children's friends' birthdays too if you're feeling motivated and happen to be that organized. As you get closer to Black Friday, see which dates make sense to shop for. Some people buy all of the gifts they need for the upcoming year in those 24 hours. That's a tall order, but if you're up for it, you can cash in on some big savings.

Make a list:
In the same way a grocery list helps supermarket shoppers stay on track and not be lured by impulse buys, a list can also help with your holiday shopping. Sticking to a list will keep you from spending more than you intended. Remember; don't leave with seven TVs when you only need one.

This Black Friday, consider taking your kids along for part of your shopping expedition. You don't have to leave the Thanksgiving Dinner table and go right to the stores either; there are some great deals still available Friday afternoon.

Doing your homework can save you some hard-earned cash as well as prove to be a fun experience for you and your loved ones this Black Friday.

This holiday season go forth and shop... responsibly. Listen to that little Neale voice in your head and resist the impulse purchases. When your January bills arrive, you'll be glad you did.

Are you braving the crowds and elements this week? Let us know below.