With all the excitement of the first “official” shopping day of the season, it’s still important to keep your spirits high and your wallet intact. Here are 7 steps to ensure you have a safe, fun and efficient Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
1. Plan the Mission
Your mission — if you choose to accept it — is to wear yourself down and spend your way into oblivion!! …Well, not really. But that’s what could happen if you head into the holiday shopping weekend without a plan. While there’s a certain appeal to keeping things open-ended and spontaneous, cooler heads prevail when that rush of that emotional purchase is met with a well thought-out shopping list. Take time to determine your budget, as well as what and for whom you’re shopping for. The earlier, the better.
2. Scope the Territory
Now that you’ve got your plan, it’s time to get the lay of the land. Research your prospective retailers. Do some comparison-shopping. Are the deals better online or offline? Call ahead to determine how big-ticket or limited-availability items will be handled. Are vouchers being handed out for those who arrive early? Take a reconnaissance tour of your target stores the day before Thanksgiving. Ask for store maps, or better yet, find them on the store websites or Google Maps.
3. Batten Down the Hatches
Whether you’re surfing the web or cruising the mall, it’s important to make sure everything is locked down and secure. Ensure you have the latest version of browser software and that your security software is updated and current with its subscription on all your devices, including mobile ones. Confirm that your online purchases are secure by checking for the “https” designation in the URL or the padlock icon in the lower right corner of the browser page. And when going wireless, always use a secure Wi-Fi connection. While you’re away, make sure your home is locked and that any shopping purchases are hidden out of sight or locked in the trunk of your vehicle. If possible, keep ATM usage to a minimum. Guard your wallet and cash by keeping them in your front pocket or in a purse strapped across your body, rather than over your shoulder.
4. Keep Watch
Forewarned is forearmed when it comes to security, and that extends to areas not immediately within your control. If other family members are surfing at home or on shared devices, monitor their activity to minimize the risk of exposing your credit or identity to the wrong parties. Make it a practice to check your bank and credit card balances on a regular basis.
5. Heed All Hunches
If there ever were a time to heed your sixth sense and obey those nagging suspicions, now would be it. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Think twice before opening an unsolicited email, and never click on the links...even if they look legitimate. When in doubt, type the URL directly into your browser. Beware of doing business with online companies you’ve never heard of. Research them first. Look for negative reviews that could be a tip-off. Try to keep distractions to a minimum during your shopping trips. This may be a good time to hire a babysitter and leave the kids at home.
6. Honor Thyself
If your plan is to shop until you drop, at least keep yourself energized and hydrated while doing so. Ensure you’ve gotten plenty of rest the night before. Start with a full breakfast. Drink plenty of water. Keep carbonated beverages and caffeinated products to a minimum. Avoid overly sugary foods that tend to spike your energy but leave you feeling lethargic until the next binge. Pack healthy snacks instead, including fruits and nuts to help keep your energy levels steady and your mind alert. Be good to yourself. Don’t wait until your body cries “Uncle!” before heading home. Tired, cranky shoppers are just that: tired, cranky and ready for a nap!
7. Cool Your Jets
Sometimes it’s best to take a step back and think things through — especially during those moments when you’re ready to hand over your credit card. Is this the best time to purchase, or would some of these items be better saved for a later time? Resist the urge to get everything NOW. After all, you still have all those wonderful post-holiday clearance sales to look forward to!
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