With all this Black Friday and Cyber Monday coverage, you'd think The Frugalista was all about spending. At long last, today I have a post about not buying on Black Friday, at least, not buying anything that isn't covered by your budget.
The Thrifty Couple wasn't always so thrifty. Alex and Cassie Michael started their marriage 11 years ago by borrowing to finance their honeymoon, and soon found themselves drowning in debt. It took them seven years to pay off $100,000 in consumer debt -- but along the way they learned so much about budgeting and saving money that they launched thethriftycouple.com to share their bargain smarts with others.
The Michaels recently shared their methods for shopping Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales without blowing their budget at a conference in Chicago organized by Savings.com. I especially like their approach because it acknowledges that, if you're married, saving money and sticking to a budget is not a one-person decision. Both partners have to be on board or it just won't work.
Plan with your partner. The Michaels' plan and shop for the holidays starting right after the last holiday ended. But even if you're just starting now, it's important to sit down with your partner and make a buying list and a budget before shopping. And don't forget this important entry for your master list, says Cassie: "One issue that we run into is, where did we hide it? On this list, we write down where we put it."
Hit the sales, but be intentional. "Don't just be out there buying stuff because it's a good deal," Cassie said. Bring that list you made! "Before you buy, say 'Who is this going to?'"
Update the list.This is the area where the Frugalista herself runs into trouble. Yes, I make a list and a budget, but as I rush to grab deals and take care of other holiday planning, I usually don't make time to write down what I have spent. As a result, of course, I overbuy. This year -- I swear! -- I will heed Cassie's advice to write down the answers to these questions: "How much did you spend? How much do you have left? Keep yourself on track." Alex adds that this step, too, is a two-person thing: "As The Thrify Couple, we always make sure to kep each other accountable."
Set a budget for one another, too. Cassie and Alex spend $50 on each other and other immediate family members, and $15 for extended family members. (Of course, they find such great deals that none of those gifts seemlike $15 presents!) While it might seem like it spoils the surprise to know exactly what your husband is spending on you, it also eliminates that less-pleasant surprise of reading the January credit card statement and finding out that he spent waaay more than you thought on you.
Consider cash.The Michaels use debit cards, not credit cards. "That's an easy way to keep yourself accountable," Cassie says, because when the cash in your holiday shopping account is gone, you're done. The Michaels fund their holiday shopping account by diverting part of every paycheck throughout the year.
Don't shop only for gifts on Black Friday. "Watch for those practical items that are on your general budget," Alex said. Added Cassie, "For the last several years, we've bought all our practical items on Black Friday or around this time period."