With Halloween behind us, we move with full momentum into the holidays and the shopping season. Black Friday is November 23, the day after Thanksgiving and traditionally the busiest shopping day of the year. The holiday shopping season is crucial to the retail industry as 30 percent of sales occur between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and for items such as jewelry, it is even higher at about 40 percent of annual sales.
The term Black Friday became a popular reference to the day after Thanksgiving in the 2000s when more and more retailers offered over-the-top sales and promotions on the day after Turkey Day. Before that period, the busiest shopping day had been the Saturday before Christmas. Each year, the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales seem to get bigger and better for consumers.
This year is expected to be no exception. The National Retail Federation (NRF) is predicting spending to be up 4.1 percent over last year’s winter holidays with consumers spending an average of $1,007.24 per person on gifts, food, décor, and simply good retail deals. While shoppers continue to visit traditional bricks and mortar stores, on-line sales continue to grow. 71 percent of shoppers say they will purchase at least one holiday need on their smart phone or tablet.
All this shopping helps grow our economy. NRF is forecasting $720.89 billion in holiday sales this year. The high number of sales also means seasonal jobs. Retailers have already advertised more than 330,000 jobs for this holiday season, and with our low employment numbers, workers can expect to be recruited like never before.
While these numbers help boost the economy, please ensure you are smart with you own spending. As a financial advisor, I have seen folks get carried away by sales and the excitement, putting themselves and their families into debt. Here are a few tips to keep you from spending more than you should:
Create a budget. While this seems obvious, you would be surprised how many people just buy presents as they go. Start with a budget for each person you are shopping for and plan ahead. Make a spreadsheet to stay organized and keep your spending for each person in check.
Don’t be swayed by a store’s allure. Retailers are smart and they provide mood lighting, music, and smells that lure us in and make it harder to say no to buying. Stick to your budget and your plan. Similarly, know your weaknesses and be prepared to be resist items you like or you know your family or friends would like. It is a wonderful feeling to give to others, just make sure you stick to your original plan.
Be smart about your credit card use. Try to carry only one credit card so it is easier to keep tabs on your spending. And please make sure you pay off your credit card balance soon after the holidays. You do not want to get stuck paying interest or paying for Christmas next summer. Even better than using a credit card is using a debit card or old-fashioned cash.
You will find great deals this Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping period. If you are able, take advantage of them, but stay smart and savvy about your holiday spending.
Claudia Mollerup-Madsen is Vice President a Financial Advisor with the Wealth Management Division of Morgan Stanley in Houston.