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9 Black Friday Budget Tips

Updated: Sep 5, 2023

Three money and marriage tips for Black Friday

Rule #1: Set your budget together and spend your budget wisely.

Rule #2: See rule #1.

Rule #3: Know your role.

Establish who is responsible for what when doing your holiday shopping. Many relationships have couples whose likes and skill sets complement their partners. Take advantage of this if it is the case in your relationship. I feel fortunate that my wife prides herself as a bargain shopper because I would rather eat a plate full of batteries and wash it down with yellow snow than shop. I try to be supportive of every choice she makes, and she stays within our budget.

If budgeting is new to you, take advantage of our new online budgeting course for couples: Money Marriage U Budget, which includes a budgeting tool designed specifically for couples. The course will be released just before Black Friday, and we are giving away the first 10-course pre-registrants who subscribe to our newsletter.

Maintain perspective on Black Friday

Dr. Whillans is a world expert on time, money, and happiness. She teaches at Harvard, is the author of Time Smart, and serves on our advisory board. Dr. Whillans was one of the first guests on the Modern Husbands Podcast and shared that one time-sucking activity that doesn't make us happier, in the long run, is spending a lot of time shopping for items that are less than $100. In other words, finding a bargain is worth it if you don't have to waste a bunch of time in the process.

Avoid Black Friday scam sales

Do you ever wonder whether stores are jacking up prices before Black Friday and then putting them on "sale"? There are tools you can use to figure this out.

CamelCamelCamel This free browser extension equips users with several bargain-busting tools. What I have found to be most valuable is setting a price watch for something I'm interested in and reviewing its price history on Amazon. Every product page contains graphs of price changes over time.

Honey is another popular tool shoppers use with similar features.

Save money and time

Keepa This free site and browser extension is similar to CamelCamelCamel, although the site's aesthetics could be more appealing. It has the look and feel of a designer who wears a pocket protector and shirts with the periodic table on the front.

However, I prefer the functionality of finding bargains to Keepa over CamelCamelCamel because users can fast-track their way to deals by clicking the categories at the top of the page.

Black Friday coupon hacks

Use coupon apps and sites such as RetailMeNot, which automatically apply the best promo codes and cash back. Sites such as Coupon Cabin are dedicated to providing timely coupons. And, of course, you can go to google and type the name of where you plan to shop, followed by "promo code," and savings opportunities often populate.

How NOT to bust your budget on Black Friday

Have you ever purchased an item and then a few months later saw the same item on sale and become frustrated? Do you enjoy the feeling of something new, but after that feeling wears off, crave to refill that feeling by purchasing something else new?

As shared in a previous post, research has found that compulsive consumerism and striving to buy more stuff make us less happy. These issues can be more extreme during the holidays.

The research paper entitled What Psychology Says About Materialism and the Holidays reports that:

"We found that the more highly people endorsed materialistic values, the more they experienced unpleasant emotions, depression and anxiety, the more they reported physical health problems, such as stomachaches and headaches, and the less they experienced pleasant emotions and felt satisfied with their lives."

The different parts of our brains have different functions. Imagine sitting down and taking a test you have prepared well for. You are tapping into your prefrontal cortex for the answers throughout the test.

Now imagine seeing something that you want to buy, and you get excited about the thought of owning it. That is your amygdala, which is responsible for attributing affective or emotional value and plays a role in emotional decision-making, such as learned experiences with money.

Have you ever purchased something and later asked yourself, "What was I thinking?" The better question is, "Where was I thinking from?" The likely answer is the amygdala.

Our world is full of triggers that shift our thinking from the prefrontal cortex (rational brain) to our amygdala (irrational brain), which is particularly true on Black Friday. Here are three simple strategies to use your rational brain to make decisions on Black Friday.

  1. Write a list of what you will purchase well in advance.

  2. Take a buddy who understands their only job is to make sure you stick to your list.

  3. Pull out the cash you need for your list and keep your plastic at home.

You can make all types of arguments against this advice. What if I see a deal I can't pass up? Why would I miss out on credit card rewards points? Carrying cash can be dangerous.

Personal finance is more personal than finance, so you need to use the best strategies. The strategies I recommend are guardrails that prevent you from overspending.

Best gifts to buy on Black Friday

One thing is sure, most of us are happier when we spend money on others. That's undoubtedly the upshot to Black Friday. The trick is to give the right gift.

We know from research that buying time leads to more happiness and that buying "stuff" for ourselves does not necessarily make us happier. As shared in a previous post:

"Material purchases do make us happy. Initially, then the newness wears off. And it was the new and exciting feature of the iPhone, TV, or whatever you craved. Now you need something new because you've adapted to it. You could argue that adaptation is an enemy of happiness."

What makes us happier are experiences. Think outside the box. Does your family member or friend need a new gadget? What about purchasing tickets to go zip-lining for a day? Attend a sporting event, or pay in advance for a day of kayaking. There are several activities you purchase in advance and give as a gift.

Save some for Cyber Monday

In 2021, there were 66.5 million Black Friday shoppers, 51 million on Small Business Saturday, and 77 million online shoppers on Cyber Monday. Black Friday is so popular that it surpassed the number of online Cyber Monday shoppers with 88 million online shoppers. (Source: National Retail Federation)

Beware of dark patterns

If you're reading this, chances are you or your spouse will buy something online. Beware of dark patterns, which is a user interface that has been carefully crafted to trick users into doing things such as signing up for recurring bills or making an overpriced purchase. You have likely seen these yourself without knowing what they were.

Have you ever clicked a "Free Trial," entered your credit card information, and after some time, been charged automatically? That's a dark pattern.

The X to close the pop up could not be found by Sherlock Holmes on his best day. That's a dark pattern.

Deceptive Designs is the go-to site to learn more about dark patterns and how to arm yourself against them.


Learn More

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Kassar, Tim. “What Psychology Says about Materialism and the Holidays.” American Psychological Association, American Psychological Association, 2014,,felt%20satisfied%20with%20their%20lives.

Pérez, Sara. "Serotonin and Emotional Decision-Making". Serotonin, edited by Ying Qu, IntechOpen, 2018. 10.5772/intechopen.81506.

Dunn, Elizabeth & Aknin, Lara & Norton, Michael. (2008). Spending Money on Others Promotes Happiness. Science (New York, N.Y.). 319. 1687-8. 10.1126/science.1150952.

Rosenzweig, Emily, and Thomas Gilovich. “Buyer's remorse or missed opportunity? Differential regrets for material and experiential purchases.” Journal of personality and social psychology vol. 102,2 (2012): 215-23. doi:10.1037/a0024999

Hershfield, Hal E., et al. “People Who Choose Time Over Money Are Happier.” Social Psychological and Personality Science, vol. 7, no. 7, Sept. 2016, pp. 697–706, doi:10.1177/1948550616649239.


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