10 Smarter Ways to Spend Your Time on Black Friday

Smart Buying

10 Smarter Ways to Spend Your Time on Black Friday

Forget the mall. Save money -- and your sanity -- this Thanksgiving weekend with our money-minded alternatives to shopping frenzy.

Editor's Note: This is an updated version of a story written by Starting Out columnist Erin Burt in 2008. The advice is as good now as it ever was. See if you agree.

There's more than one way to save money the day after Thanksgiving. You're certainly welcome to drag yourself out of bed at 4 a.m. to endure frozen toes, long lines and hand-to-hand combat.

Or forget the mall mayhem and use your time more wisely at home. There really are better things to do on Black Friday that can save you just as much money -- or more. Plus, you'll actually finish the day with your sanity intact.

1. Shop online. You can find amazing holiday deals online without having to mess with parking, weather and hoards of frenzied shoppers. Plus, it's easier to comparison shop on the Web, find the items you're looking for and collect coupons for your purchases. You just might save more money than if you had ventured out in person. And with the time you save, you could even sleep in.

Sponsored Content

Be mindful of shipping costs, though. There are plenty of free shipping promotions out there this season, but many will require a minimum purchase. See FreeShipping.org for stores that have free-shipping coupons. And more than 1,000 merchants will be participating in Free Shipping Day on December 17, with delivery by Christmas Eve. Or check out deals that'll ship your order for free to a local store for pick-up, such as Walmart.com and Payless.com. You'll have to leave the house, but you'll save oodles in time and hassle.


2. Prepare your holiday budget and gift list. Do you blow your holiday budget each year? If you just answered, "What holiday budget?" listen up. Holiday shopping is a contact sport. You need a game plan. Take time now to jot down the names of everyone for whom you want to buy gifts. Set a budget and divvy up dollar amounts to each name on your list, complete with gift ideas or notes of their interests. If necessary, discuss with your family ways to cut back this season, such as drawing names or buying just for the kids.

Plus, make sure you budget in a buffer for those last-minute surprises you forgot to plan on. With a little organization, you'll save time and money -- and have a much smoother holiday season. See our Smart Holiday Buying Guide for shopping tips and affordable travel ideas.

3. Set up a gift that keeps on giving. We know you have the best intentions to open that 529 college-savings plan for Junior or that Roth IRA for yourself (or to convert a traditional IRA to a Roth because the income limit on conversions disappeared in 2010). After all, these tax-sheltered investment accounts are the ultimate money-savers.

But in the rush of day-to-day life, you just haven't found the time. Truth is, you can start investing in just five easy steps. That means you can secure your child's educational future or your own retirement and get your beauty sleep before Black Friday shoppers return with their loot.


4. Winterize your home. A bit of caulk and weather stripping around doors and windows can save a lot of money on your energy bills this winter. You should also check your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, drain gas from your lawn mower and other seasonal equipment, clean out your dryer vent and have your furnace inspected and cleaned. See 10 Energy-Efficient Moves to Do in a Weekend for more details.

5. Shop for the best credit card. You're going to spend hundreds of dollars over the next month, so why not get something in return? With a rewards credit card, you can get cash, airline miles or other free perks for every dollar you spend. (Just make sure you pay off your balance each month so the interest charges won't eat away your advantage.) See our picks for the best rewards cards.

Or, get a low-rate credit card. We know that despite your best intentions and no matter what we say to persuade you otherwise, many of you will lean on your credit cards and carry balances into the New Year. At least make sure you have the best rate to minimize the damage. Click here to compare credit card rates.

6. Clean out your closet, basement or garage. Are your old clothes, knick knacks, books, CDs and other household items taking up precious space? Donate your used stuff to a charitable thrift store such as Goodwill or Salvation Army and get a tax write-off. Or sell it on Craigslist, eBay or Amazon.com to make some extra cash for the holidays. Learn more about how to declutter and make a few bucks.


If you have boxes stuffed with old bank statements, tax returns and pay stubs, you might want to take the opportunity to pitch what you no longer need. See Paper Records: What to Toss, What to Keep.

7. Assemble your financial emergency kit. A couple hours of preparation could prove priceless if disaster ever struck your family.

Gather all your important documents, including insurance policies, birth certificates, property deeds, car titles and investment records, and store them in a fireproof safe. Also, consider creating a couple of backup CDs of digital family photos to stash in your safe. Pictures are often the number-one item people wish they could take with them in an emergency.

While you're at it, assess other areas of your preparedness, including writing a will, buying life insurance and starting a rainy-day fund. Learn more about assembling your financial emergency kit.


8. Make smart year-end money moves. Take action now and you could trim hundreds of dollars from your tax bill next year. Now's an ideal time to sell losing investments, spend your flex-account money and donate to charity. See Last-Minute Ways to Cut Your Taxes for money-saving moves to make before the end of the year.

If you plan on making charitable donations, use our checklist to make sure your giving is getting results.

9. Protect your PC. Nothing puts a damper on online shopping like a virus or other malicious intruder. Not to mention it could cost you hundreds of dollars in repairs or even identity theft. The good news: Making sure your computer is prepared for the online holiday shopping season doesn't have to cost you a penny! Guard against spyware, viruses and other invaders as you troll the Web with three free software defenders:
-- For a firewall: Zonealarm.com
-- To annihilate spyware: Microsoft Windows Defender
-- To kill viruses: AOL's Safety and Security Center

10. Relax! An informal survey on Kiplinger.com found that more than half of you plan to do just this. After all, who couldn't use a little family-detox time? Use it to watch football, curl up with a good book, work on a hobby or browse the Web for a good Thanksgiving leftovers recipe. You work like crazy all year long. Take a well-deserved breather before the holidays are in full swing.

Next: Kiplinger's Smart Holiday Spending Guide