What not to do on Black Friday

Five mistakes that will sap your money and your sanity.

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Spend your money wisely.jarmoluk/Pixabay

Hear that sound? Those are the rapidly approaching footsteps of Black Friday 2018. As your thoughts turn toward the money you might save this year, and the shiny new gadgets you hope to grab, remember that you shouldn't just pull out your credit card and charge into the mall (or its online equivalent). To find the deals that are worth fighting for—and skip those that are best avoidedpreparation is key. In fact, we've prepared a comprehensive guide to everything you shouldn't do this Black Friday. Our tips will give you an edge over the hordes of other shoppers hitting stores this weekend and ensure that you spend every dollar well.

Don't get carried away

Considering the amount of hype that surrounds Black Friday, and the huge volume of ads that companies throw in your face, you can easily end up spending more than you should. By all means enjoy your shopping, but keep an eye on what you're buying so you don't overspend.

One strategy that can help: Before the big day, make a list of the gear—a fitness tracker for mom, a new TV set for the study—you absolutely want to nab. Then proceed with caution for everything that falls outside that list. Whatever else crops up besides your must-haves, you can live without it.

If you'd prefer more flexibility, simply set a limit on the total amount of money you're willing to spend, and walk away when you've hit it. In fact, taking a breather is always a good move. A quick break will help you resist the low prices tempting you to exceed your budget or dazzling you into picking up stuff you don't really need.

Don't forget upcoming upgrades

Shoppers aren't the only ones who look forward to Black Friday. It also helps retailers hoping to shift older stock before the end of the year. So before you part with your cash, check on the life cycle of the product you're buying.

For example, companies usually replace their flagship smartphones and tablets with newer models every year. Other items, such as smart televisions, wearables, and headphones, have a longer period of time between new product releases.

If you buy a gadget that's due to be replaced soon, that doesn't mean it will stop working. It only means you should watch out for retailers pushing big savings on products that are edging towards obsolescence. That said, don't be too quick to dismiss gizmos that are already a year or two old. Just as you can get a better bargain on well-aged cars, you can often grab a deal on slighter older tech.

Don't take everything at face value

Black Friday draws crowds, but it also attracts scammers: people hoping to make a few quick bucks out of shoppers' eagerness to track down a bargain or ten. So trust your common sense and avoid any suspicious offers that look too good to be true.

When you're shopping online, you can follow a few ground rules. Stick to trusted retailers. Be wary of any unsolicited "check out these deals" messages that drift into your inbox (this guide to spotting scam emails can help). Finally, avoid overly aggressive web ads and pop-ups that try to tempt you away from the items you're genuinely interested in pursuing.

In the real world, stores won't exactly attempt to swindle you, but they might frame promotions in ways that don't tell the whole story. Remember to double-check how new an item is, and its original price, to figure out how much that discount is worth.

Don't ignore Cyber Monday

A mere three days after Black Friday, Cyber Monday offers another bonanza day of deals, although its discounts primarily appear online rather than in stores. And many price drops will carry through all the way until Christmas. So if you're panicking about missing a Black Friday deal, just wait for Monday to roll around and see if it's still on the table.

That said, some deals you find will be Black Friday exclusives, which means that to secure your purchase, you'll need to immediately push the Buy button or head to the checkout. However, these single-day deals should include flags on the offer itself, so you'll be able to identify them right away.

As we've alluded to above, you need to pace yourself. So, if you're on the fence about a deal, hang tight for the next one—you won't have long to wait.

Don't always look for the lowest price

Black Friday might be the one time in the year when you shouldn't simply shoot for the lowest possible price. Instead, you're aiming for the greatest value for that price.

How do you figure that out? The percentage by which an item's cost has dropped often makes a better indication of value than the final retail price. So compare the discounted price to the original cost. And there are a couple other value-enhancing considerations to factor into your choice.

First, look at the extra features tied to the deal. Do you get a good returns policy, a discount on shipping charges, or even an extended warranty? These all add value to your purchase. Second, avoid potential duds hiding behind those low price tags: Examine the specs and seller of the gizmo you plan to buy. While lesser-known companies can make good products, you don't always get the same quality guarantee as you do from a more established brand. Finally, can you get multiple purchases from one source? Even if a store isn't offering the very lowest prices, buying everything from just one or two locations might save you a few dollars on gas money or shipping charges.