Surviving ‘Black Friday’
For some people, those two words represent opportunity. For others – dread.
The National Retail Federation estimates that 138 million Americans will use the three-day weekend that starts the day after Thanksgiving to launch their holiday shopping. That represents billions of dollars of potential sales, so retailers plan for Black Friday for months and open at extra-early hours to take advantage. Most offer “door-buster” sales designed to play to the rush.
Whether shoppers dive in on Nov. 26 or take on holiday shopping later, the season of giving can give consumers a giant headache if they aren’t prepared.
FICO, the original creators of the credit score, took a survey recently about holiday season attitudes. Here’s what they found:
* 40 percent say their biggest worry heading into 2011 is credit card debt.
* About half expect to charge an extra $100-$500 this season – and many will take up to six months to pay it off.
* Three-quarters of people are changing their holiday traditions because of the economy.
* Only 15 percent will pay cash for holiday shopping.
* Most have not made advance preparations for holiday bills.
Other statistics are equally concerning. For example, those who shop with credit cards often spend more than those who go “cash only” for purchases.
Not to go all “Bah Humbug,” but the pressure of the season makes some people stressed. So CCOA, a local nonprofit that provides free financial literacy education seminars and counseling, makes the following recommendations to keep the season’s costs more manageable:
* Planning ahead will keep spending under control, so make a list and check it twice.
* Credit obligations (excluding home mortgages and utilities) should not exceed 20 percent of a person’s take-home pay each month. If you’re tapped out – don’t take on more than you can afford.
* If shopping early to take advantage of sales isn’t possible, shop late: delaying purchases until after the holidays means you can take advantage of clearance prices.
* Not every great gift is purchased. Shoppers on a budget can offer a variety of low-cost gifts such as:
— Preparing food or goodies
— Making a gift such as a work of art or constructed item
— Offering services such as babysitting, pet care or house-cleaning
* If purchasing for a large family has been an issue, encourage family members to draw for names to exchange gifts. Be sure and agree upon a spending limit, however.
Credit Counseling of Arkansas (CCOA) — which provided this news release to First Arkansas News — is a local 501(c)(3) nonprofit that provides free financial seminars, free counseling on budgeting, credit, homebuying, mortgage delinquencies; federally mandated bankruptcy counseling; credit report reviews; and a debt management program. For more information, visit CCOA on the Internet at www.CCOAcares.com or call at 479-521-8877.
Benton resident. Rogue journalist. Recovering attorney. Email = Ethan@FirstArkansasNews.net.