How to avoid blowing your budget this Black Friday
As Christmas draws closer, retailers are gearing up for huge shopping bonanzas, with dramatic price reductions, 'grab it quick' offers and ticking countdown clocks all designed to make you spend, spend, spend.
Black Friday falls on November 29, with online shopping event Cyber Monday following on December 2.
Here are some top tips for savvy sales shopping, and sticking to your intended budget as the sales frenzies get under way...
1. Look out for bargains before Black Friday
Thought Black Friday only lasted one day? The best bargains may not be on the day itself. And many stores will be slashing their prices before then as they battle to encourage you to part with your money.
To keep up to date about stores' sales and discount codes, you may also want to sign up for their newsletter emails. You could set up a separate email account to receive these to stop them clogging up your regular inbox.
2. Check the returns policy
It can be easy to just grab everything off the shelves - and just assume you can return items later if you decide you don't want them. But if you simply change your mind about some of your purchases, will you be able to return them, or will you have wasted your money?
Martyn James, spokesman for consumer help website Resolver.co.uk, says: "Check out the returns policy that the retailer has. You have a number of statutory rights when it comes to returning wonky goods or services. But if you just want to change something or return it you will need to refer to the guide on the retailer's site."
If you're buying Christmas gifts for loved ones on Black Friday, James also suggests asking for a gift receipt at the till, so your loved one can take the item back if they need to. In addition, he suggests that if you're buying gifts for Christmas, open the box carefully now to check everything's correct - rather than waiting until the big day. This could make it easier to return the purchase.
3. Be a cynic
James says the rules covering sales can be broad, so if you see something that looks like a bargain, go to the manufacturer's website and look at the recommended retail price (RRP). Bear in mind that items often sell for less than this all year round. Some websites will give price comparisons if you do online searches for items.
4. Check the delivery charges
James says: "If you're buying big items, make sure you've checked to see if there will be a delivery charge."
He also cautions that the costs can quickly add up if you are buying items from overseas - so what initially looks like a 'bargain' could become much more expensive.
5. Focus on the real deals
When you're being bombarded with messages about 'great offers', it can be hard to stay focused on what's really a great deal. Salman Haqqi, a personal finance expert at money.co.uk, says the prices of gadgets such as TVs, tablets, laptops, kitchen accessories, games consoles and smart home devices often plunge around Black Friday.
Money.co.uk says the steepest discounts on TVs can often be on the more "mid-range" options. But the website also cautions against splashing out just because there's a big discount. While now could be a great time to upgrade your old tech, if you're existing gadgets are still working well, it's probably more cost effective to stick with what you've got.
6. Use plastic wisely
It can be particularly tempting in the sales to ramp up your credit card spending - but this could cause a debt hangover you'll be paying off well into 2020.
Credit checking service ClearScore, which analysed the spending of its eight million users, found that among those with a credit card, the average final balance by the end of 2018 was £3,600 after festive spending.
Those who don't clear their credit card balance in full each month could quickly see interest charges mount up. ClearScore calculates that someone only paying off the minimum each month could see a further £620 added to a Christmas bill during 2020 based on average card rates - or over £1,000 if they're on a higher rate card.
Switching to a card with an introductory rate of 0% on purchases could help you avoid interest on your Black Friday and other Christmas spending. That way you can make sure all your repayments go towards reducing the debt. But try to avoid any debt if you can.