by Community Manager  |  Retired, Army  |  San Antonio, TX  |  ‎11-05-2015 07:49 AM

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My most recent encounter with Black Friday left a major impression on my shopping psyche.

Last year, with the Thanksgiving feast and festivities clearly clouding my judgment, I succumbed to some not-so-subtle family pressure and found myself in the parking lot of a big retailer at 3 a.m. Friday.
The doors opened, the masses crushed in, and the promised once-in-a-lifetime deals were gone, no rain checks. Never say never, but my crystal ball suggests I won’t be joining that race again.
Not long ago, Black Friday stood alone as the gateway to the holiday shopping season and potential (note the emphasis) bargains. But as savvy marketers sharpened their efforts to encourage us to dig deep into our wallets, Black Friday’s unique place has been challenged by a seemingly endless list of super shopping “opportunities.”
That could be a good thing, but if you’re trying to navigate the holiday season without running up a big debt, you’ll have to fine-tune your own set of defensive tactics.

Stay on Track this Holiday Season

Here are a few strategies for some of the most-hyped shopping holidays, but they are ideas you can incorporate throughout the season:

Cyber Monday:
The idea of shopping at home, perhaps with a cup of coffee and festive music in the background, is attractive for the budget-conscious shopper. You can avoid the frenzy at the store and one of the top challenges for a budget-conscious shopper: impulse or emotional purchases. You can put your prospective purchase in the virtual cart, save it, take a break and after a little contemplation, come back later and evaluate whether spending your hard-earned money still makes sense.

Giving Tuesday:
I like this one. It highlights what should be the true nature of the season. From a financial perspective, it also offers the opportunity to look beyond toys, clothes and gadgets to provide gifts with staying power and impact. Yes, I’m talking about charitable gifts (with potential tax benefits) as well as financial gifts for family members. Contributions to a child’s or grandchild’s college savings, savings account or, heck, even cash (assuming it’s accompanied by some financial education) could all be part of the game plan.

Free Shipping Day:
Did you know that many merchants offer free shipping during the holiday season? It pays to find ways you can save a few bucks. It’s easy to let the holiday spirit talk you into that peppermint mocha, a gift exchange at work or an impromptu holiday celebration on the town. Take a few minutes to think about your budget and factor in some limits on all those holiday extras.

FRS Day:
You’re probably unfamiliar with this day. That’s because I made it up. And why not? USAA’s new Financial Readiness Score tool can help you explore all areas of your finances, and it might be a good time to think about your fiscal future. Any day can be FRS Day.

Indulge in that extra slice of turkey or pumpkin pie if you must, but don’t overdo it on bills you won’t be able to afford when the holidays have passed.



Additional disclosures:

This material is for informational purposes and is not investment advice, an indicator of future performance, a solicitation, an offer to buy or sell, or a recommendation for any specific product. A Financial Readiness Score should not be used as the primary basis for making investment or financial decisions. A Financial Readiness Score provides a basic assessment that is based on information and assumptions provided by you regarding your goals, expectations and financial situation, but it does not guarantee financial success or replace more detailed financial planning. The calculations do not infer that USAA assumes any fiduciary duties. Consider your own financial circumstances and goals carefully before investing or purchasing financial products. Before making any decision, consult your own tax, financial or legal advisors regarding your situation.  Information provided by you in connection with the Financial Readiness Score tool is voluntary, will not be considered in connection with a request or application for credit or insurance products/services, and may be used by USAA for marketing and other business purposes as set forth in the USAA Privacy Promise.