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There you are. Standing in one long line after another, sleep deprived, tummy rumbling, temper flaring and your kids are screaming. Your credit card debt is exponentially rising and your anxiety is chugging along at full steam. To top it off, you missed out on the item you wanted most. It’s Black Friday and by the look on your face, the day just isn’t going your way. So you give Cyber Monday a shot only to find more disappointment because you’re not scoring your expected deals.

It doesn’t have to be this way! There are strategies to help you prepare for the year’s biggest shopping days — making them enjoyable while maintaining your financial (and mental) well-being. Kick off your holiday season successfully by following these guidelines for your Black Friday adventures and Cyber Monday clicks.

Do pay using secure methods.

These shopping days can be a big target for thieves, so leave your debit card at home to keep your Checking Account funds protected. When in person, you can pay with cash instead. Just keep your wallet in a cross-body bag or similar solution to keep it from getting left behind, dropped or stolen. Your credit card is another great option. You’ll be protected by Visa’s Zero Liability policy, should your number be compromised — plus you’ll have the opportunity to earn rewards on your purchases if you choose your card wisely. Just have a plan to pay your balance in full immediately.

Don’t spend more on your credit card than you can pay off in full immediately.

As we mentioned earlier, it’s smart to use a credit card when shopping during the holidays to protect your money and to earn rewards. But it isn’t so smart to charge up debt on your credit card that you have no immediate plan to pay off. Do you really want to spend your spring digging yourself out of debt? Of course not! That’s the time to be saving for your epic summer vacation instead.

Do make a plan ahead of time.

To get the best deals and experience less stress, start with a comprehensive plan. Research which retailers are offering the items you want at a price you can afford. Prepare a budget outlining how much you can spend. Know which stores and websites you’ll visit and in what order. Lastly, don’t forget to have a backup plan. That way when the items you want sell out, you won’t be too disappointed because you’ll already know your next move.

Don’t be fooled by marketing tactics like false benchmarking.

Retailers know that shoppers like you love scoring great deals, and if you think you’re getting a huge discount you’re likely to rationalize overspending. This is one reason some retailers inflate the retail ticket price before marking it down. This is known as false benchmarking, and it’s done to make you believe that the item you’re buying is worth a lot more than what you’re spending.

Do calculate time spent versus the savings you gained.

Your time is valuable and should be treated that way. If you’re waiting in one line for several hours to save $50, you may be selling yourself short. Think about it. What’s your time worth to you? Is it $10 an hour or more? Calculate this the same way you would your pay: hours spent waiting in line multiplied by how much you think your time is worth. You just might find the advertised savings doesn’t outweigh the cost of your time spent in line.

Don’t get caught up in the hype.

Avoid getting caught up in the “need to have it” mentality for the year’s most popular gifts. It could have you paying three to four times and item’s worth. Exhibit some patience and eventually, the item will become available. If it happens to be on family member’s list and it’s not available by the holiday, look for an alternative or give that person a gift card that they can use to buy the item once it’s available.

Do come prepared for a long day.

Proper self-care can minimize stress, poor judgment and overspending. So dress comfortably, bring snacks and stay hydrated. Also, remember to take frequent breaks and don’t forget to eat. Consider packing a lunch with your leftover turkey in a cooler, so you can enjoy a quiet, cost-saving meal that’s away from the crowds. After all, late November is usually quite pleasant in Central Florida.

Don’t forget to diversify your list between the two shopping days.

The deals on Black Friday vs. Cyber Monday are not created equal. Some items are better deals on Friday while others are better to buy on Monday. For example, large appliances, large electronics, books and music are typically great buys on Black Friday. While Cyber Monday’s best deals usually include toys, apparel and small appliances.

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