With bellies full of Thanksgiving turkey, many Arkansans quickly turn their attention to Christmas shopping as Black Friday beckons. Do homework to avoid financial traps, expert says.


Smart shoppers can take advantage of the sales by following a few helpful guidelines and avoid the financial pitfalls of poor planning and impulse buys that can quickly sink holiday budgets, said Laura Hendrix, associate professor of personal finance and consumer economics at the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service.


Regular prices or sale prices


“Advertisers will work really hard to appeal to emotions,” Hendrix said.


She recommends that shoppers educate themselves as to the regular prices of items so they know for sure that advertised savings are real. Shoppers should also compare prices and shop around for big-ticket items.


What makes Black Friday such an attraction for holiday shoppers?


“Some shoppers really want to save but others really want to enjoy the event,” Hendrix said. “There is a little bit of a buzz. It can be rewarding or fun. It depends on what you are looking for on Black Friday.”


Although the Internet has certainly taken its share of holiday customers, for others, shopping online is a poor substitute for after-turkey trips to the mall. For these shoppers, Black Friday is a social event not to be missed.


She cautioned that retail outlets attract customers by marketing big savings on particular items, hoping that will lead customers to spend more buying items on impulse. She said those big-ticket items on sales are called “loss leaders” because the store will take a loss on those items on the hope they will lead to more purchases.


Great expectations


The holiday shopping season is critical to the bottom line of many retailers.


According to the National Retail Federation, holiday retail sales in November and December – excluding automobiles, gasoline and restaurants – are expected to increase between 3.6 and 4 percent for a total of $678.75 billion to $682 billion, up from $655.8 billion last year.


Individual consumers are projected to spend an average of $967.13, up 3.4 percent from last year.


“Sit down ahead of time and look at how much you want to spend for the entire holiday season so you know how much you safely spend on Black Friday,” Hendrix said. “In your holiday budget, include everything: travel, parties, holiday decorations, meals, travel, shopping on credit. Plan ahead by knowing the specific gifts you need to purchase on Black Friday.”


Most major retailers even open Thanksgiving evening. For a list of store hours see: https://www.theblackfriday.com/black-friday-store-hours.shtml


For more information about making smart consumer decisions, contact a county extension office, or visit www.uaex.edu.


The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without discrimination.


— Seth Blomeley is a correspondent with the U of A System Division of Agriculture.