For many Americans, the final days of November mean only one thing: the beginning of the year’s greatest shopping frenzy. Black Friday and Cyber Monday bring with them great deals on holiday gifts, high-tech toys, and everyday items. There’s just one problem: as many as one third of consumers go over budget when holiday shopping, and it can be even harder to stick to your budget when you’re standing in the middle of a crowded store, caught up in the moment, face-to-face with big sales. If you’re worried about overspending on the biggest shopping days of the year, these strategies can make it easier to stick to your plan.

1. Set a Budget

Know how much money you have to spend. Ideally, you should determine how much you’re going to spend before the holiday season arrives, rather than waiting until Black Friday sales begin. It can also be helpful to decide how much money you want to spend on everybody on your list. If you go under budget in one area, then you may have a little extra to spend in another, but knowing how much you’re expecting to spend over the course of the day can help you avoid accidental overspending. Make sure that your budget includes everything that you will spend on those big shopping days.

2. Make a List

One of the hardest things about the Black Friday madness is wandering through a store filled with great deals and not knowing what to get. Making a shopping list that covers everything you plan to accomplish beforehand will help you stick to your set budget. This list should include:

  • For whom are you shopping?
  • What you’re planning to buy and alternatives in case your first choice doesn’t pan out
  • Prices for all of those important items, especially the ones that are selling at a deep discount
  • What stores you plan to visit
  • What time your stores open for holiday sales (including whether or not you’re going to try to be there when the doors open for specific doorbuster items)
  • What time the sales end

As you’re looking over your list, make sure you take the time to note how much you’re able to save by shopping on Black Friday or Cyber Monday. In some cases, the best deals may even happen before Black Friday, so be sure to keep your eyes open in the weeks leading up to it.

3. Carry Cash Only

If you’re worried that you’ll give in to overspending, forget the cards and only bring cash with you. This will prevent you from adding credit card debt: the average American with credit card debt can add more than $900 in holiday spending. Shopping with cash helps you visualize how much you’re spending and prevents you from pulling out your card for “just one more purchase” or going “just a little over” at each store.

4. Leave the Kids at Home

Going shopping with the kids is often a hazardous proposition during the holiday season. They see things that they want in every store, and what they don’t want for themselves, they want for someone else! If you must take the kids shopping on Black Friday, give them their own cash to use and don’t budge on the amount they’re allowed to spend.

5. Compare Prices Before You Shop

Before you dive in and make Black Friday and Cyber Monday purchases, make sure you take the time to compare prices at different stores. One store’s $10 deal could be offered for $5 at another store, and on big-ticket items, the difference can be even greater.

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