Black Friday Offers Deals if Americans Stick to Lists, Budgets

Most Hit Stores on Black Friday Without Holiday Shopping Budget

Date: November 16, 2010
Contact: Paul Golden 303-224-3514, [email protected]

DENVER—Half the country plans to rise early and crowd stores in search of holiday shopping deals on Black Friday this year, according to new data from the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE). A November online poll commissioned by NEFE and conducted by Harris Interactive finds 51 percent of U.S. adults who plan to do holiday shopping this year plan to shop on Black Friday.

“It’s going to be the biggest Black Friday of our lifetime [in numbers of shoppers],” says retail analyst Britt Beemer, chief executive of America’s Research Group.

Smart Holiday Shopping Tips

  • Stick to a budget. Make a list not only of gifts but all expected holiday expenses, including decorations, entertaining, new clothes for parties and travel expenses. Do not exceed your preset limits.
  • Make a list and check it twice. List all family members, friends and co-workers for whom you plan to buy gifts. Ask yourself if you really need to buy for everyone or if a card or other gesture, such as baking muffins, would suffice.
  • Shop carefully. Check circulars, coupons, catalogs and the Internet for the best prices. If you find a deal online, check added shipping costs before you buy. Be selective. Once you have purchased a gift for someone, cross them off your list. Avoid adding last-minute impulse items just to make your gift seem more meaningful.
  • Make concessions. To maintain your budget, you may have to cut down your list of gift recipients. Be selective about what parties you will attend. Consider the costs of gift wrap and sending holiday cards. Try creating an online card with a family photo that you can e-mail to friends and family.
  • Look toward next year. Although it’s a little late this year, remember, holiday spending is a recurring expense. Consider picking up deals on known expenses like wrapping paper this Dec. 26. Establish a savings account that you regularly contribute to throughout the year. Ask your bank about setting up a designated account that money can be transferred to automatically.

The NEFE-Harris poll found that Black Friday shoppers expect to accomplish, on average, 30 percent of their holiday shopping on Black Friday, contributing to what the National Retail Federation predicts will be a 2.3 percent increase in holiday sales this year to $447 billion. Many retailers would have Americans believe Black Friday is the best day to score deals. And in some cases, that is true.

“Last year, when the Black Friday door busters were gone, you couldn’t find those items at a lower price the rest of the season,” Beemer says. “Consumers remember that.”

But on Black Friday, many retailers count on deep discounts on specific products to attract shoppers who buy those—as well as higher-profit items.

“Unplanned purchases and impulse buys during the holidays aren’t always bad,” says Paul Golden, spokesperson for NEFE. “So long as you keep your budget in check and try to save extras for last.”

But many Americans are shopping without a plan.

Going in Unprepared

The NEFE-Harris poll found that 69 percent of adults who plan on holiday shopping do not set a budget. What’s more, 22 percent of adults planning to shop on Black Friday do not know what they will buy. Without a budget or a list, the holiday music and sale signs can get the best of you. While nearly 31 percent of those who plan on holiday shopping say they do not spend more than they want, 11 percent admit they go overboard.

“Most Americans know that they will be spending heavily during the holidays, and without a plan, that spending can quickly spiral out of control,” says Golden.

Even with a list, holiday shopping temptations cause some consumers to stray.

“Before Black Friday, we comparison shop online and with circulars,” says Diane Fitzgerald of Philadelphia.

Fitzgerald and her husband typically buy half their holiday gifts on Black Friday, toys being their top priority. But Fitzgerald admits while she saves money on Black Friday, sometimes she gets extra things that aren’t on her list.

Plan and Research Ahead

Whether you shop on Black Friday or at other times during the holidays, start with a budget and list of people for whom you’ll give gifts, and try your best to stick to that list. Also, do your research. If a big-ticket electronics item is on your list, Black Friday likely is your best day to buy, Beemer says. But for items priced around $100 or less, he adds, the best specials will be the week before Christmas.

Nearly half, 47 percent, of adults who plan to shop on Black Friday say they will buy electronics, such as TVs and computers, according to the NEFE-Harris poll. In addition, 46 percent plan to buy clothes, 38 percent plan to buy toys and 27 percent plan to buy home goods such as linens and small appliances.

Although big-box stores will be filled with eager shoppers on Black Friday, don’t worry about them selling out of all the best gifts. Aside from the heavily promoted must-have toys and electronics, Beemer doesn’t expect retailers to sell out of much on Black Friday. After that weekend, store traffic will slow down at least through mid-December, he says.

Think Outside the (Big) Box

Adrienne Yang of Moraga, Calif., stays away from stores the day after Thanksgiving. Throughout the season, she finds one-of-a-kind gifts at craft fairs and warehouse sales, which usually feature a variety of merchants.

“I save more than going to regular retail stores and so-called ‘outlets,’ because I can find unusual products or homemade food items that don't cost much,” she says. Yang also makes it at least halfway through her list before Black Friday arrives.

Still, Yang’s daughters have specific requests for toys and clothes she won’t find at those sales. In that case, Yang shops online, where she compares prices among retailers and visits a few deal-oriented sites—such as and —before she clicks to make a purchase.

Yang also rarely buys until shipping is free, because shipping costs often offset the markdown offered. With retail giants such as Wal-Mart already offering free shipping on much of its store and plenty of other online retailers participating in Cyber Monday (the Monday after Thanksgiving) and free shipping day (December 17), online shoppers can secure deals throughout the season.

Shopping online can help you save in other ways, too.

“You aren’t spending money on gas driving from store to store and you don’t need to take time off work or arrange for child care, because you can shop online day or night,” says Golden.

For additional holiday shopping tips, visit

Survey Methodology

The survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of National Endowment for Financial Education from November 4-8, 2010, among 2,738 adults ages 18 and older. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, click here.

[Any reference to a specific company, commercial product, process or service does not constitute or imply an endorsement or recommendation by the National Endowment for Financial Education.]



  • Paul Golden

    Media Relations Director

    Direct: 303-224-3514
    Cell: 303-918-3620
    [email protected]