Tips for Black Friday shoppers

Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Southern Oregon reminds consumers not to get too amped up when storming through doors on Black Friday and subsequent Holiday shopping forays

The local consumer guidance outfit has a five-point checklist to ease the financial stress:

Do not carry your checkbook or more credit cards than you will use during that shopping trip. If your wallet is lost or stolen, this will limit the damage. Make a copy of the front and back of all credit cards, and put the list in a safe place at home. In an emergency, you will have easy access to a list of all your cards, the account numbers, and the bank's Customer Service number to report the incident.

Do not carry large amounts of cash. Even if you are committed to paying for your purchases with cash, be aware that pick-pockets take advantage of crowded areas and distracted people. Instead, make frequent trips to the ATM to replenish your stash of cash. Consider using your debit card for transactions, being sure to hang onto receipts and record in your check register to avoid overdrafts.

Do not shop while in a hurry or at the last minute. You'll end up spending more than you should simply to be able to mark the item off your list. Block out a specific time for shopping. Make your first trip a leisurely one, simply getting an idea of what's available and at what price. Take notes, and once back at home, get organized for the actual buying adventure.

Do not shop without a list. Make your list specific. Don't just include the names of those for whom you need to purchase a gift, but also include the specific item you're looking for, and most importantly, the amount you intend to spend. Simply having an overall holiday budget floating around in your head doesn't cut it. Without a plan, you'll likely get caught up in the hype and overspend.

Do not pile new debt on top of old. Some people are still paying for 2009 holiday expenses as they enter the 2010 buying season. Don't make your financial situation worse by being one of them. Think about it, you're buying for friends and relatives who will be the first to understand if you need to cut back. If you are in a tenuous financial situation, it will only be made worse through irresponsible spending.

When all is said and done, most people can't recall what they received last Christmas. A heartfelt note, expressing how much your loved ones and friends mean to you will be a treasured gift remembered for years to come.

— Greg Stiles

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