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Be careful with those 'bargains'

Coupons plus holiday hype can equal big budgetary blunders.

By Donna_Freedman Nov 12, 2010 11:16AM
All this Black Friday and Cyber Monday buzz is making me dizzy. I feel a song coming on. A snide song, sung to the tune of "Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!"

Well, the calendar says November
Christmas follows in December
Since buying's no longer a chore
Spend some more! Spend some more! Spend some more!

Oh, what the heck, one more verse:

The Black Friday ads are leaking
Kids their long gift lists are speaking
And the merchants can't wait to score
Spend some more! Spend some more! Spend some more!

That wasn't a very good parody, but I hope you get my point. It's the same point made (without lyrics) by PF blogger Flexo in a post called "Black Friday onslaught: Truly frugal holidays."

"Coupons plus holiday hype is very successful for encouraging more people to spend money," writes the Consumerism Commentary blogger.

"Overall, the more you involve yourself with coupons and deal-finders, the less money you'll have in your bank account. This is not frugality."

Good sense does sometimes go out the window when it comes to coupons and sales. I've heard people brag about how much they've saved. Well, yeah, except that you had to spend in order to do it.

A frugal tool

Naturally there are exceptions. If your kids' ankles are showing below the cuffs of their jeans, by all means take advantage of hot holiday deals. Some of them are better than clothing swaps or consignment or thrift stores.
The sales are also a good time to buy something you'd budgeted for -- and if you've done your research, you'll know whether the BF/CM deals are any good. For example, I'm finally going to buy myself a camera (a digital one! only 900 years after everyone else has done so!) and preliminary peeks at the ads show some very good prices.

Coupons aren't inherently evil. They're just tools that can be used well or badly.

"It is valid for those who intend on spending money to buy presents for friends and family to seek ways for spending less," Flexo notes.

But even those who've budgeted for holiday shopping need to be careful. Being in a store full of excited people and hearing holiday music over the loudspeaker can turn even a diehard frugalist into a puddle of sentimental overbuying consumer.

Personally, I wear earplugs on Black Friday. I'm not kidding.

Hang on to your dough

Here's my advice, and it's applicable whether you're buying for others, for their own list or for yourself: It's not a deal if you can’t afford it.

Here are a few more suggestions:
Keep your wits about you and you’ll keep more of your money in your pocket.

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