Black Fri­day, or the black month af­ter Thanks­giv­ing

New Haven Register (Sunday) (New Haven, CT) - - BUSINESS - JOSEPH MATTHEWS Joseph Matthews is a Fi­nan­cial Ad­vi­sor with the Wealth Man­age­ment Divi­sion of Mor­gan Stan­ley in Fair­field. He can be reached at 203-319-5165 or by email at [email protected] mor­gans­tan­ Fol­low Joe on Twit­ter @jmatthewsMS.

The day af­ter Thanks­giv­ing is tra­di­tion­ally called “Black Fri­day” be­cause it is the start of the time of the year when most re­tail­ers “go into the black” and start mak­ing a profit.

The hol­i­day sea­son didn’t used to last as long as it now does, of­ten ex­tend­ing through the con­sec­u­tive weeks. Given the du­ra­tion of the hol­i­day spend­ing sea­son, the Black Fri­day moniker ac­tu­ally could be as­signed to the full month be­tween Thanks­giv­ing and Christ­mas Day.

And it’s clear con­sumers are not fin­ished spend­ing. Even though sales of some lux­ury goods seem to have slowed a bit, likely a re­sult of the volatil­ity in the stock mar­ket, the Na­tional Re­tail Fed­er­a­tion, for ex­am­ple, is pre­dict­ing that over­all hol­i­day re­tail sales will be up 4.3 per­cent to 4.8 per­cent over last year. Some fi­nan­cial an­a­lysts see off-price re­tail same­store sales up 1.9 per­cent year-over-year this hol­i­day sea­son, bet­ter than spe­cialty re­tail or depart­ment stores.

Yet higher in­creased sales and wider mar­gins aren’t the only things driving in­creased spend­ing. Con­sumers say they will spend an av­er­age of $1,007.24 this year, ac­cord­ing to the an­nual sur­vey put out by the Na­tional Re­tail Fed­er­a­tion. That’s up 4.1 per­cent from the $967.13 con­sumers said they would spend when sur­veyed at the same time last year.

While over­all con­fi­dence in the econ­omy is high, there have been con­cerns that on­line sales di­vert shop­pers away from re­tail out­lets. Many re­tail­ers, how­ever, are adapt­ing their busi­ness mod­els to be com­pet­i­tive, via dig­i­tal.

It gets very tempt­ing to join the crowds and try to get some bar­gains — bar­gains that seem to be on­go­ing through­out the days af­ter Thanks­giv­ing. But be­fore you head to the malls, keep these points in mind: 1 Take with you a list of the peo­ple for whom you want to buy gifts, and a price range for each. Keep track of your spend­ing.

1 Con­sider us­ing your phone to com­pare the prices from store to store.

1 Check each store’s re­turn pol­icy and make sure you get a gift re­ceipt.

1 And col­lect those coupons! News­pa­pers are chock-full of dis­count coupons these days. There are prob­a­bly at least a few valid at stores you were plan­ning to visit any­way.

And, if you are shop­ping for elec­tron­ics, con­sider buy­ing last year’s model. There may be a sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ent in price with very few dif­fer­ence in ei­ther qual­ity or fea­tures. Also, con­sider a gift of an ex­pe­ri­ence. Craft-re­lated ex­pe­ri­ences are in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar, for ex­am­ple. Restau­rant gift cards are an easy option, too.

Giv­ing thought­ful presents is part of the hol­i­day tra­di­tion. Just don’t overdo it. Not sur­pris­ing, a re­cent re­port said that 66 mil­lion Amer­i­cans will go into debt be­cause of hol­i­day spend­ing. The study found that $599 will be the amount av­er­age Amer­i­cans will spend on gifts this year.

But if you do some ad­vance plan­ning, set­ting a re­al­is­tic bud­get, you may well be able to avoid in­creas­ing debt while at the same time hav­ing the right gifts for the peo­ple you care most about.

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