The four days that follow Thanksgiving are dangerous — and not because of the second helping of leftovers you manage to justify at each meal. While the large container of macaroni calls your name from its place in the fridge, it isn’t the real test of the long weekend. Your true mission, should you choose to accept it, is resisting those Black Friday deals and Cyber Monday sales.

Resistance isn’t easy — what with your favorite stores bombing your inbox with reminders of their Thanksgiving promotions and targeted ads peppering the sides of every website you visit. Everywhere you look, there’s a temptation to overspend. But breaking your budget isn’t a foregone conclusion of the long weekend when you prepare for the holidays properly. You can participate in the biggest sales of the year without breaking the bank if you follow this guide. From organizing your finances to knowing how to identify a scam, these tricks will help you protect your budget from the worst of Thanksgiving.

Be honest with yourself

Last year, more than 174 million Americans took a break from giving thanks to charging their credit cards, with digital shoppers spending $5 billion on Black Friday and $6.59 billion on Cyber Monday.

You can promise not to spend a single penny over the Thanksgiving weekend but what would be the point in the face of these figures? The data suggests you’re likely going to shop.

While admirable, this goal is unrealistic. It’s also a reckless promise. When you lie to yourself about your resolve to ignore rock-bottom prices, your finances won’t be prepared for when you finally cave and snag some of these sales. Being honest with yourself can help you avoid trouble with your finances.

Know your limits — use a budget!

The above rule doesn’t give you carte blanche to spend as much as you want as long as you’re honest about it. You’re still bound by your finances to spend a responsible amount on the holiday, regardless of how amazing the deals are. Going into the holiday blind is risky, as you won’t know what you can realistically spend on Black Friday or Cyber Monday without jeopardizing your finances.  

A budget helps defines the limits of your spending, so you know when to add a deal to your shopping cart and when to let it go. If you aren’t sure how to make a budget that shows you how much you can afford to spend on the holidays, you aren’t out of luck. There are resources online like Investopedia’s tutorial and these money management apps that help you create and stick to your budget.

Make a list and check it twice

If it works for the big man himself then a list will work for you, too. Santa, after all, has to keep track of more than 526,000,000 children on Christmas, according to the crack statistics team at The Atlantic. Luckily, your holiday shopping list is much smaller, whatever you celebrate.

No matter how long or short it is, a list is a great organizational tool that supports your budget. It helps you tamp down on the impulse to grab items you don’t need if you stick with only those things on your list.

Know a scam from a sale

Some too-good-to-be-true deals are exactly that. It’s important you know how to identify the fake deals from legitimate ones. In most cases, you only need to employ your common sense to protect your wallet from a scam.

In 2017, the most popular scam around the holidays was an offer for a free iPhone X — a phone that usually retails for $1,000. There was no way Apple was going to give these away for free as a Thanksgiving or Christmas promotion, especially since it was just released that same year.

Not all scammers are so brazen. Others rely on more sophisticated means of deception. They’ll send emails with a recognizable brand’s letterhead with modest deals. The only thing that sets them apart from legitimate emails is the URL in the links they use — instead of linking you to your favorite website, they’ll send you to a compromised site.

Be careful with how you shop at any time of the year by sticking to these rules:

    • Check the sender of any promotional emails
    • Don’t click any links that send you to an unfamiliar website
    • Cross-check new brands by reading online reviews
  • Make sure websites have the appropriate verified security certificates before you enter your financial information

Have a backup plan

Even with a game plan in place, it’s easy to let the spirit of the holidays take a ride with your wallet. When this happens, your overspending at the till can throw your entire household budget into flux and leave you unprepared for any surprise bill or repair that comes your way this winter. Though rare, these expenses can happen. They’re harder to pay at a time like the holidays when your cash is tied up with the festivities.

By following the tips above, you’re already in a better position than most. However, responsible money management means you’re prepared for any eventuality, and that includes needing a Plan B. You should know how you’d handle an emergency that you can’t cover on your own — like an unexpected trip to the vet when you cat eats Christmas ribbon.

Fast-acting installments loans are an increasingly popular way for overextended Americans to cover these kinds of short-term emergencies. You can find them online from a company like MoneyKey that values easy funding and an efficient service. Online lenders facilitate a hassle-free option that makes it easy to borrow money online. Their online platform works on a faster timeline than conventional financial assistance. An installment loan is an ideal crutch for when you can’t afford to wait on a traditional bank to review or service your application.

The nature of a Plan B is that it’s meant to be a backup if your first attempts don’t work out. Plan A for the Thanksgiving weekend is to shop within your limits. Thanksgiving marks the start of the holiday shopping season, and you’ll need to spare every cent to cover it and the festivities that follow. Though it may seem daunting, you can do it by remembering these tips as you continue to prepare for the holidays.

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