Shopping smart can have big payoff


The dinner table on Thanksgiving isn’t the only place people splurge during the holiday season.

A large number of Americans were up well before dawn this morning, looking for once-a-year specials promoted by stores eager to jump-start the Christmas season’s economic activity. In fact, Black Friday, as it is known, is quickly stretching into a “Gray Thursday,” with many stores opening at the stroke of midnight on Thanksgiving night and others even earlier.

The competition for consumer dollars is keen, especially in recent years.

One thing that we hope folks in our region will do is shop locally as much as possible. The merchants who own local stores are employing local people and paying local taxes. It’s a win-win when these stores have a healthy bottom line. The Saturday after Thanksgiving is promoted as a day to shop locally, but there’s no reason not to go ahead and visit those stores, often operated and manned by friends and neighbors, today.

But we also hope folks will shop smart. A little planning can go a long way toward getting maximum value for your dollar while helping you to not over-extend during a time when it’s particularly easy to get caught up in the spirit of the season.

There are some commonsense things you can do to make your shopping experience better:

— Do research on where the best deals are and when you figure the cost, don’t forget to add in the gas you’ll use to get here and there;

— Be aware of who you’re dealing with. Learn about the store’s customer service record and check them out on the bbb.org website;

— Some deals are literally too good to be true and are just lures to get you in so that a salesman can switch you to a higher-priced item. That’s another good reason to shop locally with business people you can trust;

— Find out what the store’s return and exchange policy is before you make the purchase, particularly a Black Friday special. The sales items may have some specific rules in that regard;

— Be aware of your surroundings when you’re going to and from your car. And make sure you’re never so over-burdened with packages that an assailant will take you for an easy robbery target.

Planning and being aware can be a good combination for making holiday shopping less stressful. And remember: Some of the best deals are right here at home.