Anyone familiar with seasonal shopping in the US probably knows that Black Friday is coming up. It is the day after Thanksgiving and marks the beginning of holiday shopping. This coming Friday, expect images of people storming through shopping malls and stores to land what’s perceived to be the year’s best bargains — everything from toasters to Xbox consoles and flat screens.

The psychology that drives this type of impulsive shopping probably costs people more than it saves for them. With little time to research offers and examine specifications and coupled with possibly some unnecessary purchases, people often end up buying more items than they intended or items that are not optimal to their requirements. Thankfully, many retailers now offer similar promotions online, which allow more space — both literally and figuratively — to shop and compare.

At the core of any successful shopping experience is the ability to pause, research and consider alternatives. In addition, avoiding impulse purchases is generally advisable. So here are some steps to keep in mind during seasonal sales.

Set the shopping list

Need a new refrigerator? Is the computer on its last legs? Office clothes are wearing out? Set a shopping list according to priorities and budget. Research prices to know how much you can afford spending on each item or category, and resist the temptation of making several upgrades on one item at the expense of another.

Adjust the shopping list based on what is expected to be on sale — or what you find to be on sale. For example, if there are major offers on electronics products, now is the time to replace that computer or television. Set aside the rest of the shopping list as well as the budget assigned to it.

Stay focused

When there are many offers around, it is easy to get confused. A cheaper price could mean a lower value, if you are not comparing apples to apples. So before jumping and grabbing what appears to be an excellent offer, review the details and fine print, including the returns policy and warranty on any major purchase. In addition, be sure to not overlook any red flags when it comes to open-box items.

Finally, every trip to a store could turn into a tempting experience to buy additional items. If running on a tight budget and have put all these efforts to save on the priority items, don’t offset your savings by picking up an unnecessary purchase, even if it appears to be an excellent bargain.

Shop online

Shopping online has many benefits, even if you end up buying from a brick-and-mortar store. Read the reviews, check specs and compare items without pressure. When shopping online, you might notice subtle differences, like on colour and model numbers, which are harder to capture in a busy store.

Keep an eye out for savings and additional costs, however. Savings could be in the form of coupons or codes for discounts. Additional costs could come with shipping and return costs.

In addition, always make sure to buy from a reliable online retailer to ensure the goods are original and new. If dealing with an unfamiliar website, read extensive, independent reviews before entering a credit card number or any other personal information. As with anything else, if it appears to be too good to be true, it probably is.

Once you have decided on what to buy, you can always check in at the local store to see if there are similar offers without the additional cost on shipping.

Rania Oteify, a former Gulf News Business Features Editor, is a Seattle-based editor.

Get ready for seasonal shopping

  • Know what you need to buy
  • Set a budget for your shopping
  • Shop and compare online; and
  • Don’t be tempted to buy extras