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Don't fall into the Black Friday trap this year

In another week, we will see the annual crush of consumerism, ironically only hours after giving thanks for what we already have. In 2015, it's estimated that 205 million shoppers crowded into retail stores all over the country on Black Friday, battling for discounted merchandise and running up their credit cards.

While not exactly a true "bait and switch," as the stores do offer a limited number of deeply-discounted items for sale to a few lucky customers, it is still a sales gimmick. Once you've waited for hours (or even days!) in a long line and gotten into the store, you will probably wind up spending your money on something, even if the discounts have already been snapped up.

This is precisely where some consumers run into trouble. In their desire to create the perfect holiday and score the best deals in town, they wind up spending too much and overextending their credit. Some even get to the point of being unable to pay all of their debts.

What should they do instead?

There is nothing wrong with bargain hunting, and ideally this is something consumers can do all year long instead of trying to cram it all into an orgy of buying over one or two days. Some research suggests that flat-screen TVs are reduced more right before the Super Bowl airs than on Black Friday, just as jewelry gets discounted more right after Valentine's Day.

If you absolutely have to have a big-ticket item and plan on shopping on Black Friday, set yourself some budget parameters first. Determine before leaving home what you can afford to spend and don't spend a penny more.

If you still find yourself in a financial crisis, it might be time to learn about your options concerning filing for bankruptcy.

Source: The Motley Fool, "Is Black Friday a Scam?," Maurie Backman, Nov. 13, 2016

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