Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, has become an American holiday shopping tradition, but not one that’s necessarily been positive.

Many retail businesses can have holiday sales make or break their revenue for the year, so having some good sales makes sense to get folks in their business. This also applies to Cyber Monday, which is the Monday after Thanksgiving weekend when many online retailers have holiday discounts. If you decide to explore Black Friday or Cyber Monday deals, going in with a plan makes sense.

We know people who tell you how much money they saved when they bought something at a reduced price but it was something they didn’t need. The same can happen with gift buying. One negative of buying a gift item on sale without a plan is that you might get something the recipient doesn’t want and won’t use. Even if you believe it’s the thought that counts, this isn’t what you want to do.

Make a list of who you’re going to give holiday gifts to and put several ideas down for each. If you don’t have specific gifts in mind, write down some things you know about each person — hobbies, reading interests, qualities you like about them. This can help you think about what they might enjoy, as well as help you recognize a good gift when you see it.

When in doubt, there’s always something that’s the right size and color — money. While you might feel that giving cash for a gift is impersonal, it also gives your friend or loved one the chance to get something they want and might not otherwise get for themselves.

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Generic gift cards through the major credit card companies can provide multiple alternatives. Or you can give something more specific, like a gift card to a specific store or restaurant. When making your gift selections, consider supporting locally owned and small businesses. Besides being an important part of our national economy, they are vital to our local economy, too.

The gift of personal services from you can be a big hit. These gifts will be easy on your budget and are often more appreciated by the receiver than something you paid for. Great ideas include home-cooked meals, babysitting or pet sitting, cleaning or help with organizing, helping someone move (you really need to like that person a lot) or running errands, to name a few. This can be an opportunity to give something very thoughtful to someone you know well.

No matter what you decide to do for gift giving, putting yourself into a bad financial situation won’t be worth it to anyone who cares about you.

If you’re feeling a bit stressed about 2022 holiday gift ideas, start working on your 2023 gift list now. And look for bargains and creative ideas all year.

Linda Leitz is a business columnist and certified financial planner. She can be reached at

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