It is a sad commentary on our culture when not only are people willing to trample and hurt each other to scramble for what is perceived to be a “good deal” but when such trampling is glorified by the media. (Crazy people drive ratings, and ratings drive large advertising profits for the media!)
No one ever saved money by spending money. Whether because of the economic downturn or due to more media focus on the art of bargain hunting, being able to clip coupons or respond to advertisements touting low prices is now considered a “skill” worthy of attention. Saving money is an important part of building a solid future, but the idea that saving $500 off a high-definition television or finding two years’ worth of toilet paper for $10 is going to move anyone towards that goal is just plain ignorance.
You save money by not spending it. That’s the only guaranteed method of giving yourself the freedom of not needing to worry about your financial situation in the future. That isn’t to say you should never spend money, but it is imperative to recognize that every spending choice requires a decision. With every decision, weigh the financial consequences.
Yes — you could save $500 on an HDTV by beating down the crowd, grabbing the box, and running to the cashier. But you could save much more than $500 by buying a television that was considered cutting-edge just one year ago. You could save more than $500 by waiting a few months for when the new models come out and today’s model is discounted even more. You could save more than $500 by keeping the same television you’ve had that has been working perfectly for the last few years. Sure, there’s something to be said for upgrading your equipment once in a while, but it’s better to do so when you’re not under the perceived pressure that retailers create during the Black Friday frenzy.
The more I see videos of shoppers acting like idiots when stores open the Black Friday gates, the more I lean towards supporting Buy Nothing Day. It’s not a logical response; someone determined to spend $2,000 for himself and another $2,000 for holiday gifts, postponing the purchases until after Black Friday doesn’t have an effect (other than possibly avoiding stressful shopping situations and mobs of death).
Shopping online on Black Friday (or Cyber Monday) is one way to avoid the madness of humanity on this shopping day. In past years, retailers did not properly support their websites, so online shoppers faced frustration when trying to purchase items from popular stores, but these companies have since learned how to prepare their online storefronts for waves of traffic from shoppers’ computers. If you’re going to shop on this crazy day, at least do it from the comfort of your own home (or office on Monday).
Do not obsess yourself with hunting for these deals. For the most part, it’s smoke-and-mirrors and bait-and-switch, to the extent it’s legal, though some retailers are fine pushing the boundaries of false advertising during the holiday season. You’re not doing yourself any favors in the long run regardless of what deals you think you’re getting. At best, you’re getting a good feeling of winning, beating the retailers, or doing something exclusive. These are just psychological mind tricks and you have done nothing to help your long-term financial condition.
If you like finding deals, acknowledge you’re doing it because you like the game, and you’re attracted by the satisfaction, not because it’s a healthy financial skill or an approach to life that will leave you financially better off.
Deal seeking has grown into a huge industry, as I mentioned when I wrote about the hoax of Black Friday. I’ve been writing here at Consumerism Commentary for almost ten years, and many times so-called “experts” in what has become a business of creating successful advertising-based websites in the financial arena have encouraged me to set up an area of this website for the “best deals” or coupons with information fed to the site from advertisers. There are many websites that operate this way, and I have nothing against them or those who operate them, but with my feelings about the detrimental effects of deal-seeking, it was not something I could not do in good conscience.
I’d like to think that most, if not all, Consumerism Commentary readers who do line up outside stores on Black Friday do not trample other people or yell or fight. While not everyone may agree with me about the futility of this kind of deal shopping from a long-term perspective, from the feedback I’ve received over the past decade, most of the community considers financial consequences to spending decisions and isn’t as swayed by deal-focused advertising as the average American consumer.
It’s fine if you want to go shopping on Black Friday. Keep this in mind:
- Don’t hurt yourself or anyone else.
- Be respectful of the employees who have to work at the stores and deal with inconsiderate adults acting like children.
- Recognize the deal you may be getting isn’t that good of a deal.
- Accept you’re not doing yourself of your family as much as a financial favor you think you are.
Published or updated November 23, 2012.