I love savings, deals and discounts. I understand the satisfying buzz of buying an item that’s 50 percent off.
So you might assume that I love Black Friday, the most discount-driven day of the year. But I don’t. In fact, I take great pride in avoiding holiday sales.
Black Friday is marketed as a frugal person’s best friend. In reality, it’s a ‘frenemy’ – a toxic, negative influence that’s disguised as a positive.
Avoiding Black Friday, Cyber Monday and other holiday sales is an effective strategy to help you stick to your money-saving goals. Turn off the TV, stay away from stores and don’t read the advertisements.
Sound counterintuitive? I know. But here’s why…
Sales trigger additional spending
How often have you made impulse purchases at a yard sale, thrift store or clearance rack?
How many times have you thought, ‘I wouldn’t buy this at full price. But at 60% off, I can’t resist?’
How many of those impulse items are cluttering your home, collecting dust?
Retailers don’t offer Black Friday sales out of the goodness of their hearts. They reduce prices because they understand that discounts trigger additional purchases.
People are more likely to whip out their wallets when they believe they’re getting a great deal. People are also more likely to make impulsive choices when they think the markdown is a limited-time offer.
Discounts cause people to spend more money than they otherwise would. You might not be interested in buying an Apple Watch at full price. But if you can snag one with a $100 discount, you’d consider it.
You wouldn’t buy a 55-inch TV at full price. But if it’s 30 percent off, you’ll think about picking one up.
And if both the watch and TV are discounted for only one day (or one weekend), you won’t have the luxury of contemplating your decision. You’ll buy the item on-the-spot, reasoning that you can return these items if you change your mind.
But of course, you wind up keeping your purchases. And then you realize that you spent several hundred dollars more than you’d budgeted for.
True, you got a great deal. But the best deal of all is saving 100 percent – because you didn’t buy any unnecessary items in the first place.
‘But I can’t afford the item without the sale.’
I’ve written several articles and appeared on numerous podcasts to offer my avoid-Black-Friday holiday advice.
One of the most common objections that I hear comes from people who say they couldn’t afford to buy the item unless it’s on sale.
‘What should I do,’ they’ll ask, ‘if I couldn’t afford it otherwise?’
You have an even stronger reason to save your money, I reply. Use your cash to build an emergency fund, repay debt or save for retirement, rather than buying discretionary holiday items.
You’re not going to find sales on prescription medication on Black Friday. The items that are discounted are purely discretionary: clothes, electronics, handbags. Save your precious dollars for more important goals if your budget is tight.
‘But these are gifts!’
The other common objection comes from people who protest that they’re buying gifts. How can I possibly advise them to skimp on gifts? Am I really that much of a Scrooge?
The underlying premise is that spending money is an expression of love. The more you spend, the more virtuous you are. But that’s an incorrect idea.
In reality, your family and friends should understand that your generosity shouldn’t conflict with your values. If smart money management is a priority, then you should give gifts within that framework.
Tell your family and friends that you’re setting an upper limit on the value of gifts – perhaps $10 or $20 per person – and in return, you request that they only give you a gift that’s worth $10 or $20 as well. Then give them something that’s heartfelt, rather than expensive: a plate of made-from-scratch cookies, for example, or a ‘certificate’ for five hours of babysitting.
You may enjoy sales because you feel like you’re saving money. But the ultimate money-saving exercise is staying away from stores, buying less, and opting out of the holiday craze.
This Black Friday, spend a day hanging out with your loved ones instead of waiting in line at the store. Your wallet will thank you.
For more money-saving advice, see our Money section.