In about a week and half millions of Americans will have finished their turkey dinner, watching football, and being with their loved ones to continue an all too familiar tradition for Americans: Black Friday. Black Friday is really a misnomer because more and more retailers are opening late on Thanksgiving day. Toys-R-Us will be open at 4pm, Target at 6pm, and a whole host of other stores will be open. My mother-in-law, bless her heart, has to work on Thanksgiving.
People who venture out on Thanksgiving or stand out line in the weather outside of stores at midnight are looking for those doorbuster deals. You know the ones where you can a TV for $50 or a watch for $20 or a computer for $100 or whatever it is. Most of those deals are extremely limited. Very few people actually get those really cheap TVs, computers, and other electronics. Instead they have to deal with what, on the surface, looks like a great deal. I mean Black Friday and its companion Cyber Monday are the best times of the year to shop right? WRONG!
Wake up America! The Black Friday mega-deal is largely a MYTH. A lot of the things you buy during the holiday season are actually cheaper in March, over the summer or in the short months prior to Black Friday. In fact, some retailers actually begin to raise their prices as Black Friday approaches and then drop the price down to where it was months before, giving you the facade of a deal.
The Wall Street Journal, in a fantastic article, a couple of years ago wrote a piece entitled “The Myth of the Black Friday Deal.” You can reference it here. In essence, this article, plus several articles I found in researching this blog post point out what a lot consumers don’t know: that many of the deals for Black Friday are a myth. In fact, many items get more expensive as the holiday season goes on.
And I don’t necessarily blame retailers. I mean their job is to sell products. For many retailers their profits are dependent upon a strong holiday season. For some retailers, 25 to 30% of their revenue will come over a four week period. That said, it is also important to know that that great deal you thought you were getting you might actually have gotten a better one six months ago.
How can you deal with these myths?
First, make sure that you have a shopping list that doesn’t fluctuate much. A lot of items that are last minute (e.g. watches) are actually pricier closer to Christmas than say in March. If you want to buy that special someone a watch you might want to look for deals earlier in the year.
Second, do your research and a lot of it. There are tons of articles on the internet that will tell you what kinds of products you shouldn’t and you should buy on Black Friday such as here and here. Household items like mixers, blenders, and the like might actually be cheaper during the holiday season, but things like laptops actually get cheaper in January.
Third, resist the temptation to go out on Thanksgiving or Black Friday or Cyber Monday. There is plenty of time to shop and just because we have designated those days as the prime shopping times doesn’t mean you have to follow the crowd. If you are trying to save money then these may not be the best days to shop at Christmas. Depending on the strength of the holiday season you may actually get the best deals about a week before Christmas.
Finally, think about giving a gift that will offer experiences instead of stuff. I fully admit this Christmas I will probably ask for some stuff. Most specifically some tennis shoes, a new computer bag (mine is literally falling apart), a couple of shirts, and other stuff. However, I would much rather give people experiences than stuff. For the past few years I have tried to give gifts like concert tickets, wine baskets, cable TV (yes I gave that to my parents), restaurant gift cards, etc. To me those things are more important or gift cards to specific stores like Barnes and Noble because they let you obtain an experience or some kind of knowledge, which will last you much longer than more stuff to crowd your apartment. I love to get things where I can gain some knowledge like a book or movie tickets. Last year Mrs. ROB, for my birthday, gave me some political memorabilia she found at an auction. It wasn’t expensive, but I LOVED IT. I love politics. I research on politics. Politics is a part of who I am and Mrs. ROB got that for me. I would much rather have that or something that she created than socks or other items, which I can buy myself.
Remember the purpose of this blog is to not only discuss my own personal finance journey, but hopefully to enlighten and educate others and for me to be continually educated. I have come to realize that the most important thing we have is time. Just today my family got some terrible news about my uncle and his cancer returning. It looks like he might only have weeks or just days left. Time is the MOST precious thing we have. Why waste it on stuff? He who dies with the most toys still dies.
The Bottom Line: I am not saying that you can’t get some deals on Black Friday, but the idea that you get these stellar deals is a myth. Often retailers will actually raise prices prior to Black Friday and even during the holiday season. If you are going to shop that is fine, but be smart about it. Do your research and if that means you stay home I would much rather cuddle up to my wife and our dog than deal with the tramping of thousands of people. I will get that later in the holiday season.
P.S. I think it is an absolute shame that we now can shop on Thanksgiving. I am proud to say that I lived in Massachusetts for 10 years, the only state which mandates that shops cannot open on Thanksgiving. Frankly, every state should have that law. We should be able to have one day, just one day that doesn’t focus on consumerism.