6 Tips for Avoiding the Black Friday Blues
“Black Friday.” To some, these two words conjure up feelings of anxiety and dread. Hordes of shoppers colliding in a frenzied mass of humanity—or inhumanity—each hell-bent on filling their cart with as much discounted holiday merchandise as possible before time or inventories run out.
To others, the thought of this color-coded weekday gets the competitive juices flowing. If you’re one of these types, you relish the notion of pitting your shopping prowess against others who think they’re going to take what’s rightfully yours before you can claim it. To you, Black Friday shopping is a contact sport you play to win, and you thrive on the fact that, in order for you to prevail, less-skilled shoppers have to lose.
BLACK FRIDAY TRIVIA: The term “Black Friday” originated in Philadelphia in the early 1960s. It was coined by Philly cops, who complained about the congested city streets associated with day-after-Thanksgiving shopping.1
If you relate more to the first group of Black Friday dreaders, let’s cut straight to the chase on the best strategy to avoid the Black Friday Blues:
1. Stay Home!
Don’t be tempted to participate in an activity you know goes against every fiber of your being just to score an underpowered, off-brand $99 laptop you don’t really want. Stay home and spend time with your family and eat Thanksgiving leftovers. If you absolutely have to start your holiday shopping that Friday, do it online instead.
The good news is that physically shopping on Black Friday doesn’t have the significance it once did because more and more shoppers are opting to stay home instead of braving the crowds. Many retailers are choosing to take Black Friday off as well, such as the popular outdoor-gear co-op REI, which encourages its employees to enjoy the outdoors the day after Thanksgiving instead of ringing up sales.
According to BlackFriday.com, during the 2017 Black Friday weekend, 51 million shoppers shopped exclusively in stores while 58 million shopped only online. And, again according to BlackFriday.com, Black Friday and Cyber Monday were virtually indistinguishable last year because many of the lowest prices on the hottest items of the year were made available online Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday.
All that said, if you fall into the second group and just don’t feel like it’s a real Thanksgiving weekend unless you’re in a brick-and-mortar store on Friday, elbowing your way toward a shrinking display of $29 microwave ovens, here are a few tips to help avoid a bad case of the Black Friday Blues:
2. Make a List and Set a Budget
Nothing will get you down come Saturday morning more than knowing you went way over budget because you were tempted by Black Friday specials for items not on your shopping list. So shop with a sense of purpose and check the items off your list as you secure them. Then, once your list is fulfilled, get a self-induced case of tunnel vision, head straight to the register, pay for your merchandise (preferably with a credit card—see Tip #5), and go home.
Do not be sucked in by all of the markdowns on items you didn’t realize you needed until you saw how much you could save—especially not on things like winter clothing, which will in all likelihood be even more steeply discounted after the first of the year.
3. Zero In On Big-Ticket Items
If you’re able to get $500 off a $1,000 big-screen TV, that’s a savings of 50% that significantly stretches your holiday shopping budget and arguably makes fighting crowds and standing in lines worth it. Saving 50% on a pack of $10 socks, on the other hand, isn’t going to do much to rein in your holiday spending.
So focus on impactful items, like expensive electronics. But you may want to avoid 1080p televisions, as 4K TV prices are expected to drop close to those of 1080p sets of the same size this year.
BLACK FRIDAY TRIVIA: Today, the “black” in “Black Friday” refers to retailers becoming profitable. Back when accounting records were kept by hand, black ink indicated a profit and red ink a loss.2
4. Do Your Homework & Legwork
As Benjamin Franklin said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Knowing that you’re going to be competing against throngs of other thirsty shoppers for the same deals, it pays to know which stores to hit in what order. It even helps to have a backup plan for parking, should store lots be full.
Part of your homework should also include knowing if other stores will price match, in which case you might be able to avoid long lines and crowds at the more popular stores and head to smaller, lesser-known stores that will give you the same deal. Or, if you discover the same deals are available online and can get your adrenaline fix another way besides boxing out shoppers while you snag the last pair of size 10 shearling slippers from the sale rack, maybe heed the advice dispensed in Tip #1.
5. Use a Credit Card
“But wait,” you might ask, “doesn’t using a credit card go against the whole set-a-budget part of Tip #2? Can’t I easily outspend my budget with a credit card?”
Yep, if your available credit exceeds your budget, you could overspend if you don’t exercise some self-control. However, the benefits of using a credit card—especially if you’re following Tip #3 and shopping for bigger-ticket items—can substantially outweigh this risk. Here’s how:
- You could earn rewards. If you have a credit card that offers cash back rewards, or airline miles, or any other form of compensation, you may be able to rack up rewards points by using it to make Black Friday purchases.
- You could meet minimum spending requirements for bonus rewards. Many rewards credit cards offer sign-up bonuses if you spend $X within the first few months of getting the card. Putting your Black Friday purchases on such a card could help you to meet those minimum purchase requirements and earn extra rewards points or mileage.
- Credit cards are typically safer than cash. If a thief gets your wallet or purse, all of the cash in it is gone forever. With a credit card, if a thief or fraudster makes unauthorized purchases with it, you’re liability is limited. And if your credit card offers $0 fraud liability, you never have to worry about being responsible for any unauthorized charges.
- Some credit cards offer purchase protection. By using a credit card with purchase protection, you may be able to get an item replaced or refunded if it is damaged, stolen, or just plain unsatisfactory to you. Your card may also extend an item’s manufacturer warranty or even offer price protection, which gives you a partial refund if you buy a piece of merchandise and its price drops within a specified time period.
Cold, hard cash offers none of these benefits.
6. Be Sure to Nourish and Hydrate
Frantically shopping in an enclosed, excessively heated building with thousands of other human beings in close proximity to you can be a hot, sweaty proposition where it’s easy to get “hangry” or become dehydrated. So make sure you’re eating and drinking enough before hitting the stores. Or do both in one fell swoop with a refreshing smoothie!
The last thing you want to do is cramp up in a race against another shopper who just laid eyes on the same $19 espresso maker you’ve been eyeballing…the last remaining one on the shelf.
BLACK FRIDAY TRIVIA: Along with being one of the busiest days for retailers, Black Friday is also one of the busiest days for plumbers, who are needed to make repairs after plumbing systems are overwhelmed Thursday and Friday.3