Black Friday. It’s the most anticipated shopping day of the year and the unofficial beginning of the Christmas shopping season. It’s a day when many excited shoppers line up at their favorite stores in the wee hours of the morning, hoping to score this year’s hottest gifts. And while the potential to save oodles of cash is there, if you’re not careful, you could end up a victim of the season. So as you make your list and plan your shopping strategy, here are some things to keep in mind.
DON’T SPEND MORE THAN YOU CAN AFFORD There’s a reason stores are willing to sell you goods at their cost, or in some cases, for less than they paid. They make up for it elsewhere. Stores know that consumers are under pressure and excited, and are rushing to get as much shopping done as quickly as possible. And that’s the time when we make poor spending decisions. We get caught up in the moment and purchase other stuff—and lots of it—that we don’t really need. And how do we buy it? With credit cards. And that leads to paying interest charges. So between spending the additional money on the stuff we weren’t planning on buying and the interest on the items we were, there’s a good chance we end up negating our original savings.
THE SAVINGS MAY BE BOGUS While some mark-downs may be real, others aren’t. Even though it might say “Save 30%,” the question is, 30% of what? The manufacturer’s suggested price, or the price at which it normally sells for? Since most stores sell things below the manufacturer’s suggested price every day, the savings may not be unique. And believe it or not, many stores will increase prices in the weeks leading up to the holidays, just so they can mark the items back down and call it a sale.
BEWARE THE BAIT & SWITCH If you read the Black Friday sales circulars carefully, you’ll see the words “while supplies last” or “5 per store” in the fine print. Stores often showcase big tickets items at spectacular savings to lure droves of hopeful buyers, but then limit the deals to just a few lucky shoppers, or sell at that price for only a few hours. After sitting in traffic and fighting the crowds, stores bet that you’ll not want your venture to end up a complete waste of time. And more often than not, they’re right. We’ve all experienced that disappointment that comes when we see that empty space on the store shelf. To feel better, we’re willing to purchase an alternative—maybe a different brand or a similar item—that wasn’t such a good a deal, just so we can check off a gift on our shopping list.
SPECIAL EDITION JUNK When stores need to come up with loss-leaders they plan on using to entice shoppers, they make every effort to minimize their losses. This means putting pressure on manufacturers to produce a less expensive variation of a particular item. How is this accomplished? By using inferior parts in the manufacturing process. So before you jump at that DVD player at half price, find out if it’s a “special buy” or “limited edition” version. After all, how much money are you really saving if you have to replace it in a few weeks?
CYBER MONDAY Brick and mortar stores aren’t the only places to shop anymore. In order to get their own slice of the action, in 2005, online retailers came up with their own plan to offer buyers spectacular discounts. Since then, the Monday following Thanksgiving—Cyber Monday—has quickly become the biggest shopping day of the year for many online retailers. So, no longer are you limited to just Black Friday. If you don’t get everything you want then, you’ll get a second chance a few days later. Even better, you can shop right from the convenience of your desk.
MAKE THE MOST OF BLACK FRIDAY