Just after Thanksgiving comes another American tradition: Black Friday. Millions of people will line up at retail stores all across the country in hopes of scoring some great deals on merchandise, everything from games and toys to jewelry, electronics, clothing and more.
Unfortunately, another tradition, not as exciting for Black Friday diehards is that of debt. While most stores advertise huge savings on hot ticket items, most people fail to recognize "The Black Friday Money Trap" they are stepping into. Just how bad is it? Last year, American's spent a whopping $52 Billion. A recent USAA consumer study revealed that holiday shoppers will be spending more these next few months and budgeting less.
The core of the problem is that middle-class America is notorious for living beyond its means, especially on Black Friday. People are brainwashed about how much money they are supposedly saving on Black Friday, and they end up buying way more than they would any other day during the year. In fact, Black Friday leads many people to financial devastation.
The statistics back it up: In 2010, the census bureau reported that total credit card debt in the United States was $886 billion. On Black Friday, either the consumer racks up even more credit card debt than they already have, or they pay cash but spend so much that they don't have enough left to pay their mortgage, car payments and other essentials.
But there's some good news for all the Black Friday fanatics out there: you can still enjoy your day of shopping without breaking the bank. The key is mental toughness.
Here are some tips to keep your money mindset in check:
• Ask yourself if you would rather have the short-term satisfaction of expensive material possessions, or the long-term results of financial freedom and abundance?
• Don't fall for marketing campaigns that make you feel as if you're getting a great deal when you're really not (i.e. buy it today - pay for it tomorrow)
• Allocate a certain amount of money for each person you plan on buying gifts for and don't overspend by even a dollar.
• Define your budget prior to Black Friday. Know how much money you need to pay your living expenses for the month, how much you need to put into savings, and figure out a comfortable amount you have leftover that's just there and can be used for shopping at the holidays.
• Don't even think of using a credit card unless you are 100% sure you can comfortably pay it off at the end of the month.
• Don't get caught up in the moment. If your shopping cart is overflowing, step back, regroup and make sure you can really afford everything you plan to purchase.
• Kids learn by example. Even parents who have failed to reach their financial dreams can still teach their kids important lessons about money during the holiday season.
• There's no shame in telling people that this year will be a lean holiday season when it comes to exchanging gifts.
• There are good deals to be had on Black Friday, but be mentally tough to know when enough is enough.
The bottom line when it comes to money on Black Friday: put your emotions on the shelf and let reason be your guide. By all means go out and enjoy getting those doorbuster deals, but be smart and mentally tough about it, and don't spend more money than you have.