Shoppers have been catching on to the Black Friday scheme in recent years, finding that under all the marketing hype, the deals aren't that great. Even so, retailers haven't had a problem sending frenzied masses of consumers, credit cards and pepper spray in hand, into stores the day after Thanksgiving.
Although many of us realize we're not really saving that much money by doing our Christmas shopping on Black Friday, thousands of people will be braving overcrowded parking lots and long lines early Friday morning to get their hands on discounted merchandise -- myself included. Here's why.
How Much Do You Save on Black Friday?
While retailers do offer deep discounts on Black Friday, they're usually found on a select few items, with limited quantities, making it extremely difficult to snag a truly great deal in stores. So how much do you save on Black Friday?
The Wall Street Journal also found in a study performed by Decide Inc., a consumer-price research firm, that many popular holiday gifts are actually more expensive on Black Friday, like jewelry, watches, clothes and toys. In fact, the best deals are found in the week leading up to Christmas, rather than right after Thanksgiving. Arnold Aronson, a former CEO of Batus Retail Group, told WSJ, "Retailers will generally look to reduce inventory levels on items they overestimated or bought too much of in the days before Christmas, rather than having to resort to an even steeper discount on Dec. 26."
Plus, you also have to factor in various opportunity costs of Black Friday shopping. Think about the cost of gas to drive between all of these stores, as well as the cost of your time. I'm sure there are better things you could be doing at five in the morning than standing in a line.
It's important to understand that just because something is on sale doesn't mean it's a good deal -- or that you need to buy it. Grandma doesn't want a smartwatch for Christmas, even if you scored it at 20 percent off.
Why I Still Join the Black Friday Masses
So why, knowing all this, would I battle crazed shoppers on Black Friday morning just to get my hands on mediocre deals? I promise it's for a good reason -- three, in fact:
1. I'm forced to make a plan. Planning is crucial to achieving so many goals, including saving money. Whenever I set out to buy a gift for someone with no clue what to get, I end up grabbing the first thing I think they'll like, and it always costs more than I had planned to spend.
By setting out Black Friday morning with the intent to shop for several people, I have no choice but to create a list of what I want to buy, for whom and where I will likely find it. This ensures I don't head out aimlessly into the early morning air, making rogue purchases that will soon be regretted.
2. The bulk of my Christmas shopping is done. Like the failure to make a plan, procrastination is another key component to spending more than you should. Nothing is worse than the panic of realizing on December 23 that you still haven't purchased a Christmas gift for your nephew; that last-minute run to the mall will be a guaranteed budget-killer.
By doing a bulk of my Christmas shopping in one day, I at least make sure that key gifts are purchased -- within budget -- eliminating the stress of last-minute shopping and the overspending that usually accompanies it.
3. There are actually a handful of really good deals. While many of the Black Friday sales are a joke, there are a few gems out there. I've found that smaller stores that aren't part of national chains tend to offer great deals on Black Friday, especially on apparel. If I can find one awesome gift at an awesomely low price, I feel like the day was worth it.
Are Black Friday Lines Worth It?
The most important thing to remember while combing the aisles for discounted merchandise is that it's just stuff. Black Friday is about nothing more than spending your money on material items that will in no way improve your life. So don't stress about scoring the best Black Friday deals, don't miss out on much-needed sleep just to get into stores early and don't set yourself up for a debt-filled new year just because you feel pressured to spend money on that day.
Photo: Chris Ford