I have done it — many times. I get up at 2 a.m., grab my purse, head to the coffee shop for liquid energy and then stand in line, with hundreds more people, freezing and chatting as if we are about to enter an exclusive concert.
It is a high, being able to score that one toy or large ticket item ahead of everyone else who has been waiting. If I stopped at that one item, saved my money and went home, it might be worth it. If you are like me, Black Friday is an event: a marathon that can not be left until every store has seen the swipe of my credit card and the car is full.
Inevitably, I overspend massively and get home with a bunch of things that will never have a place in this house. I am tired, grumpy and crashing from the high with earthquake force. It actually takes a few days to return to my usual cheerful self. A few years ago, I started to wonder, “Are the savings in my wallet worth the stress of Black Friday?”
The truth is, Black Friday has the rare super deal that deserves the clamoring of guests at the opening of the door. However, those are hard to score. That flat-screen TV that you wanted to surprise your husband with will be gone almost as soon as the doors are open.
Once that happens, the temptation — along with the disappointment — will encourage you to open that wallet for the other TV that is only slightly marked off. It has a huge sign saying you are saving a ton. You have to get it! Purchasing it brings back some of the high that you lost when you did not get the big deal.
The stress of the highs and lows of deals that are not really deals and the constant, “I can spend just a little more! Look how much I am saving, after all” can really take a toll. The high being the savings you might be getting and the low being the money you are really spending. Add to that the exhaustion from getting up so early, the crash that will happen midday from the lack of sleep and the lack of energy to deal with your family for days after and those savings may not be worth it at all.
I remember getting home from Black Friday one year, my head spinning with what I could sacrifice to pay the credit card bill I had just run up, to find absolute chaos. My three kids were crying, my ex-husband was complaining and the house was a mess. Apparently, the kids had woken shortly after I left, hearing my car no doubt, and all of them had been up since.
As the planned conversation of, “Look what I got her and for so much less than a regular day,” dissipated in my head, I was now faced with trying to regain order for three exhausted kids and an angry husband — while exhausted myself.
It simply was not worth it. Weeks later when I had to pay the credit card bill, it really was not worth it. To this day I can not tell you one single deal I have gotten in my years of Black Friday shopping, but I can tell you how I broke out in a sweat when my card was declined.
I can tell you the stress of adding five hours of awake time to my day. I can tell you the buzz of the fun Thanksgiving holiday wore off instantly with the need to purchase at such great deals. The thankfulness was replaced with needy consumerism as I fell victim to retailers’ manipulations of our psyche.
I don’t buy into the massive savings sales pitch anymore for Black Friday. Even on years when I don’t have my children and my time is mine, like this year, I would rather sleep in, wake up to my own warm coffee, make a calculated list that coincides with my budget and shop throughout the season.
The truth is, most of the deals you get on Black Friday pop up again later in the season as retailers work to keep their sales numbers up. In fact, I just got Black Friday savings at a pre-sale with a retailer as a member of their rewards club. So, I got the savings early without much of a crowd.
Now listen, I understand the excitement of planning to shop all day with friends. I get that. I do. It can be great fun. If you do, make sure you have a list and do not vary from it. Make sure your budget is solid and you don’t come up with excuses to overspend. Make the day about your friends and the fun of it all as opposed to the need to save a buck on something your don’t really need anyway.
You can always take the stress out of shopping on Black Friday by shopping on another day for what you really want.