My Journey out of Debt

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Beware of Black Friday

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We've all heard of Black Friday.  It's the day after Thanksgiving, and also the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season.  Stores open ridiculously early with insane door buster deals to get you in the store.

People camp outside in front of stores overnight to get one of twenty laptop computers on sale for just a few hundred bucks.  I speak from experience on that one. 

So why is this particular Friday referenced as "Black Friday?"  Wikipedia says that the term Black Friday was coined to signify retailers financially getting out of the red and into the black. 

So that means that Black Friday equals profit to retailers, but to me, and most likely many of you, Black Friday is something more along the lines of financial distress. 

In my family, there is always a family get together somewhere for Thanksgiving.  The last few years, my wife and I have hosted it at our home.  The Thanksgiving morning routine, in addition to the food preparations, includes getting the special edition newspaper.

As the smell of turkey, ham, and mashed potatoes fill the house, we'd all thumb through the ads for the following morning.  We'd make lists of all the things that we wanted to get, their location, and come up with a plan of attack to maximize our ability to get all of the selected items.

These plans included who was going where at what time.  If we had multiple people going to a single store, we'd go so far as to designate who would go in which direction once inside the door to pick up certain items.  The problem was, even though Black Friday signaled the start of the holiday shopping season, most of the stuff we were purchasing had nothing to do with the holidays at all. 

We saw things in the ads that we wanted, assumed they were a good buy, and instantly decided to purchase them.  Whether we actually had the money or not didn't matter, as there was always the plastic pass that allowed us to get all of it.   

Looking ahead to this Black Friday, when perusing the ads, I need to keep two very important things in mind.  First, we obviously have to stay within our budget for spending.  Second, I want to constantly tell myself a very smart phrase my mother told me many years ago - "It's not a good deal if it makes you buy something you don't need." 

I didn't fully grasp the concept of this phrase when I first heard it, as I was much younger then and in a completely different frame of mind financially.  But it hits home pretty hard at this point in my life.  It really makes sense.   

As an example, think about one of the most common Black Friday door busters of all time, the TV.  If you were planning on purchasing a new TV anyway, Black Friday brings an excellent opportunity to get one at a great price.  Providing of course that you're willing to do what it takes to get one. 

However, if you weren't in the market for a new TV, but purchased one just because it was a great deal, how much did you really save?  You actually lost money because you purchased something you didn't really need, and weren't planning to purchase.

I started thinking about some of my own Black Friday purchases.  The camcorder that is laying on the bookshelf along with it's owner's manual still waiting to be read.  The digital cameras lying on the kids' night stands, purchased thinking they'd love to take their own pictures.  The video games collecting dust that we were sure that my son would love.  The extra Barbie sets sitting in the corner that we thought would make a great addition to the bazillion my daughter already had.  It's like a graveyard of good intentions.

Finally, I came across the laptop that I got a few years ago when my brother-in-law and I both camped out in front of an electronics store from 11 p.m. until 5 a.m. to get.   Laptop computer, printer, shoulder bag, and anti-virus software for $300.  That computer gets used by multiple family members every day.  It was a purchase made out of need, as our old computer was on its last leg and we were looking to buy a new computer anyway.  Now THAT was a great deal.

"It's not a good deal if it makes you buy something you don't need."  Words of wisdom.  Keep them in mind this Black Friday as you're contemplating staying up all night, or getting up insanely early to get those door busters.  More likely than not, I'll be sleeping  in.

 Related Posts:

 Holidays In September

 Holiday Planning 101

 Perceived Value vs. Cost

Travis Pizel

Travis is a contributing writer for the My Journey Out of Debt blog and is a very active member of the community forums. Travis is currently enrolled in a CareOne Debt Management Plan and in his posts he shares his personal journey to pay off his debt and the tips he's learned along the way. As a father and husband he provides a unique perspective on balancing debt, finances, and family. Compensated CareOne Blogger.

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  • Sticking to your budget during the holiday season is hard. Really hard, I know. Sometimes money just flies out of your bank account with you hardly even realizing it.

  • If only I had taken it out of the box immediately when we purchased the tree the first time to ensure it worked and that it was what we really wanted. Or even if we had done that in June before we decided to return it.

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