Black Friday: How To Be Smart In A World Of Dumb Consumers

November 15, 2021
Black Friday: Because only in America do people trample each other for sales exactly one day after being thankful for what they already have” – Unknown

Here in the US, the Thanksgiving holiday is a few weeks away. Unless you have been isolated in your home living without internet, social media, television, or radio, you have likely been bombarded with ads for upcoming Black Friday sales since before Halloween.

It is nothing short of sad irony that the days directly following holiday gatherings with friends and family to give thanks for everyone and everything in our lives are the most consumeristic, highest-spending days of the year. 

2021: Black Friday Is Back

Buy what you don’t have yet or what you really want, which can be mixed with what you already own. But only because something excites you, not just for the simple act of shopping.” – Karl Lagerfeld

In the years before Covid, many large retail stores had become so greedy (and desperate) that they would begin Black Friday sales on Thanksgiving day, denying a large portion of their employees a holiday break. 

Even though pandemic conditions in 2020 caused most brick and mortar store locations to be closed for both Thanksgiving and Black Friday, consumers in the United States spent around 14 billion dollars during online Black Friday shopping. 

In 2021, most of the largest retail businesses will be closing retail locations for Thanksgiving day, offering online sales instead. Still, early Black Friday hours on November 26 are being brought back with a vengeance.

Each year, the Black Friday preview ads, with promises of the best deals of the year, are released by retailers earlier and earlier. 

These potential and extremely limited deals are designed to entice eager uninformed consumers to spend all of their money and even money that they do not yet have on the latest toys, electronics, televisions, and more.

In reality, Black Friday is an opportunity for retail stores to reduce prices on older merchandise to make room for newer products. So most of the biggest Black Friday deals are on outdated and lower quality items

Some stores even increase regular prices before the holidays, so shoppers believe they are getting a better deal. 

And when reading the fine print on these ads, it is easy to see that most of the lowest-priced merchandise will be scarce at best.  

So, no matter how enticing these sales may seem, it is essential to shop smart and not let them lure you into becoming just another dumb consumer.  

Spending The Holidays Overspending

Considering how much we shop, it is no surprise that shoppers in the United States spend more on Christmas each year than any other country in the world. 

In 2020, the average customer spent around $1000 during the winter holidays. 

Holiday shoppers begin searching for deals before Thanksgiving and are quick to swipe credit cards, borrow money, and dip into personal savings to buy gifts for themselves and others. 

As if high spending was not bad enough, a whopping 22 percent of the population in the United States goes into debt every year from holiday shopping sprees

And consumers are not just spending their money on the holidays, but they are also spending their time. Women in the U.S. spend an average of 20 hours shopping for holiday gifts, while men spend around 10 hours. 

Now you may think that providing gifts for everyone on your shopping list is worth spending precious time and going into debt, but statistics show that a large portion of the presents you give are not even appreciated. 

More than half of consumers, a whopping 62 percent, expect to receive gifts from others that they will not want. And 52 percent of them will re-gift those presents to another person. 

That means that over 154 million people in the United States will be given 15 billion dollars worth of presents that will be discarded, regifted, returned, or sold. 

So, before you max out your credit cards this year, take the time to consider if you are giving gifts with intent or if you are giving unneeded things to others out of a sense of obligation. 

The Bottom Line

Holiday sales like those on Black Friday and Cyber Monday may offer some financial savings on holiday purchases if you are purchasing things that you were planning to buy anyway. 

But, if you allow yourself to play the part of a dumb consumer and begin buying things just because you think they are a good deal, these sales can quickly become a drain on your wallet and your well-being.

Do not forget that it's NOT a bargain if you don’t need it.

And overspending on gifts for others that they don’t want or need is a waste of your time and money. 

It can be a challenge to resist getting caught up in the consumerism-driven narrative that extravagant gifts and overspending will somehow show others that you care more about them. 

But deep down, you must know that gifts do not equal love or caring simply because they have a big price tag. Some of the best gifts that we can give to others cost little to nothing at all. 

And, do not forget that the end of November also brings us Giving Tuesday. Giving Tuesday is an excellent opportunity to donate money (and often have your donations matched) to charities that align with your values. 

Before you camp out all night or fight through massive crowds to buy a ten-dollar toaster oven or a hundred-dollar television, take the time to think about what you have and consider carefully what you really need. 

When you shop this holiday season while being smart about your spending, instead of being a dumb consumer, you can navigate what may have been a stressful time with ease—without overspending, going into debt, or wasting precious time and money purchasing unwanted gifts.

The holidays can quickly become overwhelming when you are ill-prepared, so for more ways to reduce stress during your holiday season, check out our previous post on 4 Simple Ways To Declutter The Holidays.

Declutter Your Life Podcast by Andrew Mellen. Available on iTunes!