4 Ways to Actually Save Money on Black Friday

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Can you believe after another year Black Friday is almost upon us? There was a time that I would get excited about Black Friday every year. After all, that’s when the best deals happen, right?

While that may have been true at one point in time, it really is no longer the case.

Now, stores like to run Black-Friday-like deals throughout the year. Even throughout most of November, you can score official Black Friday deals.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love a good Black Friday deal, but they rarely save you money. Why? For a couple of reasons actually.

The first is that we tend to spend more money on Black Friday on things we don’t need to spend money on. Raise your hand if you’ve ever spent money on something you really didn’t need just because there was a deal on it (both of my hands go up).

In general, we tend to overspend because of great deals.

I’m talking about deals like having to buy four of a $3 item in order to get a dollar off. This can be great for stocking up, but if you only need one, then you’re still spending $8 more than you would have even with the discount.

How about when you buy that video game half off for $30 only to have it join the other 15 games on your shelf collecting dust having never been played.

Not. Worth. It.

The second reason is because of the stress level. Stress causes us to spend more money. If you don’t believe me, just ask Trent Hamm over at The Simple Dollar. He’s got some experience with it.

Is Black Friday worth the time and stress of standing in long lines, being disappointed that someone else picked up that last deal, or being part of a mob trying to get into a store right when it opens at 5 AM?

To me, it isn’t.

I’ve got some good news for you, though. There are some great ways to save money on Black Friday. All of them involve not doing something, which can be easier than taking action.

Here are four “Don’ts” for enjoying some real savings on Black Friday.

1. Don’t Go Out Shopping

Let’s get this one out of the way from the start.

Now, this is not me simply saying, “Hey, duh. Don’t go shopping because then you won’t spend any money.” That doesn’t make sense because you’re still going to have to buy those Christmas gifts from somewhere unless you’ve worked out alternative Christmas gifts.

Instead, don’t go shopping on Black Friday because it really doesn’t save you much, even with just money. Setting aside both the stress of shopping and the lure of buying things we don’t need–both of which will cause us to spend more–let’s focus on strictly dollars and cents here.

Two studies have been done by the Wall Street Journal and Nerdwallet in 2012 and 2014, respectively. Both studies found that Black Friday deals were no better than deals throughout the rest of the year, and in some cases, deals were not as good as you could find in other parts of the year.

The Wall Street Journal specifically mentions that “gifts from Barbie dolls to watches to blenders are often priced below Black Friday levels at various times throughout the year, even during the holiday season.”

The NerdWallet study found that most retailers were running the same prices on the same products from the previous year. They also found that “many of the exact same discount prices are offered during sales throughout the year.”

There simply isn’t a need to go out and try and fight for that deal on Black Friday. Instead, start Christmas shopping earlier and you could find the same deals throughout the year.

2. Don’t Buy What You Don’t Need

The allure of Black Friday has always been the perceived deals that we see on store shelves. This can be great when searching for gifts for other people. However, it’s really easy to pick up a little something for yourself because the deals are so “hot.”

With that myth busted (see my last point) you can confidently wait on the things you don’t need right now.

In order to help you not purchase what you don’t need, there are a couple of things you can do to help out with that.

First, stick to a list. This is a common tip when dealing with grocery shopping, but it works equally as well for Christmas shopping.

If you are buying Christmas gifts, keep a list handy of who you are buying for. Just like when grocery shopping, don’t buy things you don’t need for people you weren’t planning on exchanging gifts with.

Secondly, you can take it one step farther and do some brainstorming of what you want to get someone.

For example, if you know that someone on your list wants badly to go out to eat at their favorite restaurant, you may be getting them a gift card. Put it on the list! Next, to their name on your Christmas list, put exactly what you’re going to buy for them, i.e. “Gift Card to Red Lobster.”

Brainstorming at home may help keep you away from those tempting store shelves, too. Just make sure you turn off Amazon’s one-click purchasing if you’re going to do a little internet window shopping. 😉

3. Don’t Go Overboard on Gifts

While not buying what you don’t need has to do with buying things for you, not going overboard has to do with buying things for other people.

As you’re perusing the shelves for the perfect gift(s) for your friends and family, it can (it will?) be very tempting to get just one more thing because “the sale is so good.” After all, what’s the harm in going a little over on your spending if you can find something that is an incredible deal?

Don’t. Give. In!

If you have 10 people on your list and you were to spend an extra $5 dollars on each of them, that’s $50 extra. It may not sound like much to some of you, but imagine being a single parent trying to get a few gifts for your kids and being tempted by that one extra deal. It can add up fast!

Instead, set a hard limit on the amount you want to spend on each person and don’t go over. Treat it like a cash-only budget. Once you hit that peak of the budget, there isn’t any more to spend.

If you find that you have a buck or two left over after finding the perfect gift, grab a candy bar off the shelf to finish up. You can also try and go to the dollar section or dollar store and get them a couple of items. Or just leave it at the few bucks leftover.

4. Don’t Waste Your Time

Have you heard the saying “time is money?” We go to work and get paid an hourly or salaried wage. For hourly, the more time we spend at work the more we get paid. Many salaried positions require you to be there for more than 40 hours a week.

We’re clearly accustomed to trading time for money, which means we value our time at least a little bit. Yet, on Black Friday, we’ll wait in line for a really long time to either get into the store right when it opens or to wait for something advertised as a “great deal.”

Value your time more than the deal. If you’re set on going out shopping on Black Friday, there are some other ways you can shop for deals. You can:

  • Shop on Amazon. Amazon has some great prices on a lot of things throughout the entire year. Look at their Black Friday deals by shopping from your couch and not wasting your time in line.
  • Go later in the day. Every store has what they call “doorbuster” sales, but I’ve found that most stores advertise their deals throughout the entire weekend of Black Friday. Save yourself some time and stress and go when everyone else is back in bed.
  • Don’t wait in line if it isn’t worth it. If you do decide to go out shopping in the wee hours of the morning on Black Friday, don’t be afraid to decide waiting in line isn’t worth it and put everything back on the shelf. There’s no shame in valuing your time more than the 20-minute wait to buy something.

Your time is worth more than you think. Value it above the Black Friday shopping craze.

Final Thoughts

There were a couple of years in my younger days when I would go shopping early in the morning on Black Friday. I remember getting to Best Buy an hour and a half before they opened and the line to get in was already around the building.

What did I get for my troubles and lack of sleep?

Nothing. There wasn’t a single deal that was worth it since I was already late to the party an hour and a half before it started.

To me, it’s simply not worth the hassle of getting up early, fighting the crowds, trying to catch the same great deals you can probably find at other points of the year.

Now, I just need to do something to be able to resist Cyber Monday.

Kidding. The points above can work nicely for Cyber Monday as well.

Do you participate in the Black Friday Bonanza? Why or why not?

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Hey! I'm Tim.

I’m an expert budgeter, author, and Certified Financial Coach. My mission is to not only teach you money principles, but to teach you how to mold them to fit who you are and build the life you want. I don’t like typical money advice. I’ve tried to fit into a mold by using typical money advice and I had less control of my money and went further into unnecessary debt. Now, I live to teach others how to break the mold in their own lives and find their version of financial freedom. Read more about me.

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