Ah, Black Friday. The day after Thanksgiving. The biggest shopping day of the year.
Last year on Black Friday, my sister-in-law and I went out, braved the crowds, and had a BLAST. It was sister bonding time at it’s finest. It was particularly memorable because it was the first time I’d ever gone out shopping on Black Friday. I was totally fascinated + amused by this phenomenon that I’d always heard about but never witnessed. So I was into it.
I loved the annoying stuff — like how long it took to find a parking spot + the insanely long lines at the checkout + the fact that I couldn’t go 10 steps without bumping into someone. I was having the time of my life with my sis, just observing the madness.
One problem: I didn’t have a plan.
I thought, “Meh, if I find something I like I might get it.”
Here’s what I forgot: Retailers spend millions of dollars researching people — people like you and me — figuring out our buying habits, figuring out how to keep us in the store for a few more minutes, figuring out how to get us to part with our money.
It’s scary brilliant.
And it worked.
I found a little something here. A little something there. And before I knew it, I had turned from amused observer into ransacking consumer. Before I even unloaded my shopping bags at home, I knew I’d made impulse buys that were totally unnecessary and uncharacteristic.
But … it wasn’t all bad. That shopping trip ended up being the reason I started a capsule wardrobe, a few weeks later. And, honestly? Those memories of shopping with my sis are some of my favorite ever.
Do I think Black Friday is evil? No. Do I think marketing ploys are horrible? No.
There will always be schemes out there designed to distract us.
It’s up to us to be savvy.
So, if you’re hitting the stores next week, here are three of my best tips to make sure Black Friday doesn’t get the best of you:
1. Preload a Visa gift card so you stick to your budget. You can pick one up at Best Buy or Target and you can use them just about anywhere. Use only your gift card to buy stuff — you’ll remove the temptation to overspend. And if you want to take it one step further, consider leaving your other debit + credit cards at home. You might miss out on some stuff — but you’ll score a major personal win by sticking to your budget.
2. Make a list and stick to it to avoid impulse buys. And a real list (on paper or on your phone) is even more powerful than a list in your head.
3. Heighten your awareness. Read a few articles — like this, this, or this — to refresh yourself on marketing tactics before you go. Simply knowing these tactics exist can loosen their grip on you. And! (Nerd alert) You could even make it into a game — see how many marketing ploys you can spot while you’re shopping. Maybe I should make up a marketing ploy bingo board we can all … nope, never mind, okay.
Got any more tips? Share away!
Always check return policy-usually its 60 days at xmas
What, are we all too cool for marketing ploy bingo??? ;)
No, please make the bingo card!!!
Ha! “nerd alert” I do the same thing. Down to which way I turn when I enter a store. Apparently that’s a big one. I’d love to be one of the researchers for those things. It’s fascinating!
I’d love to play marketing bingo! Please do the chart.
And btw great blog!
Greetings from Germany, Penni
Just a quick plea from someone whose mom and brother work in retail–please wait until it’s actually Friday to go shopping!! Our Thanksgiving has been cut in half due to family having to be at work Thursday afternoon. We don’t all need new things THAT badly, we should be able to wait until Friday actually arrives. Otherwise, happy shopping!
I second that, though fortunately I don’t have any family members affected. I think it’s so sad that a holiday dedicated to being thankful for what we have is being slowly (or not-so-slowly) encroached upon by a semi-holiday dedicated to acquiring more stuff. The irony isn’t lost on me.
Amanda Bee says
I completely agree. This trend of shopping on Thanksgiving totally sucks, especially for families that rely on the money that retail jobs bring in. Everyone should get to enjoy family for Thanksgiving, shopping can wait ’till Friday. *step off soapbox*
Macy*s has my mom coming in on Thanksgiving this year. ;(
This is a GREAT post. I think it’s really important to arm ourselves with intentionality and knowledge so we don’t all lose our heads in a super sale sort of situation like this. Thank you.
Lists are so essential! I also really like your budgeting idea. Genius, really.
I worked in retail for years and while I avoided most black fridays, I worked enough to never want to set foot in a mall for that noise.
Thank you for this post. Until I started reading your blog I would get sucked into all sales and shopping “bucks”. Now I know not to shop unless I need something and to forget the sales. You save more when you don’t shop! :). Happy smart shopping! I was totally into the bingo card idea by the way….
I’ve actively avoided shopping on Black Friday, but I am always a sucker for Cyber Monday (online shopping is a bigger struggle for me than being in stores). I must say, the pre-paid Visa card idea is genius — and not just for Holiday Shopping. I might transfer that idea over to Capsule Wardrobe shopping, just to keep myself honest about sticking to my budget :)
Tania [girlwithanakita] says
The only time I shopped for Black Friday was in high school, to be with my best friend. I remember she wanted to get a PlayStation, and I saw a Nintendo handheld and was like ‘hmm, why not?’. I was always into my own head, because as soon as I said that, I immediately put it down and decided I need to go back to sleep.
But I am with Alyssa – Cyber Monday gets me every time! Because it’s so effortless. You just go online in your phone before you get up to get ready for work/school. It’s like zombie shopping!
Zombie Shopping! Yes!
That’s what I love about Caroline’s comment space, it always manages to remind me that I’m not alone in the struggle which inevitably gives me a lot of hope :)
Audrey | Brunch at Audrey's says
I lived in China for the last eight years, and though I was in the States for the first ten years of my life, shopping wasn’t a thing I thought about at the time. Now that I’m back in the States for college, I’m trying to get the hang of all these American holidays. I tell my friends that I regard Black Friday as “The Legend of Black Friday: do not go to Walmart or you may die.” I’m a little anxious about Black Friday. I think I’ll hold off participating until a year or two later if I do at all :P -Audrey | Brunch at Audrey’s
That prepaid gift card idea is probably the best idea for Black Friday that I’ve ever read. If I find something I like but don’t love, I always convince myself that I’ll get it if I buy something else at that store. So I buy two things I don’t really want or need- that would cut that off quickly!
I would play that bingo :)
The visa gift card idea is so helpful!! My office is about to relocate to above a large shopping centre….so I am going to need all of the tricks I can get in order to avoid making random purchases every day!
can you tell me what the name of your font is all over your website? I love the simplicity of the all caps, but it’s different than other stuff I’ve seen. Thanks!
The gift card is a great idea! I’ll use that in the future!
Amanda Bee says
I found last year that a ton of the Black Friday deals were available online, and you didn’t even have to wait until Monday. I’ve been bookmarking things I want for my winter wardrobe, and my plan is to stalk the online sales from the warm comfort of my house. If the items I want anyway go on sale – awesome! If no, oh well. The trick will be sticking with my list and not going off on a “oh hey blouses are a great deal” tangent.
This post is great. My tip is, if you don’t think you have the willpower, don’t go shopping. And I also have started a two-week waiting period for shopping (anything that isn’t a consumable like food and toilet paper) to help avoid impulse shopping. The rule being that if I do buy something I wait two weeks before using it. That gives me two weeks to contemplate if it’s something I really want and will use, or if I got overwhelmed by the shiny store vibe and marketing ploys. I’ve returned several things after realizing that they were not in fact anything I wanted to spend my hard earned money on.
Also, this Christmas is our first with a baby. Which means money is super tight. I have spent a lot more time contemplating what I could give that are gifts people will love that fit my budget. I think it will result in better gifts. In addition, I’ve decided not to buy any Christmas décor this year. If I find a cute craft (inevitable), I find the resources at home to make the item with things I have on hand. No shopping for more craft supplies. I have enough.
All these things together are helping me to learn, less truly is more. =)
I read all 3 articles. Great insight on shopping habits. Unless you want a giant Crapsonic TV and you are willing to spend the holiday in a lawn chair outside Big Box Store… stay home. The best bargains come closer to Christmas because retailers haven’t met quotas. There is a constant
sales cycle and if you want to purchase from JCrew (for example) sign-up for their email and wait for 50% off. When you are done shopping, unsubscribe (as Caroline has suggested). A friend of mine wanted to buy herself a new dress from Loft for her birthday. She loved it so much she was willing to pay full price. I told her, “Wait for a 50% off sale!” Sure enough, within two weeks it was 50% off. I purchased a couple
of items waiting in my cart, and combined, we qualified for free shipping. Also, always do a quick Google search for discount codes. You work hard for your money, and this is an easy way to make it S-T-R-E-C-H. :-)
I actually love Black Friday. My sister in-law and I started a couple years ago to grab great deals on craft things. Every year since, we have gained my husband (our chauffeur), my mother in law and my baby last year. She was up early anyway so why not being her? :) I refuse to go on thanksgiving, that’s just ridiculous and wrong, and we get up early (around 4am) to avoid the crowds. Instead of a prepaid visa gift card, why not use cash? You can save on the extra fees that Visa charges that way. Pre-planning is key through the online and newspaper ads and I avoid the mall if at all possible. I usually stick to the larger stores for mainly home goods and avoid the limited amount deals, not worth it. It’s the one day in the year where I get to feel like a crazy shopper and I love it!
Samantha Elisabeth says
All I can say about Black Friday is, “UGH.” After working at a certain retail store the last three years (minus the year I was abroad and thankfully avoided Black Friday), I am so averse to this day, I could probably write a book. Keep in mind for anyone (though I doubt the Un-Fancy community has them!) who feels even a little irritated, don’t you dare try to take it out on a sales associate. Two of my Black Fridays I worked a 12 hour shift from Thursday night at 8 p.m. to 8 a.m., and last Black Friday I had to drive from my house Thanksgiving night to my college, two hours away, to work at my store there from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. And this year I hear that some places are opening as early as 6 or 8 p.m. on THURSDAY?! This means workers have to get there at least an hour beforehand, and Thanksgiving dinner basically doesn’t exist for some people.
I have such a bad taste in my mouth from Black Friday. It brings out the worst in some people, the sales seriously aren’t even that much better than other big sale weekends, and they usually continue from Friday into the weekend. I know my store’s deal during the year was just as good as it was on Black Friday, and if anything we had to make the prices higher (in fact, our Labor Day sale, of all weekend holidays, was even better than Black Friday). Be savvy, people, and save yourselves the unnecessary headache of Black Friday by shopping some other day or weekend!
TL;DR Sorry for that mini-rant. In reference to what you wrote, these are awesome tips, and I’m glad you and your sister managed to have fun!
great post! i probably won’t be doing too much shopping this black friday either, considering i’ll be working pretty much all day. i feel like i have ptsd from working black friday last year and will probably just end up avoiding the whole thing as much as i can. the visa gift card is a great idea! a little easier than carrying cash, i think.
( ps – i work at a gap, and i’ve noticed you seem to buy a lot of denim from us – we’ll probably have at least 50% off the entire store that day, if you’ve started shopping for your winter capsule yet! ;) )
Great tips… I’m considering shopping on Black Friday this year and I never have in the past. Your tips are very helpful- love the preloaded Visa and leaving other cards at home idea- Brillant!! Perhaps I’ll try taking ONLY CASH….that would be super awesome!
Leah Wise says
In my experience, sales aren’t better at all on Black Friday. Most big box stores don’t ever intend to sell their items at MSRP; instead, they mark it up enough to be able to offer discounts without digging into their set profit margins. They’ll typically raise their prices through November in preparation for huge “markdowns” on Black Friday. Retail theater is an ugly thing.
Gift cards have charges applied to them (like $3-5 off the top) and are infamous for consumers running into trouble when trying to return/exchange items and getting balances back. I’ll pass on that tip.
Oh wow! Last year was my first Black Friday shopping experience too! I honestly wasn’t that impressed. And I also wasn’t horrified by the crowds…maybe I have heard too many good and crazy stories!