Black Friday Shopping: Strike a Deal or Rack up Debt?

by Scott Sery on November 27, 2013

Online Black Friday DealsOnly once have I ever participated in Black Friday shopping.  Back when I was a freshman in college, a local sporting goods store was handing out $100 off coupons for the first 50 or so people through the door.  At the time I was an avid skier, and I decided I could use a new pair of skis.  So a friend and I got up early, stood in line, and managed to score a good deal on some new skis.  Of course this was back before the internet was in full force, and online shopping was not yet common.  This meant that there were no online Black Friday deals, no super saver shipping, and no auctions to watch.  Instead, you turned out in the cold at 3:30 in the morning, and waited in line.  Regardless of whether you shop in person, or shop online, are you really getting the best deals out there?

Doorbusters 

Every store offers their doorbuster deals.  These are the ones that cause people to line up at the door awaiting opening.  They then literally run to the back of the store in order to yank merchandise from the shelves.  Sometimes these doorbuster deals are in fact really good deals (such as $100 off your purchase).  Other times, the doorbusters look appealing, but they end up being a big waste of your time and money.  For instance, I recently read about how Walmart is offering a $98 flatscreen TV on Black Friday.  I was intrigued at what a hundred bucks gets you in the world of LED televisions, so I dug a little deeper.  After quite a bit of time researching, I found that this particular TV is made by Funai Corporation.  Funai has bought some excellent brands such as Emerson, Magnavox, and Lexmark (among others).  They will then manufacture their own product, and put one of these well-known, well-trusted, names on it.  The result is a cheaply made product, which causes hundreds of reviews to be written stating that these TV’s generally break down after 9 – 12 months of use.  So if you want to stand in line so you can snag a $98 TV, by all means do so.  Just keep in mind that next year, on Black Friday, you will most likely be standing in line to get another “great deal” on a flatscreen TV.



Analysis 

The point of this research is twofold.  First, the days of lining up at 3:30AM to get the best deals are dying.  Stores know this and are now opening on Thursday instead of Friday.  The reason is that online Black Friday deals are just as good as those in the store (with the exception of the doorbusters, but as we see above they are not really that great).  Instead of braving the cold and fighting the crowds, people are choosing to sleep in and shop in their bathrobes from their living rooms.  The second point is to step back and take a look at how many hours a person spends shopping for Black Friday deals.  When you can get online and get the exact same product in a fraction of the amount of time, which would you rather do?  My suggestion is that you shop from home saving yourself the stress (not to mention the cost of driving around), and spend the 4 – 8 hours of saved time working on your side hustle.  If you do it this way, your Black Friday purchases will be paid for before Black Friday is even over.  On a side note, if you are shopping electronics, shop in April.

Final Thought 

I am not a shopper.  If I have to visit more than 2 or 3 stores in a single trip out, my blood pressure spikes and I get very irritable.  I know this, and so I avoid shopping whenever possible.  But I do understand the importance of Black Friday (economically speaking).  When stores are bringing in 20% – 40% of their yearly revenue off this one day, it is a huge mover for the American economy.  However, with internet shopping as big as it already is, online Black Friday deals are sure to bring just as much movement to the economy as those in-store deals that cause the mayhem.  This year, for Black Friday, I will be doing exactly what I do any other Friday that I have off of work.  I will be lounging in my pajamas until noon, sipping coffee, and chasing a one-year old around the living room.

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Scott Sery

Scott Sery is a native to Billings, Montana. Within an hour in nearly any direction he can be found fishing, hunting, backpacking, caving, and rock or ice climbing. With an extensive knowledge of the finance and insurance world, Scott loves to write personal finance articles. When not talking money, he enjoys passing on his knowledge of the back country, or how to live sustainably. You can learn more about Scott on his website Sery Content Development
  • Fit is the New Poor

    I’m standing in line for a Macbook for Black Friday. At least I know that I am getting quality at a $200 discount. But you’re right. I would never go in to BF without researching my ass off on the products I need to get!

    • I am a big fan of Apple products so I might wait in line for a macbook too.

    • Scott Sery

      Good point, plenty of research can help you find which deals are worthwhile and which (like the Funai TV) are better left on the shelf.

  • “I will be lounging in my pajamas until noon, sipping coffee”. Haha! That’s exactly what I intend to do!

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