As we enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday, many of us are planning our routes on Black Friday, scouring the sales fliers for deals and checking online to see what specials will be available. I, however, do none of these things. Aside from the fact that I have most of my holiday shopping done, I’m not sure that Black Friday deals are really worth it. When you think about the time and effort involved, the savings may not seem as tantalizing. Here’s why I don’t think braving Black Friday is really worth it:
The main reason that people rouse themselves at 3 a.m. to go stand in line is the savings. What sorts of deals will you get? Sure, there are some fantastic deals. But many of the doorbusters — especially electronics — are last year’s models. This may not matter if you are just getting something cheap with reasonable functionality, but if you are looking for something high quality, you may not be getting what you pay for.
Another issue is the fact that Black Friday deals are designed to lure you into the store. These loss leaders pull you in, but retailers fully expect (and with good reason) you to buy things you hadn’t necessarily planned on buying. They’re hoping that you will negate your savings, and then some, buy purchasing items that are only 10% to 20% off the retail price. Or that are even full price. Once the shopping frenzy hits, the hope is that you won’t be too discriminating, deciding to buy whatever catches your fancy as you hunt for bargains.
And, finally, are the deals really that great? Once you get beyond the doorbusters, the sales aren’t that much more spectacular than the weekend sale you saw last week — or the weekend sales that will be a fixture of the holiday shopping season until Christmas Eve. Yes, you might see 75% off on some items on Black Friday. But next weekend the sale is likely to still be 65% off. On an item that is less than $50, that may not make such a big difference — and you can avoid the crowds.
My biggest beef with Black Friday is that it just doesn’t seem like the savings make up for the time spent. Say you spend two hours waiting in line to get a doorbuster. What if you don’t get the doorbuster because they ran out? Some people wait in line for four hours or more to get a doorbuster deal. Is it really worth that? Don’t forget the time spent queuing at the checkout counter, and the time spent sitting in traffic. When you add it up, you can easily waste two to six hours (or more), depending on how many stores you go to, and how long you have to wait at each one. And that doesn’t include the hours spent pouring over fliers and planning out the day.
Figure up how much your time is worth. Most people just take their hourly wage and make a determination based on that. Only you can answer for what your time is worth, but, even if I’m not spending my time working, I figure that my time is worth about $85 an hour. That means that if it takes more than hour to get a $100 item for 65% or 75% off (I have yet to see an 85% off sale), it’s not worth it to me. Imagine if I spent four hours on Black Friday. That’s $340. I’d better save $340 — and not have all of those savings overset by impulse buys. Or, I can spend two hours (as I did last week) and save $200 on things I’d planned to buy anyway. By carefully planning my holiday shopping and targeting specific items, I feel like I’m using my time and money a little more efficiently.
You can’t put a monetary value on the inconvenience and hassle that can come as a result of Black Friday. Braving the hordes, waiting in line, dealing with traffic, finding parking spaces, listening to unhappy children, getting unhappy yourself, and skipping meals as you move from store to store all start to add up. Since I have family here over Thanksgiving, I’d rather spend Black Friday visiting and enjoying the company, rather than dealing with the hassles outside the home. Family togetherness is more important to me than saving a few bucks.
What about you? Do you think Black Friday is worth it?
Miranda is freelance journalist. She specializes in topics related to money, especially personal finance, small business, and investing. You can read more of my writing at Planting Money Seeds.