There was a time not too long ago before I started this blog when I treated Black Friday as one of the most important days of the year.
I went all in with Black Friday too, researching for weeks or even months to find the best deals, laying out a plan as to exactly which deals I needed to hit from each store, and lining up just like everyone else. I would feel like a failure if I couldn’t get to a store in time for the door-buster deals and experience untold amounts of regret if I found out something I bought was even the tiniest bit cheaper.
The Blackest Friday
The event that really made me start to question Black Friday came in 2008.
Upon opening the doors at a Long Island Wal-mart on Black Friday, an employee was trampled to death underneath the flood of people trying to get the limited-quantity deals.
Not only that, when people were asked to clear the store for emergency personnel, they refused, or as one shopper observed, “When they were saying they had to leave, that an employee got killed, people were yelling, ‘I’ve been on line since yesterday morning.'”
Robert D. McFadden and Angela Macropoulos. “Wal-Mart Employee Trampled to Death” The New York Times, November 28, 2008.
I certainly never saw anyone get killed in all my shopping, but stores that crowded people into tight spaces, forcing them to compete for manufactured scarcity really seemed to bring out the worst in people. They were rude, entitled, angry, and very frequently, stinky.
Perhaps others saw this in me as well.
But was I saving money?
Not only did I treat Black Friday with the reverence I normally reserve for holy days, but I let Black Friday become a part of me all year long. Friends knew to come to me first when they were looking to make a big purchase — so confident were they that I was keeping a finger on the pulse of any deal out there.
I certainly paid the price in sleep, thanks to the sleepless nights spent agonizing over whether or not to pull the trigger on a deal that expired at midnight — or 3 a.m. for online stores that operated on West Coast time.
But as to whether I personally saved money back then, I’ll say that my bank account and retirement savings Certainly don’t reflect as much. I wasn’t so concerned with paying a small amount for things, so much as I was concerned with paying less than other people. It often was less important that I really needed or even wanted the thing I was buying so much as I got a good deal on it.
Eventually, I arrived at having to ask myself the unhappily paradoxical question, “If I’m ‘saving’ so much money, then how did I get this broke?”
When I took a step back, I started to realize that there would always be “can’t-miss” deals out there. I was crestfallen when I missed my first Black Friday, but then realized that the last-minute Christmas deals were just as good. And if I missed those, the after Christmas clearance deals were also pretty spectacular. And then there were the electronics deals before the Super Bowl, President’s Day sales, Memorial Day sales….
In short, if I really needed something, I could always get it at the same price by waiting for the next sale.
But perhaps more importantly, when forced to wait and make do without the new toy, it made me realize that if I could go that long without it, maybe I didn’t truly need it.
My plan for Black Friday 2014
Remember that you need a plan to make the most out of Black Friday.
Sure, money’s still tight for me, but what I’ve come to realize is that the one thing that is truly scarce is time.
So here’s my plan: I’ll wake up with the sun to have some tea and do a bit of writing. At 8 a.m. sharp, I’ll grab my cousin who’s recently been certified as a fitness instructor and see if my old bones can keep up with him.
After we eat leftovers, I’ll grab as many of my younger cousins as I can to have a huge snowball fight. My godson is among the group so he’ll get to be on my team… if he’s lucky 😉
I get to see these little guys but a couple times per year so I really want to make the most of my time with them.
Hope you all have a Happy Thanksgiving 🙂