Black Friday Equals Red for You

Wal-Mart location in Moncton

Image via Wikipedia

For the first time in over 25 years, I will not be working in a retail store on Black Friday.  I also will not be shopping in any stores on that day.  As every good American consumer knows, Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving and it is so named because the Christmas season is when many retail businesses begin to show a profit (be in the black) for the year.

I have to admit that there was a time that I enjoyed  working on Black Friday.  It was amazing to me how packed with customers the Walmart I worked at would get, and how quickly the sales dollars would add up.  One Black Friday we had a desktop computer as a door buster item.  We received 90 of them to sell and we placed each one in a separate cart.  When opening time came, we had 7-8 associates available to distribute the carts with the computers to the customers that were interested.  It took less than 10 minutes to run out of these computers.

Then Black Friday became a competition among retailers not just for having the most ridiculous loss-leader deals, but also who could open the earliest.  6am?, 4am?, 3am?  You’re too late!  Some stores opened at midnight last year.  And, in the interest in getting first shot at customers’ dollars it was only a matter of time that someone would open on Thanksgiving Day for Black Friday.  Toys R Us is opening at 10pm Thursday.

Of course, the stores wouldn’t do these things if the customers didn’t encourage it.  “If you open, they will come.”  People line up outside stores hours in advance, all for a chance to buy a GPS for $59.99 or to grab some high-quality $3 appliances.  Every year we hear the news stories of injuries, fights, and even deaths occurring  during these door buster sales.  Stress levels are high for shoppers and employees who often take the brunt of shopper’s frustrations and anger.

While we hear plenty of stories about stores moving into the black for the year, we rarely hear stories about customers who put themselves in the red for the entire next year.  Here are some facts from the Family Life Radio website about Christmas spending.  On average, Americans spend the first six months of every year paying off the holiday debt from the previous year. In many cases, the bills far outlast the gifts.  The average American has 13 cards, including credit cards, debit cards and store cards.  Americans carry, on average, $5800 in credit card debt from month to month.  If one were to make only the minimum payment on their debt every month, it would take 30 years to pay off – and include an additional $15,000 in interest.  The federal reserve reports that 40% of Americans spend more than they earn.

The internet has 100s of websites with tools and advice to help you prevent overspending on Black Friday and for Christmas.  Setting a firm budget and  paying  cash instead of using a credit card are some great ideas, but here are some better ideas:

  • Give homemade gifts, baked goods, family photos or craft items
  • Offer services such as babysitting, snow removal, or some handyman work
  • Re-gift an item you purchased or received and couldn’t use.
  • Make a gift basket of inexpensive items, such as a movie night basket with a DVD, microwave popcorn, etc.

Stay home this Black Friday and spend some relaxed, quality time with family and friends. You don’t have to spend 2011 paying for Christmas 2010.  Don’t get caught up in the advertisers’ and stores’ game.

I’m not playing this year.

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