Black Friday Sales Are Emotional Shopping Trap

I admit to being put off by the commercialism of Christmas, and the entire holiday season. I’m not quite a Scrooge, but pretty close! A while back I wrote about being a reformed emotional shopper. Might sound strange coming from a guy, but it is true. I used to shop when I was sad, happy, or just plain bored. I collected DVDs and CDs, video games, computer equipment, etc, and Black Friday ads were a thing of beauty. So was the rush of finding a great deal!

Black Friday Emotions:  The Thrill of the Hunt

For some reason, advertisers have managed to convince us that if we don’t get to stores at 4:00am on Black Friday morning we are going to miss out on the deals of a lifetime. As if the products they are advertising will never again be available, or at least not at the price they are offering. I say, bah humbug!

First of all, if you are hanging out at a mall or parked in front of an electronic store at four o’clock in the morning you aren’t going to get the best deal anyway. There are many ways to save more on typical Black Friday purchases by using eBay,, or Craigslist to buy new items online, or gently used items via auction.

Secondly, too many people (myself included) get too caught up in the “thrill of the hunt” on Black Friday. It’s human nature, I suppose. People hear about a great deal and swarm to the store, whether they really need the item or not. Once there, they refuse to give up their place in line because someone else might get a better deal than them, or they may miss limited quantities reserved at that specific sale price.

Black Friday Ads: Loss Leaders Galore

Some of you may be wondering how stores can afford to sell their products at such huge discounts. Well, the answer is they really cannot afford to, but they do it in the hopes that you will come in planning to fill a shopping cart full of other items at a higher profit. It is the classic game of dangling a “loss leader” in front of consumers and hoping they don’t come in to buy just that item and leave.

So where will Frugal Dad be tomorrow morning at 5:00am? I’ll be hunkered down under a warm blanket with my family, sleeping off Thanksgiving Dinner and enjoying a day off. We have officially declared it a “No Spend Weekend” and plan to do a little work around the house, ride through our neighborhood and enjoy Christmas lights, and enjoy a warm fire with a holiday movie. Plenty of time for online shopping later.


  1. I know of a few stores that hike the price up before the holidays then lower it down after so you think you are getting a deal when you really are paying the orginal price.

  2. Thanks for writing this post. Although sometimes I wonder if somehow I’m missing out on good deals, the frantic frenzy that follows Friday frankly frightens me. Isn’t it ironic that a day of being thankful is followed by a day spent saying, “and I need this, and this, and one of these…”

  3. Howdy,
    I so agree with your Black Friday post. It should be called Black Sheep Friday lol Bahhh Bahhh follow everyone elseeee lol
    I too used to get up early and go shopping thinking I was getting the “best” deals but working at a dept store and talking with the dept managers you get to see the store from the inside.
    I also am staying in toasty warm reading Frugal Dad;)
    Happy Holidays!

  4. Last year I waked up at 4:00am after Thanksgiving hoping to get some great deals on the cloths for school but I got out of the stores at 9:00 am with nothing. There was advertisement for 50,60,70% but I didn’t see the discount reflect on the price of the cloths. So this year, I learned my lesson. No more 4,5,6 am and early bird specials. It’s not even worth the hassle. Those early birds won’t even get enough sleep.

  5. I’ll be heading out in the rain, but not to shop. My son has a high school soccer tournament so I’ll be there to support the team. Better standing on the sidelines watching the boys play than standing in line!

    I may do some online shopping over the weekend, to get a jump on shipping..

  6. I’ll actually be working – by choice.
    But even if I were not working, there’s no way I’d be in one of those lines – I hate crowds and crowded shopping 🙂

  7. I was struck by what you said about guys and emotional shopping. I had an epiphany: “Of course guys do it!” (I said to myself while reading the post), and then I realized there does seem to be a difference: men seem to shop not as a means to an end, but to get “stuff.” Women, in my experience, get a a high off of the act of shopping, where as the guys I know take the “stuff” home and get their high from using it, however briefly.

    Growing up, my mother had clothes and other items, tags still on and still in shopping bags, hiding in her closet. Once the excitement of buying the things had worn off, she definitely had a guilty-feeling hangover.

    Meanwhile, the guys in my life would savor the unboxing, proudly show off the things, and use them. For perhaps a week, or maybe a month. Sometimes (often?) guys’ purchases seemed to necessitate other purchases–add ons, new modules, whatever. Eventually, however, these shiny new things also ended up in a closet.

    Either way, it was soon back to the mall for everyone. Different styles, same result. I had not really thought about the possible gender differences of the consumerism cycle before tonight. Thanks for the insight, sorry for the rant. Then again, what do I know? I hoard toilet paper.

  8. Sounds like a nice day 🙂 I’m spending it at home also with my daughter and 2 nieces.

    I agree with you about the emotional spending. I try very hard to shop by the motto … simply because something is a fantastic deal does not imply that I need it. An unneeded fantastic deal is still a waste.

    Thanks! Great post.

  9. Apparently I clicked on the wrong piece and commented over on your “thanksgiving” piece…oops!

    Oh well!

    thanks for the post regardless!

  10. i don’t see the excitement for black friday…maybe it’s because i’ve always worked retail and can’t believe the fights and arguments that people get into over THINGS.

  11. Last year I did most of my shopping on line…it was great, no standing in line – got some good deals and decided to do it again this year!

    My wife had a terrible experience last year at
    Circuit City when their computer system was not
    recognizing the sale prices – hours in line – NEVER again she said!

  12. I hate shopping. It’s the biggest waste of time there is. I only stepped into a mall once on Black Friday, and that was by accident. I freaked out because of all the people, and left quickly. It’s in the same category as driving, cleaning the house, and shoveling out the chicken coop: when I’m independently wealthy, I’m going to pay someone else to do it for me. Part of my criteria for being independently wealthy involves a passive income stream big enough to pay for those services from a legitimate employee or business. I don’t care if I have to live on beans and rice, if it means making annoying things go away.

    To bring that day of freedom one step closer, I chose to come to work today at The Day Job. I’m typing this on my lunch break. I’ve gotten a lot done because it’s so quiet. Ahhh, sweet productivity. Plus I get to feel morally superior to other people. I love feeling superior… isn’t it the greatest?

  13. Now that the Black Friday weekend has passed, has everyone seen as many people out and about as in previous years? I only ask because me and the wife were out running some errands on Saturday and Sunday (not Black Friday shopping) and noticed that there were very few cars/people out shopping. I was left wondering if this holiday people really will follow the “frugal” mentality that’s been played up by the media.

  14. @DavidK: We saw less people out and about on Saturday (we didn’t venture out on Friday), but weather played a factor–cold and rainy. I heard this morning that sales were up around 3%, nationally. At least I think that was the number quoted.