Despite it not having been around only a few years ago, “Black Friday” is everywhere I look online and my email has been bombed by countless emails – you can’t help but notice it and if the pundits are correct, we’ll collectively be getting into more debt than ever to buy stuff we don’t need for people we don’t like.
So what is Black Friday you may be asking? Well Wikipedia says that ” is an informal name for the day following Thanksgiving Day in the United States (which is today, Thursday 22nd), the fourth Thursday of November, which has been regarded as the beginning of the country’s Christmas shopping season since 1952, although the term “Black Friday” did not become widely recognised or used until the 1980s or later in some regions.”
Somehow it came to the UK and it’s now a big shopping event with the BBC telling us how it’s changed our spending habits. Money Saving Expert is in on it too, and the Evening Standard is there to help out telling us what time it starts (presumably on Friday and not before – but I might be wrong).
Consumerism is rightly seen as an evil by many the FIRE community and Retireby40 has a great piece on it.
It’s funny just how much shopping has changed in the last 20-30years. I remember being a kid growing up (to become a millennial but I didn’t know about it at the time). Around this time, you’d pour over the Argos Catalogue to see what you might get for Christmas but knowing you’d only get one or two things. But looking at the price of toys now vs. then – they are probably nominally the same – no wonder we didn’t get so many presents. These days it seems like children get lots of toys, presents and gifts – with parents often being the same (middle-aged gamers, I’m mean you). Too many toys aren’t good for your kids and there is a point where more toys actually make things worse. I also think that buying your kids presents to make up for not spending enough quality time with them throughout the rest of the year (and deepening your debt in the process, making you go out to work again to pay for it all – with interest) is just plain stupid – something you can read about in this book, Affluenza.
In my view, retail knows that it has to fight really hard to survive. Amazon and the internet is crushing the costs to the consumer and retail has to fight hard to stay in business. Look at the recent closure of Toys”r”Us this year. And the high street these days is constantly under bid red “sale” banners – every store has a sale on (or you wouldn’t go in). For example, SportsDirect constantly has virtually everything at 70% off – because in my view people are innumerate, 70% off means that your “saving” is greater than the purchase price, so you are getting the item for free – you might as well buy it then. I’m not alone in thinking this – but most comment is around the inhumane treatment of staff within Mike Ashley’s empire. Still – to buy cheap tracksuits and trainers you need to squeeze the most out of your zero-hours contract underlings – people need polyester at affordable prices!
My feeling about Gift Giving is that it is a vital part of being human. So, there are very good reasons to give gifts this Christmas. I just don’t believe that we should get tricked into buying a new sofa, bed, TV or even a Car! just because the media have drummed us up into a buying frenzy. These things will still be available in the day after and will probably be cheaper if you wait until after Christmas – there is no scarcity!
What I would say is that being frugal means that you should think of taking advantage of buying at the right time. I’m a member of Quidco and they’ve had a few different promotions where if you spend with a retailer, you get a £2.50 or £5 bonus. If you are not a member of Quidco you should consider joining, here is Quidco referral a link we’ll share £10 if you sign-up. It is a great way to save money on your purchases and I particularly like the fact that it makes spending money a little less impulsive. I took advantage of that today to buy tickets to the Scottish Deer Centre through Groupon – tickets are valid til the end of April and we’ve been before a few times and it is a hoot! Last week Topcashback (with referral link and £5 joining bonus if you sign up) had the same sort of deal and I took the advantage to book some train tickets for a work trip next week. So, we’re a couple of pounds better off spending money we would have spent anyway.
By coincidence, I’m taking the day off work tomorrow to look after the kids and have a bit of fun. I don’t think that I’ll be doing any shopping though – there’s not much that I can think that I need to get for the family although we should have a think about what we should get for friends & family for Christmas (my preference is consumables like food and drink and for the kids, books). The only thing I’ll be buying will be some ETFs on AJBell’s Black Friday free dealing offer as part of my Ready, Aim, Fire program.