We're all going to go big before we go home in the next six weeks or so, and it all starts with Black Friday, the busiest shopping day on the U.S. calendar. Last year, shoppers spent $50.9 billion on Thanksgiving weekend shopping, according to Accenture, and that number is expected to rise in 2015, the company reports.
That's good news for retailers, and a short-term shot in the arm for the nation's economy, but is it a healthy trend for U.S. consumers? Not really.
"For many consumers, it will lead to more debt than they already have, higher monthly credit card payments and financial ruin," says Steve Siebold, author of How Rich People Think, and who has interviewed more than 1,200 of the world's wealthiest people over the past 30 years.
Seibold's message to shoppers this Black Friday is a direct one: be careful, plan ahead and stick to your budget, otherwise you'll overspend and potentially place yourself in financial jeopardy going into 2016. "Don't fall for marketing campaigns that make you feel as if you're getting a great deal when you're really not -- i.e. buy it today - pay for it tomorrow," he says. "Allocate a certain amount of money for each person you plan on buying gifts for and don't overspend by even a dollar, and don't even think of using a credit card unless you are 100% sure you can comfortably pay it off at the end of the month."
Above all, Siebold advises, don't get caught up in the moment of Black Friday, with all the bells, whistles and holiday glitter that comes with the day. "If your shopping cart is overflowing, step back, regroup and make sure you can really afford everything you plan to purchase," he says. "There's no shame in telling people that this year will be a lean holiday season when it comes to exchanging gifts."
Ask yourself if you would rather have the short-term satisfaction of expensive material possessions, or the long-term results of financial freedom and abundance, he adds. "There are good deals to be had on Black Friday, but be mentally tough to know when enough is enough," Siebold says.
That's the problem, other consumer shopping experts agree. "For many Black Friday shoppers there is something alluring about the hunt for the big door-buster deal that everyone is talking about," says Kyle James, founder of the retail website Rather-Be-Shopping based in Redding, Calif. "It gets the competitive juices flowing in many of us, similar to playing the lottery or gambling. Retailers have figured this out and realize that people will stand in line for these deals, and are willing to sell stuff below costs in many cases knowing they have a captive audience in the store, and many will end up buying stuff at full-price, or close to full retail price."
James advises never entering a store with money in your pocket looking for a deal. "It's very easy to fall into the spending trap of 'I'm here, so I should find a killer bargain,' which will inevitably lead to buying stuff you don't need just because it's on sale," he says.
It's also a good idea to guarantee you're getting a deal before whipping out any credit cards this holiday season. "One of the best tips for not over spending this Black Friday is to shop at stores with price-match guarantees," Mercer Cook, a data analyst at Paribus, a digital service that helps consumers refunds for items purchased.
Here's how these policies work, according to Cook.
"Let's say you buy an item at a store like Walmart, which has a price-match guarantee, for $100," Cook says. "That same item later goes on sale at Target for $50. Most shoppers don't realize that they are actually entitled to a $50 refund from Walmart for their purchase. Of course, it would be almost impossible for a shopper to keep track of the different prices of their items at hundreds of different stores. But fortunately, technology makes it easier than ever to take advantage of these policies."
Howard Schaffer, vice president of merchandising at Offers.com, a coupons and deals site, tells shoppers to focus on timing. "At many stores and online retailers, sales will begin on the Monday or Wednesday before Black Friday and may continue for as long as a week," Schaffer says. "In fact, major retailers like Walmart and Target began rolling out their Black Friday sales on November 1, nearly four weeks before the shopping holiday's official date."
He also advises doing your research. "Once you have your shopping list, do your research to determine which retailers offer the best deals," he says. "Black Friday ads can be a useful tool to learn about the different types of deals that will be featured in-store."
Yes, it's tempting to pull all out all the stops (and all your cash) when hitting the shops and stores on Black Friday. Don't fall for it - plan ahead and have a plan, and keep more money in your bank account this coming Friday.