Are You a Slave to The Deal?

Black Friday is the perfect day to raise this question. Yes, are you a slave to The Deal? By “The Deal”, I mean any deal! You’re a slave because The Deal causes you to change your behavior, your schedule and your spending priorities in order to take advantage the latest hot bargain.

Buying just because something‘s on sale

A typical sign of being a slave to The Deal is when you buy something mainly because it’s “too good to pass up.” That’s a one way pass to spending too much money.

Are You a Slave to “The Deal”?
Are You a Slave to “The Deal”?
You aren’t buying something because you truly need it, but because of the price. But if you don’t really need something you’re overspending no matter how cheap it is. That’s because you’re being enticed to buy something that you otherwise wouldn’t.

Retailers know this, and they know that it can work really well with some people–the ones who are addicted to The Deal. Ever notice how certain retailers always seem to be running sales? They’re plugged into those who are addicted to The Deal and it’s a strategy that works all too well at separating consumers from their money.

Replacement obsession–replacing your stuff before you need to

You have a laptop computer that’s three years old and working pretty well. But Best Buy is running a 40% off sale on a laptop that you’ve been eyeballing for a few months. You can easily get another year or two out of your existing laptop but–40% off–that’s just a sweet deal. You buy the new laptop and the old one just kind of goes away.

If you’re a slave to The Deal this probably isn’t an unusual situation. Most of the stuff in your house is probably late model, never staying in service long enough to ever even malfunction. But when there’s a deal to be had, you rationalize why you need to replace your gadget ahead of schedule.

At the larger end of the scale, you might be tempted to buy a new car–to replace your perfectly functioning five year old in the garage–because a car company or dealership is offering either zero down payment or zero percent interest.

You don’t really need to replace your car, but you do anyway, and the net result is that you’re hardly ever without a car payment. When The Deal beckons, you run to it.

Standing in line for hours on Black Friday

That brings me to the real purpose of this article–Black Friday. This is a virtual high holy day for people who are slaves to The Deal. This is the day when impossible deals are available all over the place, so many that’s it’s hard to know which retail outlet to run to first.

You’ll stand in line for hours to by a single bauble at 80% off. Then maybe you’ll head to some other stores to see what kind of deals you can dredge up there.

Good deals, sure, but do you ever stop to weight the cost of what you’re doing?

We’ve already discussed the money lost from buying things you don’t really need, and from replacing your stuff prematurely. If you’re addicted to The Deal, you probably waste thousands of dollars every year.

But there’s also a cost involved in chasing The Deal, and that cost is never higher than on Black Friday. Consider some of the following:

  1. Thanksgiving isn’t even over, but you’re prepared to join the herd waiting in line for hours for your favorite retailer to open.
  2. Once inside, you fight the same herd for the limited number of deals that drew you in the first place. Those deals might not be there when your turn comes.
  3. Because you don’t get the deal you came for, you buy other items, maybe not such good deals, but you do it to justify the time and effort you’ve already sunk into the day.
  4. In the frenzied environment that is Black Friday, good sense may leave you, and you’ll come home a lot poorer than you anticipated.
  5. You’re succumbing to the strategy of the retail industry, which is to manufacture the exact urgency that is Black Friday, which forces you to spend money you otherwise wouldn’t.
  6. Then there’s opportunity cost. What else could you be doing with the time and money you’ve sunk into your Black Friday adventure? Pay off debt, add money to your emergency fund, or maybe spend some time working on a money making side venture?

The whole purpose of Black Friday is to work us up into a frenzy of consumption. My sense is that the whole episode is best avoided, particularly in light of #6 above. I consciously avoid events that are intended to take me out of control and turn that control over to either someone or something else.

That’s precisely what Black Friday does. That’s what Black Friday is meant to do. Can you resist it? Can you resist the call of The Deal, especially when it sounds like a symphony on this darkest of all shopping days?

( Photo from Flickr by jardenberg )

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