Between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Buy Nothing

Aneth Ng-Lim

Posted at Nov 19 2018 08:34 AM | Updated as of Nov 19 2018 08:57 AM

People watch a Christmas light display in the Makati financial district. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA -- Black Friday is 4 days away and thanks to online shopping, it’s no longer just consumers in the US that can enjoy deep discounts and irresistible deals on a wide range of merchandise.

Here in Asia, we even launched our own version of Black Friday and held it earlier with Singles Day last November 11. Online shopping sites Lazada, Shopee and Zalora all reported record-breaking sales thanks to Filipino consumers who find it nearly impossible to say no to buying items on sale.

This early, a quick scan on the internet shows shoppers will find it hard to resist what’s on offer. If you point your browser to BestBlackFriday.com, you can view the items that will go on sale from nearly all retailers beginning with giants Walmart, Target and Best Buy. I did and 2 hours quickly passed by as I drowned in all the bargains beautifully illustrated in the world wide web, 90 percent of which I don’t really need nor wanted until I started surfing.

And guess what? Some are even rolling in Black Friday early with online deals going live as early as 10 p.m. on Wednesday, November 21.

Before you park yourself in front of your computer, or tablet or phone, along with your credit card, why not stop and think if you should instead be a digital stranger for the next week?

KNOW THY ENEMY

Black Friday comes after Thanksgiving Day, the fourth Thursday of November, and kicks off the Christmas shopping season in the US Urban legend says the term was coined by retailers, as that’s the time of year when they begin to turn a profit, going from being "in the red" to being "in the black." In accounting terms, red means business loss while black means making money.

In the past, most of the shopping happens in stores, so marketing companies launched and coined the term Cyber Monday, for the Monday after Thanksgiving. Simply put, it’s the online equivalent to Black Friday and was a way for smaller retail websites to compete with larger chains. It’s become so successful that some skip Black Friday and hold out for Cyber Monday anticipating even better deals (plus the convenience of shopping in their pajamas).

BUY NOTHING DAY

Amusingly, between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, there is a quirky holiday called Buy Nothing Day. It’s not really a holiday, in case you think U.S. consumers are so pampered they are awarded a break between 2 major shopping events. Buy Nothing Day is a statement against the consumerism that takes over the whole country, and the rest of the world too thanks to digital shopping sites.

According to data from Adobe Digital Insights, which tracks 80 percent of online spending at 100 of the largest retail websites in the US, American shoppers spent a record $5 billion in 24 hours during Black Friday 2017! That’s a double-digit increase or 16.9 percent more compared with Black Friday 2016.

So the Buy Nothing statement actually makes for one smart advice when it comes to spending money during a sale. Just because something comes cheap does not mean you have to buy it. But if we can’t stop you from indulging, here are some tips to keep in mind to help you rein in your spending at any sale, not just on Singles Day, Black Friday or Cyber Monday.

1. NEVER SHOP HUNGRY. Not all shopping happens online, and if you are ready to brave the crowds, at least feed yourself first. Studies proved that hungry shoppers tend to buy more, and we are not just talking about food. According to Forbes.com, research from the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management showed that an empty stomach amps up your desire to acquire things.

Because hunger makes you want to eat, you are thinking of seeking, acquiring and consuming food and these thoughts spill over even to non-food items. As a result, a hungry shopper will buy items they don’t even like or need, such as binder clips according to the documented study.

2. IF THE SHOES DON’T FIT, IT WON’T EVER FIT. Yes, it’s half the price but if it does not come in your size, let it go even at 70 percent off. Feet do not shrink and you owe it to your toes to get shoes that fit right and will let you walk comfortably.

As for that designer dress you want to add to your closet – and wow, now at half price – but it’s 2 sizes smaller, we offer the same advice: walk away. Even if you are confident you will lose 20 pounds next month, until you do, don’t bet with your hard-earned money.

3. KEEP YOUR COOL OR LOSE YOUR SHIRT. It’s just a sale, and you are not saving the world one purchase at a time so keep a level head. If you see items that your family or friends would like, you can decide to buy it as a gift but only if it’s within your gift budget. Do not volunteer to shop for others as that will add to your stress level (and lead to more shopping and spending).

One more reason to keep it cool? Crowds and long lines at the cashier are recipes for disaster. In the US, consumers are known to fight over merchandise, so tempers flare and they have escalated to violent attacks landing people in jail!

4. BETTER YET, RESIST AND LIVE TO SHOP ANOTHER DAY. While I like a good deal as much as the next person, I admit I avoid sales as a rule. Again, surveys show that people who shop during sales are more likely to overspend, as they will be exposed to items that are not on their list to buy, or lulled into thinking they need something just because it is cheap.

Even if you have a list, people shop sales with what they see and what items are on discount so expect to bust your budget. With inflation at its highest in nine years, your wallet should be feeling the pinch so missing the sale this year is probably a sound idea all around.

5... OR SUFFER THE CONSEQUENCES

But if you don’t have the willpower and did go to the sale, you can still save your budget. Say you went overboard and realized it the next day after the sale, or even the same day, try returning the items you know you won’t really need or use. If the price tags are all intact, and you have the official receipt, prepare to make your case with the store.

According to the Department of Trade and Industry, here in the Philippines, consumers can return items as long as there is a defect in the quality of goods or imperfection in the service, but not if you only changed your mind. However, some stores are willing to accommodate same day or next day return or refund, so no harm in trying. And if they turn you down, consider offering the items to people you know that may be interested. Explore anything that will make your budget return to black.

The holiday season tends to spur people into shopping frenzies as they go about buying gifts for family and friends. But sometimes, you can skip the shopping and look for gifts that will not hurt your budget and celebrate the meaning of the season. Why not make a donation to a charity and do it in the name of everyone in your Iist? That’s not only a win-win; it’s a win-win-win, for your wallet, for the people in your gift list and the people who will have a happier holiday thanks to you.