Hey Big Spender – How’d You Do on Black Friday?

Over more recent years, I’ve often looked forward to the post-Thanksgiving activities. Once the meal is over, everything is cleaned up and put away, and I can finally relax.

Family and friends have left, and my dogs are free to roam about the house without me having to keep tabs on them.

At this point, my arms, legs, and back are usually aching from standing, stirring, scrubbing, and stuffing all of the leftovers into the fridge. All I want to do is collapse on the couch, potentially with a glass of wine if I feel so motivated.

And then I’ll pull out my laptop, diving headfirst into whatever pre-Black Friday bargains I can get my hands on. Exclusive email notifications, flashing advertisements, countdown clocks — These low prices are only available for 7 more hours!!

What can I find? 30% or even 40% off the regular price… 50% off — it’s a steal!!

Because indeed, whatever it is, this is something I absolutely, unequivocally NEED. And if I don’t, there must be someone on my Christmas list who would love it.

Add it all to my shopping cart, then maybe bump up the quantity, just in case. Of course, the store might sell out, and then I’ll be SOL if I come back tomorrow wanting to order another one.

This is such a great gift and terrific bargain; I can get one for my cousin and another for myself. Don’t I deserve to have nice things too?

Hey Big Spender

I’m not poking fun at any Black Friday shoppers. On the contrary, I’m telling you how this has played out for me in prior years. It’s never about needing these things or even wanting them.

It’s about the rush of finding a great bargain and getting swept up in the Black Friday frenzy. But, instead, you are conjuring up some self-worth by showing how savvy you are at finding the best price ever on something you never really needed in the first place.

Also, it goes back to the days of doing everything humanly possible to deliver a somewhat decent Christmas to two little boys.

I’ve mentioned in this post how we didn’t have a ton of money when our boys were growing up, and we lived in our condo. When Christmas rolled around, we pretty much had nothing saved. We were scraping by, living paycheck to paycheck.

It was probably one of the pivotal moments when we started this heinous reliance on credit cards. How can you possibly tell a 7 and 9 year old there’s no money for Christmas? It was around that time I was approved for my first Amazon credit account.

At the time, Amazon was still pretty new — and they didn’t have anywhere near the amount of merchandise offered now. Amazon was founded in 1994, selling mainly books. It was around 1998 that they started selling other types of items.

Their toy selection was not that great. So I added whatever cr*p I could find to my shopping cart, just so there would be something for my boys to open on Christmas morning.

And one month later, the billing statement be damned. We were living in the moment.

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When Presents Backfire

Here is one Christmas memory I will never forget. I don’t think my partner likes when I tell this story because it makes him feel bad. But I think there’s a definite lesson within it.

One year, the boys really wanted [whatever the video game system of the day was]. There were just so many throughout the years; it’s honestly all a blur. But I think it might’ve been a PlayStation. Which specific version, I have no idea.

Well, we had absolutely no money to buy Christmas gifts in general, much less an expensive game system. But, of course, in the little suburban rich town where we lived, all of their friends would be getting one. So, forget not having cash; we didn’t even have the credit to purchase one of these systems.

But what we did have was an Old Navy card.

The plan was we would order everything we could find on the Old Navy website — clothing, hoodies, sweats, slippers, socks, hats, gloves, anything. Then, wrap it all up in as many separate packages as possible: the more gifts for them to open, the better.

Then when we received our next paychecks, we’d use what we could, along with any cash we received as Christmas gifts, and then seek out an after-Christmas sale to buy the PlayStation.

They’d get it after the holiday, but it would only be a few days later.

So Christmas morning came, and both boys came running down the stairs to see the small mountain of presents under our Christmas tree.

They began tearing through all of the presents, paper flying everywhere.

As each gift was opened, they’d comment, “Its clothes!” and quickly toss the item aside.

This went on for a few excruciating minutes before we had to burst their bubble. “Hey guys, it’s ALL clothes. That’s all we could get for today. Your real gift is coming in a few days.”


Our older son responded with, “That’s fine; I love the clothes. We didn’t really want anything else anyway.” So the rest of the gifts were opened without fanfare. We cleaned up all of the wrappings and then prepared to go to my in-laws.

In Hindsight

That story breaks my heart every time I think about it. And as I look back, I can see that each subsequent year resulted in us buying bigger and better gifts.

Are you a failure if you can’t provide a Merry Christmas to your young children? Probably not, but it sure felt that way. Yes, things like Christmas Clubs and savings accounts were available back then.

But if we could spare any money, it would’ve gone to food or new sneakers or that after-school babysitter we left hanging on so many occasions.

And how does this anecdote relate to Black Friday? Well, as you can guess, we’ve used the opportunity to “shop till we dropped”, in the name of gift-giving.

We were never going to be in that position ever again. And as we started to make more and more money, as we progressed in our careers — well, all the more for us to spend, so we could provide for our family. To make up for the past.

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Black Friday Repercussions

I’m not trying to warn anyone away from shopping on Black Friday. I think it’s often the perfect time to find some real bargains if approached in the right way.

In my case, it’s something I need to set limits on and have a very defined plan for. So while it’s not the root cause of our money issues, it’s one of the catalysts.

I’ve reigned in our shopping quite a bit in the past two years, especially now that I’m beginning to focus more on our financial well-being.

Do I think it’s wrong for someone in debt to participate in Black Friday? Heck no. I am not a judgmental person. I want to keep my glass house intact, thank you very much—no stones coming from this direction.

Only you can determine what’s right for you. Just be sure to weigh all sides of the equation — what you want to buy and how that affects what you could’ve used that money for.

Did I buy anything this past Black Friday? Well, yes, I did. Here is what I bought:

So while it wasn’t quite the “no spend” Black Friday one would expect of someone in my financial recovery process, I think it’s a step in the right direction. We didn’t overdo it, and each item was fully thought out before purchasing.

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  • Whatever holidays you celebrate, try to take the time to enjoy them.
  • Don’t let the holiday aftermath entice you into a false sense of shopping entitlement.
  • Choose experiences, not things.
  • If someone tells you not to pet their dog — DON’T touch the dog. Just. Don’t.
  • Kids are not stupid. Socks wrapped up in shiny paper are still socks. Explain the situation to them; they’ll get it.
  • Being broke doesn’t mean you’re a failure. Or a lousy parent.
  • You can participate in Black Friday events by using common sense and moderation.
  • Don’t forget those who may have less than you do. Because no matter how dire your situation, there’s always someone whose situation is way worse.
  • Be grateful for what you have.