Don't let black put you in the red

Sylvia Walker | 23 November 2022

Sylvia Walker is a financial planner at Andrew Prior Consultants. She spent many years in a senior management position at Old Mutual before venturing out of the corporate world. She is also a freelance finance writer and author of several non-fiction books.

Everybody loves a bargain and at this time of year, it’s very easy to get sucked into a shopping frenzy.

Even if you’re not an impulse buyer, a clever Black Friday promotion can have you itching to part with your cash.

And you don’t even have to stand in long queues or be battered by someone’s trolley. You can shop from the comfort of your chair, as more people are choosing to do. Payfast, a South African online payment platform, reported a 34% increase in transaction volumes in South Africa on Black Friday last year, with a 30% increase in new buyers, compared to the previous year. Read more: Should you use buy now, pay later credit?

Emotional response

The Black Friday concept cleverly elicits an emotional response, so we will buy what’s on offer.

It starts with a sense of urgency – this deal is only available for a very limited time - igniting an intense FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). You don’t want to regret passing up on this great deal.

You also don’t want to be the only one who didn’t take up this opportunity, triggering fear of social exclusion and isolation, a primal fear.

Then there is also a sense of scarcity (limited time period or number of items on sale) so you need to act fast, leading to impulse buying.  

Black Friday can also make us feel good – thanks to neuropsychology, we know that time sensitive words such as “promotion” or “sale” activates the brain’s reward system, and when we bag that bargain, we release dopamine, feeling fantastic!

So, staying on an even keel through all of this isn’t easy, but it can be done.

Keep a clear head

Emotions are incredibly powerful but thinking rationally is a key to navigating Black Friday. If you were planning to buy a particular item or service, buy it if there’s a Black Friday deal. Just make sure that you are really getting a bargain – if you were planning to buy the item anyway, you should have been tracking prices over the past few months.

If you’re acting on emotion and buying on impulse, you may not have a clue and end up falling for a “bargain” when the retailer simply hiked the price before applying the discount. In fact, according to research company Finder, around 13% of South Africans believe that retailers inflate prices before sales, so do your homework before buying.

Also make sure that the item on sale isn’t old stock, or perhaps that there’s a newer model coming onto the market soon. Understand what you’re buying so you don’t lose money in the long run, by needing to upgrade soon again.

Know what you can afford

Set your budget upfront so that you know what you can afford to spend, and draw up a shopping list. With the festive season ahead, you may want to stock up on some grocery deals as well.

Be very careful about buying on credit though. You will pay interest on your purchases and in a rising interest rate environment, these bargains could turn out to be quite expensive at the end of the day. Read more: What is credit? and What does credit cost?

Value your designer life

We all create our own lives, designed around what we value and appreciate. There are so many messages on social media and other platforms telling us what the ideal life should look like, and Black Friday magnifies this.

Be true to yourself and don’t fall into this trap of being like everyone else. Unsubscribe from promotional emailers and hide ads on social media if you find this tempting.

Research shows that happiness doesn’t come with owning material possessions, but rather from making good memories, so focus your energy on creating memories (which don’t have to cost a fortune) as opposed to buying stuff.

Waste not, want not

You shouldn’t ignore the impact of massive consumerism on the planet. Every second, a rubbish truck full of discarded clothing ends up in landfill sites according to

Many items are worn only seven to ten times before being discarded.

Around 17% of global food production is wasted, according to the United Nations.

Plastic waste is growing relentlessly, causing major concern for future generations.

All of this can be reduced if we simply bought less and used what we have.

When you buy something new on Black Friday, where will the old one go? Thrown away, resold? Give some thought to the planet and start shopping with a conscience.

Consider the opportunity cost

All decisions have consequences, and money spent on Black Friday is money you can’t invest for the future.

You may be expecting an annual bonus and feeling rather flush around Black Friday, but consider that every R1 000 you spend today could be worth R1 400 in five years' time, at a growth of 7%. (Check out the Smart About Money How much will my savings grow calculator)

So, consider the opportunity cost – what else could you be doing with that money – before jumping into an impulsive Black Friday deal. With a bit of thought and forward planning, you can put yourself firmly in the driver’s seat and spend responsibly. 

You won’t suffer from FOMO and certainly won’t start 2023 with a hefty credit bill that needs to be repaid.  As the American author and actor Sean Patrick Flanery said, “Do something today that your future self will thank you for.”