Frugal Friday and Black Friday

By on November 18, 2016

You knew I had to go there! Black Friday is just one week away, so I’m here to alert you to all the best deals and steals to kick off your holiday season…NOT! 

Okay, in all seriousness, I’m not going to sit here and tell you Black Friday is the devil, but it should be approached with caution. Don’t use it as an excuse to buy a ton of crap you don’t need or want. Just because an item is 70% off doesn’t mean it’s worth your money or your time. 

The only reason kids enjoy shopping… Target stickers!

A little backstory for you…I did not grow up doing Black Friday shopping. Of course, way back when I was a young’un, Black Friday actually took place only on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Now, it’s been creeping back earlier and earlier for several years, so some stores open on Thanksgiving Day instead of super-early on Friday. Plus, tons of retailers offer great online deals throughout the week and Cyber Monday.

When I was a teenager, I sometimes thought it might be kind of fun to go shopping that Friday, but we never went. My family was always at least a half-hour drive away from any major shopping centers or malls, which was a big deterrent. Getting up way before the crack of dawn was another obstacle. 

Anyway, it was not my family tradition to get up in the wee hours of the morning to shop for Black Friday deals. Instead, we typically go to a beautiful park a few miles from my parents’ home. It’s terrific for hiking together with the extended family. The kids roll down this huge hill while the adults watch and snap photos. We love the fresh air and scenery, and we work off some of that turkey and pumpkin pie.

For a lot of you, Black Friday shopping is your tradition. Maybe you and your family like to go out together and get all your Christmas shopping done in that one day. Perhaps you always meet your best friend at the mall to scour the stores for crazy discounts. I’m not here to discourage you from keeping that tradition alive. Traditions are awesome, and they draw us closer together. They provide us some continuity in increasingly uncertain times.

This week’s post is simply a reminder to be mindful of your spending. Whatever your specific financial goals are, don’t veer off course by going wild on Black Friday. As with any spending, planning in advance is crucial to upholding frugality. Here are a few tips for ensuring your Black Friday doesn’t ruin your Christmas, Hannukah, or New Year’s Eve. 

Reigning in Black Friday Spending:

  • Plan ahead. Check online for stores’ best deals beforehand, so you know what to expect. Lots of sales have already been publicized.
  • Distinguish between needs and wants. If you only have the funds for certain items, make your dollars count by prioritizing.
  • If you’re specifically shopping for holiday gifts, figure out for what and for whom you’ll be shopping. This can help you avoid buying three extras of items “just in case” you might need one for someone you forgot. It’s not really a bargain if you buy a bunch more than needed and just add to the junk in your closet.
  • Unless the experience of being physically in the stores that day is truly important for you, try to score your deals online. That way you avoid the scary bargain shoppers we’ve all heard about. You skip the interminable lines and rude behavior. In addition, you run less risk of impulse buying. 
  • Be safe out there! We all have common sense; let’s use it and not risk losing a limb just to get cheap electronics. 
  • On a slightly less frugal note, November 26th is this year’s Small Business Saturday. True, small businesses can’t usually offer as low of prices as major chains and Amazon. But if you value quality over quantity, and supporting smaller businesses rather than multi-millionaires is important to you, might I suggest patronizing the mom-and-pop stores in your area? Perhaps scoring the absolute lowest price on things isn’t always what matters. Shopping local when possible can go a long way toward helping your community.

Are you a Black Friday fan? What Thanksgiving traditions do you follow year after year?

Frugal Friday First Edition: Sales, sales, sales!

By on November 4, 2016

Today, we’re kicking off our new series: Frugal Friday! Here, we plan to share various tips and tricks for living more frugally. And of course, we’ll post these on Fridays, for two reasons. Reason #1: So we can dub them Frugal Friday! Alliteration is fun! Reason #2: A more serious reason. Fridays begin the weekend, when many are prone to spending more. We hope these ideas, even if they’re not new to you, may give you an extra boost of motivation in your own frugal journey.

Why Frugality?

Saving money is something most of us probably care about on some level, no matter how we each define frugality. One person’s frugal vacation is tent camping, while another’s is Super 8. One person’s frugal clothes store is Target, while another’s is the local thrift shop. One person’s frugal dinner may be Taco Bell, another’s may be PB and J. Terms such as expensive or cheap are relative to our upbringing, our income, and our current goals. 

We, the CODs, are not the people who always choose the least expensive route for every item we buy. Certain things we like to get in a higher quality so they’ll last longer. Neither are we complete misers. We don’t deprive ourselves of all things comfortable just for deprivation’s sake. 

Mr. COD and I see our lifestyle as a comfortable balance of frugality and luxury. We’re fortunate to have more than enough of everything we need. Nothing, whether financial or otherwise, is permanent, so we approach our lifestyle as an ever-evolving thing. We are so thankful for all that we’ve learned and put into place in the past year, and we know it’s not necessarily because we deserve it. Wisdom in decision-making is always an area of needed improvement.

Merely tossing a few frugal tricks into our routine might not make a huge difference on our overall trajectory, but what can it hurt to try? It all depends on what our personal finance goals are. Getting out of debt? Frugal habits will definitely help get us on our way. Saving for retirement? Yes, frugality has potential there too (two reasons: helping you save more, and helping you require less when retired). Starting a dream business, relocating, adopting a child, paying for college, buying a car/house, and on and on…these are all expensive! These goals are more within reach through frugality. For us, paying off debts + amped-up frugality = me becoming a stay-at-home parent for a year or more. That’s pretty sweet math.

Whatever your financial goals may be, adopting a more frugal, less spendy attitude can work wonders. We determine our own level of frugality based on where we are and what we need/want. What do you want, and what are you willing to sacrifice to get it? 

Advertising, The Bane of Frugality

One particular consumer-centric fact of today that drives me absolutely crazy is the sheer amount of advertising we encounter day in and day out. It can be next to impossible to drown out the nonstop noise of consumerism. 

  • “The clock’s ticking on the season’s lowest prices!” 
  • “Only a few hours left to save 20%!”
  • “Incredible doorbusters only on Saturday morning!”
  • “A deal this great won’t last long!”

Such are the lines marketers feed us day after day, all to get us to buy their crap. You know the drill all too well. They create a perceived need  and an urgent deadline (only for a limited time!) and before we know it, we’ve got cartfuls of junk we didn’t need or even really want.  

The get-this-deal-while-it-lasts mentality is aggravating. Putting a time limit on a discount makes the deal appear ultra-sensational. Oh, the regret that will plague us if we don’t jump in and buy it now! It works all too often.

I think back to when we bought our timeshare, and I ask myself, why on earth didn’t we say, hey, if it’s such a great deal, let’s think it through overnight? (Mr. COD researched cars and dealers for six months before we bought our Pontiac Vibes. Thoughtful spending is usually our default.) Why didn’t one of us have the sense to say, no, this is a huge financial decision, so we shouldn’t be hasty? Because they got us to believe it was an awesome deal for that day only, and they never gave out this many bonus points, and blah blah blah. If we’d waited 24 hours, we definitely wouldn’t have purchased the timeshare. Our sanity would have returned by morning.

So it goes with any type of sales; the seller or marketer creates this false sense of urgency. (I know I’m sounding harsh on marketers, but I get it. No judgement here. It’s your job.) We the consumers need to be more aware of our decision-making process and be smarter with our $$. Mr. COD and I have made plenty of spendy mistakes due to lack of patience. I’d bet you have, too. Split-second decisions involving our money don’t generally turn out well. Signing for a car lease. Buying a home. Even buying a pair of shoes or a book or a smoothie can be bad for us if it happens too often and derails us from reaching our frugal goals. 

The 24-hour rule is a good guideline. You see something you like and want to buy, but instead of forking over the money instantly, wait a day and see if you still want it. That’s what I’m trying nowadays, and I know it’ll help. Other variations might work for you: 3 days, a week, even a month or more, whatever gives you the time to step back a bit. Think it over. Assess your desire and need for the item. Don’t just buy it because it’s “on sale”. 

Much of the time, after a cooling-off period of a day or two, you find you don’t want the item anymore. (I always find this to be true with clothes! My heart longs for a fun new sweater, but once I’ve left the dressing room and stepped away from said sweater, that longing fades into oblivion.) Maybe you still want that concert ticket, that sound system, that new coat, but determine your other financial goals are more valuable than the temporary high of buying.

So, your tip for this weekend is, if you find yourself wanting to buy something that’s really not a need, don’t buy it right then. Even if there’s a big sale and the price will go up tomorrow, make yourself wait 24 hours. Detach yourself emotionally from the item and what pleasure you think it will bring you. Remember another *once-in-a-lifetime sale is bound to appear in a week anyway! 

*Possible exception to following the 24-hour rule if you’re a Cubs fan and need to splurge a bit on some championship gear or celebratory activities! It’s been 108 years; this very well may be truly once in your lifetime! Enjoy it!

What kinds of rules do you have for yourself and your purchases? Is there a certain amount of money you won’t spend without a 24-hour cooling-off period?