Today's economy

What’s so bad about Black Friday?

By Kevin Press, BrighterLife.ca

Comments (1)

It’s unclear to me whether last week’s post, My three epic money fails, scored well with readers because of its written or photographic content. (A link from Rob Carrick at The Globe and Mail didn’t hurt, obviously.) I will admit that the decision to include a semi-embarrassing shot of me falling off a tricycle was a blatant attempt to grab eyeballs. Cynical? Sure. But in my defence, I did post a shot of me falling off a tricycle.

A busy mall on Black Friday.I raise this because I want to offer a postscript. Reflecting on this year’s Black Friday/Cyber Monday exhibition of prudent financial planning, I’ve been thinking about how difficult it is to balance the need to live frugally with our desire for shiny new objects.

I don’t spend a great deal of money on myself. But as a husband and father of two young children, what I find is that situations arise where spending feels like a necessity. Tell me if you can relate to this.

You manage your budget carefully all month long, and then an obligation of one kind or another comes around. Say it’s somebody’s birthday. Without fully realizing the shift, you stop thinking about saving and start focusing on how generous you feel you need to be.

How often do we let ourselves off the budget hook because of extenuating circumstances?

The holidays are a kind of perfect storm of extenuating circumstances. The Lovely Lisa and I have an idea of the kind of Christmas we want to give our kids, and each year we deliver. I wouldn’t say that we spend lavishly, but it’s clear to both of us that what we add to our January credit card bill has more to do with what feels right as parents than it does what feels right as managers of family finances.

This is all a form of compartmentalization, a psychology term that describes our ability to maintain two opposing points of view. It helps us deal with cognitive dissonance, that awful feeling that comes, for example, from believing one has an obligation to save and spend at the same time. Our ability to hold firm to both ideas may be ultimately counterproductive, but at least we can sleep at night.

I do this less now than I used to. As a teenager, my $2.65-an-hour fast food restaurant salary didn’t afford me many luxuries. But when my friends decided we were going to have a night out on the town, I allowed myself to be taken up in the excitement. Those evenings may have drained my savings account, which made me unhappy. But the peer pressure was such that I couldn’t bring myself to turn down the invitation.

I still find myself faced with similar dilemmas (even if they lack the fun of a Saturday night out with Clayton, Danny and Rick). And while I don’t always make the optimal financial decision, I do find that recognizing these compartmentalization moments when they arise gives me sufficient pause to think about my decisions carefully.

So no matter how much I want a new camera, I allowed Black Friday and Cyber Monday to pass without making a purchase I might regret a month from now.

The question is, will my self-discipline hold out through Boxing Day?


Image of thw Sun Life whimsical sun - Money for Life Are you on track to meet your financial and retirement planning goals?
Having a plan to protect your family and build your savings now can help ensure you will have enough money to last through retirement, so you can live your retirement your way. Learn about Money for Life.™

Keep up to date on what’s happening in the capital markets and the real economy. Subscribe to receive Today’s economy blog automatically by RSS or email.

Learn more

How money-savvy are you?

Will your choices help you reach your financial goals?

Try our Financial habits quiz.

Take action

Are you on track to meet your financial and retirement planning goals?

It's never too early or too late to start!

For a FREE review of your financial plan: Talk to an Advisor.

Jo McKay on

So glad you resisted the Marketing – one tip – when the flyers show up – take directly to recycle bin – (when ready attach a note to mail box that says NO flyers please)..It gets easier :) AND this year I put this link on my face book: Gifts of Hope – http://plancanada.ca/GiftsOfHope/FlipBook/index.html – Makes much more sense. Fortunately more people understand this year, buying from big box stores means you are feeding the already rich, who are exploiting their staff, distributors, and the people who make the product as well – so – first I buy less, second – try to buy Fair Trade, Organic, Local. Not so difficult when it also feels better.

Add a new comment:

Note: Please be sure to read our commenting policy and terms and conditions for this site. We reserve the right to delete any comments that we view to be in violation of our policy. The name you provide will appear next to your comment. Thank you!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Get the NEW Interactive Guide to Money for Life plus FREE newsletter
Get a guaranteed cheque in retirement. Money for Life

Connect to your Brighter Life