Are you ready to celebrate the most American holiday of the year? Black Friday is just around the corner, bringing with it an onslaught of deals, doorbusters, and promotions designed to get you off the couch and into the mall the day after Thanksgiving.
With so many stores participating in the yearly ritual, it can be hard to make sense of your options. If you love to shop, it’s easy to go crazy, making too many useless purchases and regretting them soon afterward. If you don’t, it’s easy to see Black Friday as pointless and chaotic, opting out entirely and missing genuinely good deals.
But hardcore shoppers can strategize to anticipate Black Friday temptations, and even the most frugal spenders can learn to see the value in this day of deals. In her bestselling book, The Happiness Project, author Gretchen Rubin diagnoses two types of buyers — overbuyers and underbuyers — and offers suggestions for each to make the most of their everyday shopping. Those lessons translate easily to the dilemmas commonly faced by consumers on Black Friday.
Overbuyers shop too much, Rubin writes. They “lay in huge supplies of slow-use items like shampoo or cough medicine. They buy things like tools or high-tech gadgets with the thought ‘This will come in handy some day.’” According to Rubin, this habit causes overbuyers to feel “oppressed by the number of errands they feel obliged to do and by the clutter and waste often created by their overbuying.”
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Underbuyers (Rubin counts herself as one) buy too little. “As an underbuyer,” Rubin writes, “I often feel stressed because I don’t have the things I need. I make a lot of late-night runs to the drugstore. I’m surrounded with things that are shabby, don’t really work, or aren’t exactly suitable.”
Black Friday can be a great event for both overbuyers and underbuyers, as long as you recognize your type and plan accordingly. Ironically, both types of buyers might use similar preparation methods.
Mastering the Art of Needful Buying
The key to successful shopping runs for both types of shoppers is to aim for what Rubin calls “needful” buying. If you’re an underbuyer, that means taking some time to evaluate where your frugality causes you to spend time feeling disappointed or making last-minute runs to the store. Rubin offers common examples in her book, like toilet paper or the white T-shirts she wears every day, but the sentiment applies to big Black Friday purchases, too.
An additional strategy for underbuyers is to think about the things in your life that lead to frustration, even if it’s minor. Maybe your first-edition Kindle doesn’t hold much of a charge anymore, causing you to read fewer books than you’d like. Or perhaps your decades-old couch has an irreparable stain on it, which makes you embarrassed about inviting guests over. By identifying the places where your underbuying works against you, you’ll be able to cut through the overwhelming rush of Black Friday by looking for specific deals, and feel more confident that they will truly be useful when it comes time to pull the trigger.
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If you’re an overbuyer, on the other hand, you won’t have a problem finding things you need among Black Friday deals. Instead, the risk you run is tricking yourself into believing you need everything, and feeling guilty about it later when you realize you never got around to using most of the things you bought.
Rubin experienced a taste of overbuyer thinking when she went shopping for white T-shirts with her mom, a classic overbuyer. When they were standing in line with a pile of new white shirts, her mom asked if she wanted to add some color for more variety, just in case. Rubin was tempted, but ultimately decided not to deviate from her original plan after thinking about how she would use them.
“In the store, it seemed like a good idea to have a variety of colors,” she writes. But after visualizing herself in front of the closet, she realized that she almost always wants “to pull out the same things: white V-neck T-shirt; black yoga pants or jeans; and running shoes.”
As an overbuyer, take a step back after you’ve filled out your Black Friday list to think about how you’ll use what you’ve selected. If you can’t visualize yourself actually finding the time to pull out that juicer every day, or you realize you only like the first two episodes of the show you’re buying on Blu-Ray, drop them from your list. That way, you’ll be able to spend less time shopping and dealing with clutter, and more time with your family and friends.
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The Final Sale
Whether you’re an underbuyer or an overbuyer, you can make Black Friday work for you. In both cases, the trick to overcoming the stress of shopping is to buy needfully. As an underbuyer, think about the times when not having the right things causes you stress, and give yourself permission to fix those problems in your life. As an overbuyer, recognize when you’re in danger of adding stress to your life later by buying things you’ll never use. Whether you have a tendency to spend or save, following these simple tips will erase much of the typical stress of the holidays.
Featured image: Flickr/Martin Abegglen