Before You Spend Money This Black Friday Season…

Let’s push pause for a minute, okay?

Every other post you read on this blog today is going to be filled with deals. Great deals. In many cases, the best deals I’ve seen on a particular item in a year or longer — and quite possibly even ever.

Finding those deals is a big part of what I do here at KOAB. It’s kind of my job – as weird of a job as that is!

I realize that it’s NOT my job to manage your personal finances, but if I could just put on another hat for a second and say this aloud: You all know that no matter how great the deal is, it’s never a bargain if you can’t afford it, right?

The blog has been hopping lately and the pace is only going to increase over the next week. There are going to be dozens of deals posted everyday.

But just because they’re posted doesn’t mean you have to do them! Heck, you probably shouldn’t even open 90% of them! KOAB has 100,000+ people reading the blog every month (isn’t that nuts?).

I have all of those readers in mind when I’m deal sleuthing. I’ve gotten over 150 requests in the last month to find deals on particular items – and some of those may be relevant to your life, but many of them won’t speak to you at all!

That said, I know how intoxicating all these deals can be. It can mess with your brain chemistry (seriously, I’m sure there are studies on this – it’s why stores make big, flashing signs and put together pretty end caps.)

When the sheer volume of GREAT DEAL alerts gets overwhelming, can I  share a recommendation taken from my own personal playbook? Take a deep breath and ask yourself my FOUR QUESTIONS FOR KEEPING MY BUDGET IN CHECK. (Not for nothing, the following four questions are one of the keys to my husband and me staying out of debt for the past seven years!)

#1. Was I planning to purchase this item anyway?

Impulse purchases aren’t necessarily wrong. I may not have been planning to buy something, but when I see it, I remember — oh yeah, we’re out of ____, and this is a great price, so I’d better pick it up. But impulse shopping can often be a red flag to something else going on — and it’s a good thing to be in touch with that BEFORE the credit card comes out.

#2. Do I have the money in my budget to pay for it?

Whether a purchase was planned or not (#1), I still need to make sure I have the money to pay for it. And not just that the money is in my bank account, but that it’s BUDGETED. You see, just because I have $2000 in my checking account, doesn’t mean I have $2000 to blow on a big screen TV. That two grand may have already been budgeted for other purposes (in fact, it probably was) – since we spend & save all of our money on paper at the beginning of each month.

#3. Can I make do or do without?

Even if there’s a real need, that doesn’t mean I *have* to make a purchase to fill that need. Sometimes I can make do with what we already have, or even do without for a while — especially when money is tight.

#4. If I decide to make the purchase, am I getting the very best price I can?

#4 is where I come in. And this time of the year? No doubt about it – there are some of the very best prices we’ll see all year. But these aren’t the only deals we’ll see all year; long-time readers of KOAB know that there are still plenty of bargains in February and May and September. So if the money isn’t there right now, it’s okay to wait – when the money IS there, you’ll still be able to find a deal. And then that purchase will be blessing rather than a curse.

By the way, in case you’re wondering, I don’t ask myself these questions with every purchase. If I’m out picking up a gallon of milk or a pound of ground beef, I just assume it’s a need, that I can’t make do or do without — and yes, the money has been budgeted. But if/when I feel an impulse purchase coming on, these four questions keep me honest!

And if all else fails, it also helps to remind myself that while THINGS can make our lives better, easier, prettier or even more fun, it’s the people we love and experiences we share with them that are truly the best “deals” around!



  1. Well said!

  2. shoshie steinhart says

    Thank you for everything you do! You hit the nail on the head with this very important reminder. In years past I have gone a little overboard with the black Friday shopping. Last year you helped me score some awesome deals on things that we had on lists that we needed. This year there are even fewer things on that list. So while its so fun to read all your posts of these awesome deals, its just window shopping for me 🙂

  3. THANK YOU!!! Excellent post…esp this time of year when we seem to be bombarded w/deals. In addition to all you’ve said above, I’d add, do I really need it? Even if I can afford it, the high I get from buying it lasts only a moment…and then I’m looking for my next “hit”.

    • Thank you, Miz – that’s a very good point about the “need”! Especially when shopping is maybe really about trying to scratch an “itch” that can’t be relieved thru stuff.

      I also know that this time of the year, sometimes it’s about “wants”. Like my son has really wanted an iPod for a year and has been diligently saving all his birthday money and raking a lot of leaves. So, for that, I still want to make sure that #4 happens, yk?

      That said, I definitely agree that being in touch with NEED vs. WANT is so important. The more awareness we have about ourselves, the clearer we will be about our motivations and tripping points!

  4. I LOVED this post. Thanks so much for the reminder Mara.

  5. Great point! One year I got a little crazed, and then I realized I was being completely un-like my usual self. Now I ignore it all unless there’s something specific I’ve been looking for.

    • Crazed is a good way to describe it. And then when I see people camping out for days in the freezing rain… crazed! Listen, I love a good deal, but no deal is going to see me sleeping on Best Buy’s sidewalk!

  6. Thank you for this wise and timely reminder! As another of your readers commented, I mostly “window-shop” your posts. Another reason is what you might call my #5: Do I have room for it? For example, I could definitely use more bakeware, so the CorningWare looks amazing–but I don’t really have room to store it in my kitchen!

    Keep up the great work!

  7. Just a note as well, this is all important stuff, but let’s also remember the deals theat give us sastifaction of a different type. There have been many funds set up to help the widows in Israel of this most recent horrific terrorist attack. There are finds here in the states in every city to help orphans and widows as well. Perhaps before we go purchasing that big ticket item we can evaluate if we really need it, perhaps there is a family whose needs are greater than ours for the basics and not for the wants. Have a fun Black Friday and remember to thank those who work so we can shop!!

  8. You rock! Thanks for all your hard work and common sense!

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