'Avoid a festive financial hangover' – How to manage your money and mental health this Black Friday

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If you're prepared to stand in long queues to score discounted deals, make sure you do your homework to ensure they're genuine bargains.
If you're prepared to stand in long queues to score discounted deals, make sure you do your homework to ensure they're genuine bargains.
Getty Images/Boris SV
  • Black Friday is happening this week, and while it brings excitement for some, it increases anxiety for others.
  • If you plan to shop in store or online, there are certain things you can do to prepare.
  • Two experts share savvy shopping tips to make your Black Friday shopping as stress free as possible.

We're a nation of bargain hunters, so much so that evidence shows certain pricing strategies motivate us to buy. After all, who doesn't appreciate a good discount? 

But if the thought of taking part in the annual ritual of Black Friday, which traditionally marks the start of the festive season, gives you anxiety rather than a thrill, you're not alone.

"Black Friday shopping can be stressful for anyone, considering the time pressure, unruly shoppers, crowds and long lines," says Professor Renata Schoeman, a psychiatrist and head of the MBA Health Care Leadership programme at the University of Stellenbosch Business School.

"It's enough to make anyone irritable, angry or anxious, [especially] people with mental health disorders such as depression or anxiety."

READ MORE | Black Friday: South Africans likely to buy staples - not luxuries

A past Big Data analysis by impact&emotions, which analysed the behaviour patterns of consumers on Black Friday, found that the day can have unexpected (positive and negative) effects on our mood and mental health. It can give us a "high" when we bag a bargain but for some people, that adrenaline rush can become a problem. 

As Paula Quinsee, accredited life coach and mental health advocate, explains: "... the thought of finding a really good bargain from our favourite brand can be too tempting to pass up. There is also the very real experience of FOMO (a fear of missing out) that some people have with all the hype being made by various retailers leading up to Black Friday itself and the various promotions they are running."

She adds:

People who are good at bargain hunting who maximise on the Black Friday specials can experience a great deal of accomplishment and satisfaction that they managed to save a great deal of money, and pride themselves on the cost-effective use of their bargain-hunting skills.

But Schoeman adds that the sale day also comes at a time of the year when people are financially strapped: "There is the pressure of the holiday season and Christmas, so there's a lot of expectations that people need to live up to… And if you already had a difficult financial year, it might even create more anxiety not to live up to that expectation."

Are you really scoring a great deal?

Schoeman cautions that Black Friday merchants try to push a sense of urgency on consumers by limiting stock and creating a time clock – for example, when items are advertised as a 24-hour-deal. But she adds that "we all know it lasts actually much longer - you can get pretty good deals later on as well".

Research shows that these "limited-time offers" often increase "anticipatory regret" or FOMO, which drives many people to buy things they otherwise wouldn't have.

Moreover, research conducted by UK consumer group Which? looked at prices every day in the six months before and after Black Friday. They discovered that just one in seven Black Friday deals offered a genuine discount and that the vast majority of products had been cheaper - or the same - in the six months before the sale day.

"We analysed the prices of 214 products from Black Friday 2021 to investigate if any were genuine bargains... [and] 98% of Black Friday deals weren't worth buying last year," they said this week.

If you struggle with anxiety

Some people can be triggered and stressed when they are bombarded with marketing material from all angles and at every turn, says Quinsee, adding:

It can feel overwhelming trying to keep track of which retailer is running what special. Research shows that when we are exposed to too much choice and options or variations, it can cause us to shut down and not make a choice at all or make a choice simply to get rid of the anxiety we are feeling, which can result in buyer's remorse.

Quinsee says that people who have anxiety issues can experience even more stress over the Black Friday period because things seem more chaotic than usual. "The very simple exercise of going to the shops that are overcrowded with Black Friday shoppers can lead to panic or anxiety attacks.

"So, if you're prepared to wake up at the crack of dawn to shop until you drop, make sure you're armed with a plan and have done your research."

Schoeman and Quinsee offer the following survival tips.

Plan ahead

Have a pre-created list of things you've got your eye on, and stick to it. "If you don't need it, don't buy it. Two for the price of one is still more expensive than none at all," says Schoeman, who strongly recommends having a budget for your shopping.

Quinsee adds: "Ask yourself if you are shopping for day-to-day essentials or capitalising on some early festive season gifts." 

Avoid panic buying, being swept away by so-called specials 

"Don't buy any unnecessary items that can cause you post-shopping distress or buyer's remorse for overspending," says Quinsee. "Stick to your shopping list and your budget. Just because something looks like a bargain, it doesn't necessarily mean it is one."

If you're someone who easily makes rash decisions, try to do your research in advance on items you're interested in buying so that you can spot whether it's a real bargain. 

READ MORE | Black Friday: Compare prices and 6 other expert tips to make the most of it

"Don't get caught up in what others are buying; keep focused on your needs. Comparing yourself to others will just add to anxiety levels," says Quinsee.

Schoeman adds: "Only buy something if it serves a purpose or need."

What have your Black Friday experiences been like? Share them with us here

Go with someone

If you are planning to shop in store, try to go with a friend or family member, especially if you struggle with anxiety or a mental health illness, says Schoeman. "They can help you to locate the items that you want, and you don't need to deal with all that stress," she adds.

However, if you suffer from anxiety, you may be better suited to doing your shopping online to avoid the chaos and help manage your anxiety and stress levels, says Quinsee.

Get a friend to share the cost of bulk items

If you plan to buy bulk items, get a friend to share the items and cost with you, advises Quinsee. That way, you will also have a support structure with someone who can help you navigate the busyness of it all and keep you calm in the process.

If in store, ensure you're dressed comfortably

If you plan to shop deals in store, be prepared to stand in long queues; wear flat or comfortable shoes; take enough shopping bags, and have some refreshments handy (such as water and snacks), says Quinsee. "Take items to keep you calm (such as a book to read or music to listen to) if you have to wait in any queues or to shut out the noise around you."

READ MORE | Avoid overspending this Black Friday

She also advises that you head to the smaller malls rather than the big ones: "They may not have all the stores you are looking for, but it could be a less chaotic experience for you."

In an article for The Conversation, Shalini Vohra, a senior lecturer in marketing at Sheffield Hallam University, wrote: "Remember that saving £100 (R2 050) is likely to bring less pleasure than the pain of having spent £100 more than was needed if the item was further discounted. So, if you're looking to bag a Black Friday deal, be aware of your emotions and avoid a festive financial hangover."


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