The secret Black Friday confessions of a certified cheapskate

You might think this is the holiest day of my year, but in reality it's a lot like every other day -- just with a lot more hype.

Walmart

Because I'm The Cheapskate, this is the time of year when people nudge me and say, "Bet you're getting pretty excited about Black Friday, huh?"

You know Black Friday: it's the day after Thanksgiving, the day when stores, both brick-and-mortar and click-and-order, serve up the very best deals of the year, slashing prices so low you'll be willing to freeze your butt off in an overnight line like you were waiting for Stones tickets.

But, frankly, I'm not that excited. In fact, allow me to confess: only once in my life have I gone shopping on a Black Friday, and it was late in the day for something I really needed. I didn't get in line at 2 a.m. or fight with crowds or discover that the store had only eight of the item it was advertising.

No, my idea of a fun Black Friday is kicking back with my family and forgetting about consumerism. (That said, watch for a superspecial Cheapskate post from me on that Friday. Hint: you won't have to buy anything.)

Why am I so "meh" about the biggest shopping day of the year? Because it's kind of a lie. In my business, every day is Black Friday. As a full-time cheapskate, I see monster deals all the time. Earlier this week, for example, I wrote about a 10.1-inch Samsung Galaxy tablet for $179.99. A 10-inch tablet! And before that, a 50-inch HDTV for under $500.

The thing is, I used to love sitting around on Thanksgiving Day and poring over the store ads. Family members would no doubt roll their eyes at hearing me exclaim over and over, "Wow, look how cheap this hard drive is! And this laptop! Do you know how much these used to cost?"

But now the thrill is gone, because most stores leak their ads two to three weeks in advance. (Walmart's emerged just today, for example.) Consequently, Black Friday surprises are few and far between. Most of the ad circulars that come in the newspaper I've seen already.

So, yeah, what used to feel like a fun discovery of "secret" deals now just seems like an overhyped holiday. By the time Black Friday actually rolls around, it's like the presidential election: I just want it to be over already.

You know what? Instead of blitzkrieging shoppers with early ads, I'd like to see a store keep deals under wraps until Thanksgiving Day. Build some excitement. Get people talking. Add some mystery.

In fact, I think all the extra lead time kills the impulse-buy mentality. It also gives customers time to do their homework. Walmart, for example, plans to sell an LG BP125 Blu-ray player for $38 -- a good price, yes, but that player has no apps or Wi-Fi. And as I posted earlier today , Walmart currently has a refurbished Toshiba Blu-ray player, with apps and Wi-Fi, for $39.

Likewise, Walmart's HP laptop for $279 is pretty good, but I've seen plenty of similar models for around the same price. Is it worth standing in line, dealing with big crowds, and risking a sellout before you even get inside, all to save $20?

Maybe it is. I'm not trying to harsh anyone's Black Friday buzz. Lots of people like the manic fun of deal-crazed crowds, and love the rush of scoring the absolute lowest price on a coveted item. Plus, there are deals to be had. Walmart plans to offer one of the best bargains I've ever seen: a Vizio E601I-A3 60-inch HDTV with Wi-Fi and apps for $688. Non-Black Friday price: $998. I just reviewed that TV, and for that price, it's worth 5 hours in a slow-moving line.

That said, I remain steadfast in believing that few Black Friday deals are much better than what you can find all year round. Take it from me: there will be other $279 laptops. And $99 Nook Color tablets. (Actually, you can get that one right now.) I see them all the time.

What's your take on Black Friday: totally overblown or still the best day of the year to score killer deals?

 

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