A Pre Black Friday Guest Post –
Black Friday and its adorable kid brother, Cyber Monday, are almost upon us. In just a few days, consumers across the country will be lining up to stampede into stores and grab the year’s best deals.
If you’re the kind of person who tracks prices, it’s hard to deny that Black Friday deals are often mathematically advantageous. If you’re eyeing that shiny new MacBook Pro with the retina display, for example, Best Buy is chopping off $200 to sell it at $1,099.99. This year, electronics are essentially $200 off across the board, from expensive MacBook laptops to less expensive household speakers. (If you’re curious about specific electronic deals, check out CNet’s guide to Black Friday shopping.)
Taking $200 off, say, a Samsung 32-inch 720p LED television sounds like a great deal, the type of discount that’ll keep money in your pocket as you prepare for the new year and its associated financial New Year’s Resolutions. However, before you buy, you have to consider the entire cost of the product you’re purchasing.
First: let’s just set aside this assumption that Black Friday gifts are intended for other people. You know as well as I do that the majority of those MacBooks, speakers, tablets and 32-inch 720p LED televisions are going straight into the homes of the people who purchased them. (The gifts you give to other people are more along the lines of socks and scented candles.) So before you buy that giant TV “for your wife,” take a few minutes to figure out exactly how much it’s going to cost you.
Here’s a good starting point: those tablets, MacBooks and televisions all require Internet. Even many home stereo systems are networked these days. How’s your internet provider doing? If you think saving $200 on a television is a great deal, try saving on your Internet and cable bill every month. Luckily, most Internet and cable providers have Black Friday specials too. Look for deals on Internet availability; these types of presents don’t fit as well under the tree, but if you have the choice between saving $200 on a television and saving $30 every month on the cable and Internet required to run it, it should become absolutely clear which is the smarter financial choice.
Then consider the accessories. How are you going to carry that MacBook around? Are you going to sign up for AppleCare — and if not, what are you going to do when your new laptop suffers natural wear and tear? (Although I am resolutely against most warranty programs, AppleCare is one of the few good ones out there, and a must-have for nearly all Mac users.) Even if Best Buy’s MacBook price is $1,099.99, you’re going to spend probably $1,500 total on accessories and insurance — and that’s before taxes.
Yes, $1,500 on Black Friday is still better than the original retail price of ~$1,700, and it becomes even more attractive if you’re able to slice a few dollars of your internet bill. However, the real point of this conversation is to get you to understand the true cost of what you’re buying. A laptop on sale isn’t just a laptop. You also have to buy the case, the warranty, the software package that lets you run basic programs, and the internet you need to keep the thing online.
If you’re shopping on a budget — and you should be — the number you factor into your budget needs to reflect the true cost of the product, not the featured sale price they run in the Black Friday ads. Otherwise, you’re going to overspend this holiday season.
In short: should you take advantage of this year’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales? Sure, why not — IF you’ve taken the time to figure out whether you can truly afford it. Happy holidays, and have fun shopping!