How will you spend the day after Thanksgiving? Here’s some research that might influence your decision. In our 2015 survey of affluent Americans–a group that represents the top wealth holders in the United States–we asked how many times they participated in in-store Black Friday shopping in the past five years. Only 2% said they had participated in each of the past five years, 14% said they had participated once or twice, and 3% said they had participated 3-4 times. More than three quarters of this affluent group, or 78%, reported that they had not participated at all in the past five years. Meanwhile The National Retail Federation estimates that 138.5 million Americans (approximately 59%) will be shopping on Black Friday this year (although this number includes in-person and online shopping).
Distractions to effective wealth accumulation was a key theme of my father’s work in the past few years. He wrote several blogs on the topic of Black Friday, focusing on recreational shoppers, the comparison between time spent at Black Friday sales to hours spending managing one’s investments, and the research demonstrating the lack of real savings shoppers typically receive on Black Friday. Savvy Americans–whether they are just beginning their path to financial independence or are part of the group of top wealth holders–consistently indicate that the reason they will or have achieved financial success on their own is because they think differently than the masses. The marketing circus which is Black Friday–the ads, the frenzy of first-in-line syndrome, and the manufactured need to spend–can be viewed as one more in a litany of distractions served up by our consumer culture that serves to impede one’s ability to accumulate wealth and become financially independent.
Many millionaire-next-door types will be working this Friday. If you’re taking the day off, perhaps a wise alternative to shopping on Black Friday could be to invest in one’s abilities, talents, and skills versus buying two-for-one scarves or a new flat screen television that will probably cost even less in a few weeks. While avoiding scratching the instant-gratification itch, the ultimate payoff of more effectively utilizing your time and financial resources could be much greater than the fleeting pleasure of a purchase. Or as an alternative, if you want to enjoy the spectacle of it all, spend the day as one of my close friends does and engage in some people-watching with your family at the mall. Viewing the day as family entertainment–while shunning the gratuitous spending–could be the most productive way to spend Black Friday.