EDITORIAL | Caution: don’t spend more than you save on Black Friday

South Africans are advised to be strategic with how they buy

25 November 2021 - 20:10
A shopper leaves a store in Canal Walk, Cape Town, during last year's quiet, pandemic-hit Black Friday.
A shopper leaves a store in Canal Walk, Cape Town, during last year's quiet, pandemic-hit Black Friday.
Image: Esa Alexander

SA’s biggest shopping spree is happening on Friday, just after or on payday for those earning monthly salaries, and still several weeks away from Christmas and New Year, two of our greatest money-gobbling holidays. Once the festive season is over, January arrives with its own set of financial pressures, including back-to-school costs for parents and pupils. Caution should not be thrown to the wind.

Household budgets are under pressure, still reeling from last year’s Covid-19 setbacks and now, added to that, record-high fuel prices and a recent rise in inflation. While the retail bonanza started back in the 1950s in Philadelphia in the US, SA’s Black Friday is still a relatively young phenomenon. Two local retailers — Takealot and Checkers — introduced the concept to SA. Our economy and under-pressure retailers can certainly do with a boost, while small businesses will hopefully also reap some benefits. Our economy needs stimulation. But from a consumer’s perspective, financial advisers have cautioned South Africans to be strategic about how they buy.

SA software developer Ashton Hudson has built a price-tracking service, Serval, to help shoppers check if the Black Friday discount for products on Takealot really are such a big cost-saving exercise. A quick test by TimesLIVE found that some products, such as a Hisense 65” SMART TV, were in fact cheaper in September than what it is selling for today. The same applies to a Kenwood mixer that was cheaper in October than its “special price” today. The moral of the story? Those who are going to spend should do so responsibly and use the tools available to educate themselves.

Sebastien Alexanderson, CEO of National Debt Advisors, has advised citizens to carefully consider the cost of their Black Friday purchases, especially if they are not paying cash for an item. “Last year we saw consumers opting to load their grocery cupboards with everyday necessities, as well as spending money on big-ticket items like home appliances. Yet many used their credit cards, or even accessed a personal loan to pay for these purchases. By doing this, they not only negated the ‘saving’ on these items, but actually ended up paying more,” he wrote on Moneyweb.

His advice is to making a shopping list and stick to it, plan ahead, be aware of scams and, perhaps most importantly, if you are buying on credit, calculate the cost of the interest first to determine of you are really making a saving. SA households are already spending an alarming three-quarters of their take-home pay on debt while household savings are on the decline. 

Auditing company PWC recently warned that rational decision-making abilities were at their weakest on Black Friday. Times are tough and every cent saved helps, but irrational buyer behaviour will prove to be costly in the longer term.


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