Is Black Friday a Good Time Investment?

How you spend your time says a lot about what you value.

Most of the time, when we think about investments, we think about things like stocks and bonds and maybe even real estate. However, there are other items that yield returns — or result in losses. One of these investments is the way you use your time. This time of year, there is a lot written about Black Friday, and how you can get some great deals and “save” some money. But is Black Friday really worth it?

Maybe your time could be better spent doing something else.

What’s Your Black Friday ROI?

In the past, I’ve written about how going out on Black Friday isn’t really worth it to me. I can think of a number of things I’d rather do with my time. In fact, the ROI on Black Friday shopping really isn’t that great, at least not for me.

The last time I went out on Black Friday, years ago, I spent four hours. I “saved” about $300 on items. However, today I value my time at about $90 an hour. So, that’s $360. If you look at it from the perspective that I could have spent that four hours doing something productive to earn money, I actually lost $60. And that doesn’t include the impulse buys I made, the gas that was wasted as I circled parking lots and waited in traffic. I can’t imagine the negative ROI that would have resulted if I had actually spent hours waiting in line for a doorbuster.

Before you get excited about rushing out on Black Friday, it can help to consider how much you truly expect to save, and how much the time you spend is going to cost you.

Could You Get Comparable Deals Another Way?

Thanks to the Internet, you can get plenty of great deals without ever leaving your couch. Look online for good savings, and you won’t have to spend as much time waiting on line, driving, or fighting over items of limited quantity. If you like the thrill that comes with scoring a great deal, you can still get that online. After all, many web retailers have deals that are only available for a limited time, or for limited quantities. It can be a real rush (at least that’s what my husband says) to emerge victorious in an online buying attempt.

Also, you don’t need to buy into the Black Friday hype. There will be plenty of sales and deals from now until Christmas. You can go another time, when it’s less crowded, and get good deals. You may not get the doorbusters, but unless you’re willing to line up in the cold for hours, you aren’t likely to get those deals anyway.

What Could You Be Doing Instead?

Finally, consider whether or not you might be better served to spend your time in other pursuits. You can spend time on Black Friday bolstering your home business, or working on a side hustle. That might bring in more money than you could save on deals. Or, if you shop online, you can buy what you want, and still have time to make a little money on the side.

However, it’s not just money that constitues a good ROI on Black Friday. What about time you could spend with your family? Instead of spending hours and hours outside of the home, you could be spending quality time, on a day off, with your loved ones. Even if you bring your kids with you on Black Friday, you can’t really call that quality time. After all, your kids are probably going to be tired, hungry and miserable as they follow you around. Hardly the equation for family harmony.

Bottom Line

Some people really enjoy Black Friday, and find it worth their time. I really don’t care for going out on Black Friday. I might spend a few minutes trying to find online bargains, but, for the most part, the day is one that I like to spend with my family. Building family relationships is an emotional investment that I find offers good returns — even better than money.

What do you think of Black Friday?

Written by Miranda Marquit

Miranda Marquit is a freelance writer and professional blogger, specializing in personal finance, small business, and investing topics. She writes for a number of financial web sites and blogs, and has been featured in numerous media. Read about life as a freelancer at MirandaMarquit.com and in her book Confessions of a Professional Blogger.

9 Responses to Is Black Friday a Good Time Investment?

  1. The only time I ever go out on Black Friday is when I find an exceptionally good deal on something i was planning on buying anyway. I don’t mind getting up a little early if it means saving a good amount of money. I understand your point about the return on your time, and it should be considered. For me, most of the time it just isn’t worth it.

    For many people they need to take into account something else – for them Black Friday is also a source of entertainment in a way – and a social occasion where they an hang out with family or friends. One friend of our family goes out with family every year on Black Friday just to hang out, find a few deals, hang out and just have a good time. So it isn’t just about saving money – but about having fun and being together. 🙂

    • While I prefer to spend time with family at home, I can see where some might think it’s fun to go out on Black Friday 🙂 A matter of personal preference, I guess. I like that you are clear about buying something you would anyway. A planned purchase is a good way to avoid spending too much!

  2. When you say you “value my time at about $90 an hour”, are you allowing for taxes? For example, much of my income is taxed at 25% Federal, 5% state, the usual FICA, and I tithe at 10%. Then when I spend there are sales taxes. That exceeds 50%.

    If I choose not to work I get 100% of my time. Almost any activity is better than working because of the taxes imposed on productivity. Sad.

    • Interesting thought, Rick! I’m not including taxes, etc. However, I don’t feel like the taxes imposed on my productivity are really that limiting. I consider the fact that I have police protection, roads that are reasonably maintained, a public education system that benefits my son, and other perks that we tend to forget about, something worth considering. Although sometimes I do get a little annoyed at some of the things my tax dollars go toward.

      • I don’t object to paying taxes until the percentage paid on marginal income becomes too high. Then my time is better spent elsewhere.

        For example, with my wife’s earnings our taxes were too high so she arranged to work part-time instead of full-time. That is an example of taxes hurting productivity.

        Many of the services you mentioned come from property taxes and state taxes, which where I live are very reasonable and are not a hindrance to productivity.

        Incidentally, I never shop on Black Friday. This year I worked all day instead, which admission kind of contradicts what I have been arguing…

        • I’m interested to know: What do you think about taxing non-productive income? So you think we would be better served by having lower tax rates on earned income, and boosting the rates on capital gains? After all, many of those who actually pay capital gains don’t have a high amount of earned income…Or do you think it’s wrong to “double tax” them further?

          Coming up with a tax solution that protects productivity, while still allowing us to pay for the things we have come to expect as a society is a really tough issue. Maybe the answer is to take a hard look at our spending priorities as a nation, and cut back on some of the spending, such as for pork barrel projects, or huge subsidies to companies that don’t need them, or other items…

          • Absolutely, spending should be cut back quite drastically. A balanced budget should be a top priority.

            To help people save, I would not tax the first several thousand dollars of interest/dividends. I am in favor of indirect taxation, like sales taxes, rather than on income whether earned or “unearned”.

            I don’t buy into this “tax the rich” because many of the rich pay plenty in dollar terms, it just doesn’t look like much when expressed as a percentage.

            I started off life poor (born in socialist England). I am an average person and I was able to improve my lot in the United States. Most of us don’t realize how much control we have over our destinies.

  3. I get your point but dont exaggerate with the time value concept. If you want to be suck a stickler about things let me ask you a question. How much time did you take writing this article, uploading and etc. Did you make any money from it?

    • It took me about 20 minutes to write this post. And yes, this blog makes money. I actually have a very high “hourly wage” with my writing (even higher now, than I had in 2011, when this post was written), so if I just spend half the time I would out doing Black Friday things writing (for this blog, or for other blogs, or other writing projects), I would do better than any so-called savings I would receive. Then, I could spend the other half of the time doing something I really enjoy, like playing a game with my son, chatting with visiting relatives, or reading a book. Those activities, IMO, are priceless. I think time much more valuable than money; you can always make more money, and you can’t get lost time back.

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