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4 Reasons Why Black Friday Is the Worst Day of the Year to Shop

Maurie Backman, The Motley Fool

There's nothing like a Thanksgiving meal to ring in the holiday season. Unfortunately, millions of Americans will be hitting the stores the following morning without having so much as digested their food to capitalize on the so-called best deals around. And those who do so risk not only spending too much money but also buying products that aren't particularly great or high in quality.

Though it's easy to be tempted by Black Friday, the reality is that it's actually one of the worst days you might choose to shop. Here are just a few reasons why.

Sale signs in a store window

Image source: Getty Images.

1. Too much temptation

When you think about Black Friday, one word tends to come to mind: sales. Everything is on sale during Black Friday, right? Wrong. Not only do many store items hold steady at their regular year-round prices, but even the items that are on sale tend to be extremely limited in quantity.

And before you chalk the latter up to a matter of supply and demand, you should know that many retailers intentionally maintain low inventories of the actual deals they're offering to lure customers like you into the store. Then, once you're already in there, you're more likely to buy something, even if it's not the item you came for -- because otherwise, you'll have wasted the trip and left the house that day for nothing. And you can't let that happen, so you'll go and buy something you don't need, or don't even particularly want, just for the sake of feeling accomplished.

The core danger of Black Friday lies in temptation and its associated pressure. If you think you're getting a deal, you'll feel compelled to make a purchase. But if you buy something for the sake of snagging it on sale, you won't end up saving any money at all. Quite the contrary -- you'll end up wasting money, and for no good reason.

2. Too many crowds

Those early morning Black Friday stampedes you read about on the news? They're more common than you think, though perhaps to lesser extremes. The point, however, is that popular retailers (or even not-so-popular ones) are bound to be crowded on Black Friday, and that might lead you to lose focus.

Imagine you're coming in for a big-ticket item. Normally, you'd take the time to comparison shop and test out your options before plunking down a chunk of money on a major purchase. But if you're elbow-to-elbow with your fellow customers, you're more likely to want to get in and out quickly -- which means you'll be less likely to take the time to think about what you're purchasing and whether you can really afford it.

3. Lackluster deals

The whole point of shopping on Black Friday isn't to squeeze in some post-Thanksgiving cardio, but to get the best deals of the year. But here's a reality check: If deals are what you're after, then you'll probably end up wasting your time. That's because according to the Wall Street Journal, most popular consumer items are available at lower prices at various periods during the year that don't coincide with Black Friday.

Furthermore, many of the Black Friday items you'll see advertised at low prices are actually lower-quality versions of the products normally sold. It's easy to sell a TV for $100 less when it's made of cheaper components.

Another thing to watch out for on Black Friday is sales on older models. Often, you'll see a low sticker price on a big-name item because it's actually last year's version. This is especially likely to happen with electronics, and while there's not necessarily anything wrong with buying an older version of something, retailers aren't always transparent about that fact.

And don't forget the classic tactic of increasing original prices to then have a more favorable sale price to compare to. A NerdWallet analysis confirms that this is indeed a common practice. Not only that, but last year, at least 32 major retailers offered the same Black Friday deals as the year before -- meaning that if you were in the market for the latest items out there, you were essentially out of luck. Worse yet, you probably didn't realize you were looking at the previous year's models to begin with.

Before you convince yourself you'll score a great deal on Black Friday, do some research into the low-cost items being advertised. If you're unable to compare current model numbers, it probably means the retailers you're looking at had certain items produced exclusively for them as part of a lower-quality run, or that they're recycling older products and simply rebranding them.

4. It makes us feel the opposite of thankful

As the name implies, Thanksgiving is a time to be appreciative of the things we have. Black Friday, on the other hand, turns us into greedy, hostile savages clamoring for the things we think we need -- or the things we let the media convince us we need. In other words, the day virtually negates the meaning of Thanksgiving, and the only way to prevent that from happening is to make it about rest, relaxation, and digestive recovery -- not shopping and scoring deals.

Tempting as it may be to shop on Black Friday this year, do yourself a favor and spend the day watching TV, bonding with loved ones, or coming up with creative uses for your Thanksgiving leftovers. You'll preserve your budget, avoid taking on needless debt, and uphold the spirit the holiday season is actually meant to evoke.

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