Ah, Black Friday. Often hailed as a retail junkie's dream, Black Friday is known for its unbeatable deals on the hottest products around, from toys to clothing to electronics.
But recent data shows that the magic of Black Friday may be wearing off. According to the National Retail Federation, 5.1 million fewer people went shopping at retail stores on Black Friday in 2014 than in the previous year. And there may be good reason for the dwindling turnout.
Shopping on Black Friday is kind of like volunteering to participate in the retail version of The Hunger Games. While you may be tempted to hit the shops on Black Friday this year, here are four reasons to rethink that plan.
1. You'll spend more than you should
Here's how Black Friday works: Retailers lure you in with a few big-name items at bargain price points, but the majority of sale items won't be marked down nearly as much. Yet you'll likely feel compelled to purchase at least one or two discounted items -- especially if the big-ticket item you came for is sold out -- to make the trip seem worthwhile. So you end up getting mediocre deals for items you never needed. If you shop another day when there's less pressure to snatch up those "discounts," then you will make smarter buying decisions.
And remember to focus on the price tag, rather than the discount, when deciding whether you can afford a Black Friday purchase. Buying a $1,200 television for $600 is not saving $600 -- it's spending $600.
2. You won't necessarily get the best deals
Think you'll save the most money by shopping on Black Friday? Think again. The Wall Street Journal studied pricing data and concluded that most popular consumer items are priced below Black Friday levels at various times throughout the year. Additional research confirms that some deals actually peak the week before Thanksgiving, while other data suggests that certain in-demand items get cheaper as the holiday season progresses.
The thing to remember about Black Friday is that items that are heavily discounted tend to be extremely limited in quantity. If you have your eye on a particular item, research it aggressively before deciding to try your luck on Black Friday. Unless it falls into the limited-quantity or doorbuster category, there's a good chance you'll find it at a similar or even lower price online.
3. Not all products are created equal
In the case of Black Friday, your so-called deal may not wind up being a bargain if you come away with a lower-quality version of the product you were looking to buy. For example, big-name retailers like Target and Wal-Mart are known to carry certain batches of products specifically manufactured for the purpose of running Black Friday promotions. The problem with these particular batches, which run the gamut from household appliances to TVs and other popular electronics, is that they tend to be of lower quality than their popular counterparts.
For example, some major retailers are promoting a Black Friday special where you can snag a Roku SE Streaming Player for just $25. The problem? Prior to this "deal," the Roku SE never actually existed. It's a limited-edition product that most likely contains cheaper components than its big-name counterparts.
Also be wary of the 60-inch Samsung UN60JU6390FXZA television. Best Buy is reportedly offering it for just $799.99 as a Black Friday special when it normally retails for almost double, but some industry insiders say this model is simply a derivative of the higher-quality version consumers are used to.
Because these "Black Friday specials" are just hitting the market, you won't get a chance to do price comparisons or read reviews on their quality and reliability. Caveat emptor!
4. It's just not fun
If you like to sleep in the day after Thanksgiving and let your turkey-stuffed belly recover, you can throw that out the window if you're planning to shop on Black Friday. Snagging a Black Friday bargain means getting up at the crack of dawn, jumping in your car before you've had a chance to caffeinate, and lining up to duke it out with hundreds of deal-hungry consumers like yourself. Shopping on Black Friday is the opposite of fun. To some, it's actually a low-grade form of torture, and really, you deserve better.
If you're truly intent on scoring some of those in-store Black Friday deals, then you'd better be prepared for mayhem. But if you'd rather spend your precious day off doing something productive -- or, better yet, relaxing -- then skip the Black Friday hoopla and plan to do your in-store shopping another time. You'll save yourself a lot of aggravation and, in many cases, money. Besides, if you're truly craving a shopping spree, there's always Cyber Monday, when you can point and click your way to a host of deals without even having to make eye contact or mutter a begrudging "Happy holidays."
M. Backman has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.