Today is Thanksgiving in the US and, as is tradition, tomorrow Americans will rush to stores to get cheap deals on nearly everything. It’s called Black Friday, and it marks the beginning of shopping for the festive season. It became a thing in South Africa around 2014 and has grown steadily here in the past few years. 

But should you celebrate this particular informal holiday, or lock yourself indoors and buy nothing? The problem is that many retailers appear to escalate prices and then drop them just ahead of Black Friday to create the illusion of a discount. That means you’re effectively paying the same, initial price. Sneaky, right? 👀

To test the theory, TimesLive did an investigation using a tool called servaltracker, which compares online retailer Takealot’s prices over time. It found that although prices drop around late October, they were marked up previously and, in most cases, were much lower earlier in the year. 

That doesn’t mean you should stay away from Black Friday completely. Most of us are cash-strapped and could use a discount on necessities or luxury items. Before you get caught up in the frenzy, though, try the following to ensure you spend responsibly. 

  1. Make a list of things that you need and want, then scour through adverts to compare prices so that when the day comes, you know exactly where to go and what to buy. Don’t get carried away: stick to the items you have on your list. ☝🏽
  1. Some retailers start running specials at the start of the month, so keep an eye open for specials today to avoid the rush tomorrow. Some retailers will keep their specials running on Cyber Monday too. 
  1. We know the festive season puts you in the mood to give, but don’t overspend: you don’t want to amass unnecessary debt. One tip is to use cash instead of a credit or store card, so you can ACTUALLY see how much you’re spending. Either way, draw up a budget beforehand and stick to it. 

This is not just a good opportunity to buy – it’s an opportunity to save. Make the most of it! 🤓

This article appeared as part of The Wrap, 25 November 2021. Sign up to receive our weekly updates.