Black Friday: Fun, hype–or class warfare?

business girl with shopping bagsAmerican shoppers seem to fall into two groups: those who are planning their early-morning raids on major retailers (starting as early as Thanksgiving morning!) and those who sneer at people who head out into the cold in search of bargains.

I used to belong to the latter group, until a friend pointed out I was being a snob. Here’s how Los Angeles Times reporter Shan Li puts it in today’s article “Black Friday highlights the contrast between rich and poor.”

“Increasingly, the seasonal shopping surge has become a window into America’s class divide, in which high earners have benefited from a booming stock market and rising home prices as many others still grapple with stagnant incomes and lingering financial anxiety.

“You have people who really need a bargain — they will sit out for two days to get that deal because that may be the only big thing they can afford for the whole family,” said Britt Beemer, founder of America’s Research Group. “Luxury retailers don’t do very well on Black Friday because their customers are not going to fight the crowds.”

Li quotes a PricewaterhouseCoopers report that says the ranks of strapped shoppers who earn less than $50,000 a year are growing from 63 percent of American shoppers two years ago to 67 percent today.

There are alternatives to fighting the crowds, of course. Check out this interesting post at the Nonconsumer Advocate: “10 ways for a zero-dollar Christmas.” Online retailers are offering plenty of good deals as well. Then there’s the whole Shop Small thing, although you need an American Express credit or Bluebird prepaid card to get money back.

If you are planning to venture out in search of deals, consider a good price comparison app such as RedLaser or PriceGrabber on your smart phone, if you have one. They’re good tools to help you figure out which Black Friday bargains are the real deal. A site to track is DealNews, which not only alerts you to deals but which keeps track of previous low prices. If you can’t check prices on the go, at least hang on to your receipts so you can exchange anything for which you find a better buy.

Those of us who will be sitting snug at home shouldn’t feel too self-satisfied, particularly if–like me–you order a lot from a certain online retailer. Read this Motley Fool article about which retailer treats its employees worse: WalMart or Amazon.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

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If you shopped at Target after Black Friday, you should check your credit report.

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Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Avoiding panic on Black Friday. Also in the news: Shopping strategies for Black Friday, how to earn the most credit card rewards during holiday shopping, and what to consider before applying for a medical credit card. Gift

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Keep Calm and Shop On.

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Getting your gameplan on.

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Will you shop on Thanksgiving?

Mother and son outdoors at winterI once made a disparaging comment to a friend about people who rush the doors of their local retailers to snag Black Friday deals.

She told me I was being elitist. I had money to buy nice presents for my family. Many of those waiting in the cold, dark night for the Walmart doors to open didn’t, and Black Friday might be their only shot at getting something nice for their kids and spouses and parents.

She had a point. Maybe that characterization doesn’t apply to everybody caught up in the post-Thanksgiving frenzy, but it was true enough back then to make me shut my mouth about it.

Now they’re messing with Thanksgiving itself, which sucks for the employees forced to work and for the shoppers who are letting themselves be tricked into deals that usually aren’t. “The stuff on sale now will be even cheaper in a few weeks,” wrote New York Post columnist Nicole Gelinas who goes on to write:

There’s nothing wrong with marketing ploys. But there is something wrong with preying on people’s impulses to the extent that they are sacrificing time with their families for one day that shouldn’t be commercialized. Time is the real gift.

Because you know what’s next, right? After-Christmas sales…starting on Christmas morning.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to pick a credit card when your options are limited. Also in the news: Reducing your taxable income, rescuing your retirement plans, and why shopping from your couch on Black Friday could save you the most money.Credit card background

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Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Figuring out what car repairs really cost. Also in the news: Protecting your children’s credit, tips on smart charitable donations, and how to prepare for Black Friday.

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How not to be at the mercy of the repair shop.

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Monday’s need-to-know money news

Credit card backgroundToday’s top story: Planning for Black Friday. Also in the news: How the CARD ACT saved consumers billions, five factors that could increase your insurance rates, and three tax moves you should make before the end of the year.

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Developing a plan of attack could save you a lot of money.

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Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Preparing your home for the winter months. Also in the news: Common credit card myths, how to save on your Thanksgiving travel, and what you shouldn’t buy on Black Friday.

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Time for some mythbusting.

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Just because it’s on sale doesn’t mean it’s a bargain.