Black Friday – the Super Bowl equivalent of the holiday shopping season – is drawing near once again. And retailers large and small have already begun their advertising barrage in media outlets in every market where consumers can be reached.

But contrary to conventional wisdom, the biggest mistake consumers can make in response to the annual Black Friday hype has nothing to do with finding the best sales and stores to patronize on the early morning post-Thanksgiving commerce bonanza.

“There are scores of missteps that even veteran shoppers continue to make on Black Friday,” admits independent business and marketing analyst Ian Hayes, citing such common pitfalls as opening too many new credit cards, settling for unwanted products, and giving too much business to just one retailer.

“The biggest mistake, and the one that’s most expensive to make for the consumer on a budget, is becoming susceptible to the sport of it all,” Hayes continues. “There is very little holiday cheer to be found on Black Friday. The mornings are early, the lines are long, and everyone has a competitive mentality. People tend to overspend horrendously on Black Friday and most still go home without the things they got up early to purchase in the first place.”

It’s no secret that this shopping extravaganza like no other is intrinsically conducive to aggressive line cutting, parking lot madness, and general sunrise mayhem that invariably leaves the meek and mild trampled before checkout. But the physical dangers wrought by Black Friday are nothing compared to the financial threats inspired by the competitive nature of this retail event.

“There is a point in our culture beyond which camp and kitsch no longer make the least ironic sense, where consumerism loses its last mooring to civilization, where even seemingly legitimate protest devolves into farce. That point is Black Friday,” observes Andrew Leonard of Salon.

But while the frivolous aspects modern consumerism last all but 24 hours during Black Friday, the painful consequences of the bills made on that occasion can often be felt for a much, much longer period of time.

“Consumers become very, very competitive on Black Friday,” Hayes concludes, “and they quickly blow through their budget. They discover ‘sales’ when in stores that they previously didn’t know existed and suddenly want to jump on it because they’re in striking distance and can get something before the fifty people behind them can. It sounds silly and perhaps a little immature, but we see it all the time. Retailers love this, for obvious reasons. But the mindset of a competitive shopper leads to real financial pain for those without the budget to support it.”

Bottom line? Black Friday brings with it plentiful opportunities for discount shopping and a form of blood-pumping retail excitement you won’t find any other time of year. As long as you keep the competitive spirit in check, the occasion in perspective, and realize that there is probably no Black Friday door-buster that won’t be available for a comparable or lower price online in the days to come, Black Friday can be every bit as fulfilling as the turkey dinner you enjoyed the night before.

Image courtesy of stockimages /