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5 Ways Holiday Shopping Can Go Terribly Wrong (Avoid These Common Mistakes)

It’s November and brands are already enticing customers with juicy deals and discount offers. Email inboxes are full of ads that go like “95% Off Plus Free Shipping, Use Promo Code XYZ”. Social media timelines are filled with FLASH SALES and LIMITED TIME OFFERS. 

5 Ways Holiday Shopping Can Go Terribly Wrong (Avoid These Common Mistakes)

Seeing such generous offers might lead you to believe this season offers nothing but money-saving opportunities. However, data reveals it’s not as straightforward as that.

A survey from Opploans revealed that 51% of shoppers experienced a great level of stress after overspending on Black Friday. 31% of them lost sleep just thinking about the money they had spent. 

So what went wrong for these people? 

Five Times When Holiday Shopping Backfires

Discounts leading to money loss might sound the same as cardio exercises leading to a heart failure. But it’s more common than you think.

In 2018, the Center for the New Middle Class conducted a study that found 50% shoppers spend more than expected on holidays. Even 38.5% who used coupons said they overspent.

This shows the shopping season can work against you if you’re not careful. Here are five mistakes you should avoid at all costs.

1. FOMO Causes Customers to Buy Unnecessary Items

Some things are too good to be ignored. 60% off on a toaster? Won’t find deals like these anytime soon. It’s the fear of missing out that dictates many purchase decisions when November starts. 

But before you put an item in your cart, ask yourself this; Do I really need a new toaster? Is the old one broken? If the answer is no then save yourself the trouble. 

5 Ways Holiday Shopping Can Go Terribly Wrong (Avoid These Common Mistakes)

One trick that will save you from FOMO-induced shopping is considering whether you will pay the full price for the item you’re about to buy for a discount. Again, don’t proceed if the answer is no. 

“Getting the best price is a part of smart shopping but there are other factors involved as well,” says Alex Reynolds of EMUCoupon. “You could be getting 90% off but if you’re buying unnecessary items, it won’t do your finances any good”. Alex has singled out six ways to stay on track for people who wish to avoid unnecessary spendings.  

2. Online Scams Result in Financial and Personal Damage

Identity theft on Black Friday is more common than one would assume. As the world prepares to shop its heart out —the online scammers rub their hands as they prepare to prey on innocent netizens. 

More transactions online provide better thieving opportunities. ACI Worldwide reported that the attempt of frauds increased by 22% in 2017 between Thanksgiving Day and December 31, the same period where online shopping is high. 

5 Ways Holiday Shopping Can Go Terribly Wrong (Avoid These Common Mistakes)

Interestingly, it’s not Black Friday when fraud attempts are highest but Thanksgiving Day. Thieves anticipate this time of the year even more so than the shoppers. 

It’s imperative to say that you cannot be too careful while trying to avoid hacking and phishing attempts. Identity theft results in more than just financial loss, in the worst-case scenario, it could have some serious legal implications.

Therefore, customers need to take every necessary step to avoid giving away their sensitive information to cybercriminals. 

3. Too Much Spending Leads to a Tight Christmas

One of the common shopping season mistakes is the failure to consider Christmas expenses. While a lot of people buy gifts in this period, this doesn’t cover the entirety of holiday expenses. 

Almost always, Christmas brings with it some unanticipated spendings that are beyond the usual gifts and decorations. Credit card rating provider Experian points out in a new report that these expenses can bring about a great level of financial stress for customers. 

5 Ways Holiday Shopping Can Go Terribly Wrong (Avoid These Common Mistakes)

“According to the survey, most stress comes from unexpected added expenses beyond gifts, such as postage costs, hostess gifts, gift-wrapping supplies and greeting cards," Experian explained to The Street. 

Covering these expenses requires putting specific money aside every month leading up to Christmas. One can either put the money into a Christmas savings account or just earmark their conventional savings account.

This will make sure you don’t have any trouble paying for the unpredictable expenses that surface in the holidays. 

4. Credit Cards Give a False Sense of Security, Debt Follows

It’s never recommended to go on a Black Friday shopping spree with your credit card. This is because credit cards give a false sense of security as many folks mistakenly assume credit limits as their money. 

But that’s not the case. Credit card money is a borrowed amount that will be paid back with interest. Using them to attain doorbuster deals is just like borrowing money from your uncle to buy something that’s on sale at your local mart. 

5 Ways Holiday Shopping Can Go Terribly Wrong (Avoid These Common Mistakes)

Although it would make sense to borrow for a car you desperately need —it’s not logical to use loaned money for a 50 Inch LED TV because it has a 20% discount. Using a credit card on Black Friday means you will be paying for your purchase for months or even years. 

People tend to overspend with credit cards compared to cash. Perhaps physical money leaving your hand feels much more real than some numbers being deducted digitally. 

5. Search for Discounts Lead to Faulty Products, Return becomes an Issue

Everyone is after getting the best deals on Black Friday. Sometimes it’s as much about getting bragging rights than it is about money. But the quest to find the biggest discount could result in buying from unreliable vendors. 

It doesn’t matter if you were successful in finding the promo code that removed 90% of the price if the product is of low-quality. This happens quite a lot during the whole shopping week and it has more than just financial implications. 

5 Ways Holiday Shopping Can Go Terribly Wrong (Avoid These Common Mistakes)

Let’s say you were buying a gift for someone but it comes in damaged, it would destroy any date you had set for delivering this gift. Do note that shipment arriving broken is quite common in Black Friday because a bulk of orders are processed these days. 

Of course, you’re unlikely to face such issues while shopping in-store but most of the shopping this year will take place online. Getting refunds or exchanges with many online shopping companies is a miserable experience. And you’re likely to suffer if you shop from undependable retailers. 

Three Things to Do This Black Friday

It’s not just vital to avoid common Black Friday mistakes but also to have a calculated strategy ahead. The entire Thanksgiving week can be extremely fruitful for those that approach it tactically.

Here are three must-dos for anyone looking to make the most of their money this month.

1. Create a Budget

Having a budget is a great defense mechanism against overspending. That’s why you need to set aside time to put your incoming expenses in black and white. Here’s how you start on a budget:

5 Ways Holiday Shopping Can Go Terribly Wrong (Avoid These Common Mistakes)

  • List down holiday expenses
  • Have a buffer in case you forget something
  • Make sure to have a specific number in mind

Remember, a budget is a great place to start but it doesn’t guarantee savings. In the words of publisher William Feather; “A budget tells us what we can’t afford, but it doesn’t keep us from buying it.” 

Ultimately, it’s up to you to hold yourself accountable. 

2. Use Coupons Wisely

Coupons provide a number of benefits to consumers but they need to be used with caution. If there’s something you really want to buy and there’s a discount code available, there’s nothing better. 

5 Ways Holiday Shopping Can Go Terribly Wrong (Avoid These Common Mistakes)

But as with all your purchases, the focus needs to be how much you’re spending rather than how much you save. A coupon that gives you $40 off on a $300 product might seem tempting. However, spending more to save more kills the entire purpose of availing the discount. Refer to the previous point and stick with the budget. 

3. Realize These Are Uncertain Times

Lastly, you need a holistic view of things while spending money. The pandemic has caused millions to lose their jobs and even though the economy is recovering —we are not out of the woods yet. 

5 Ways Holiday Shopping Can Go Terribly Wrong (Avoid These Common Mistakes)

We are currently braving the second wave of the virus and although the development of the vaccine is welcome news, it will take some before the majority of the population is immunized. 

So make sure not to go overboard with your shopping this year as the economy is still uncertain.


Holiday shopping season comes with its own set of risks and rewards. Avoiding these risks and availing the rewards is a science within itself. While retailers will try to lure you in with generous discounts and tempting coupon codes, you need to avoid unnecessary spendings.

5 Ways Holiday Shopping Can Go Terribly Wrong (Avoid These Common Mistakes)

Fight your instinct to buy impulsively, deal with reputable companies and have a budget prepared ahead. Only by approaching shopping strategically you can avoid the common holiday buying mistakes and use Black Friday for its real purpose; to save your hard-earned money.

Published On: November 26, 2020

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