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How to buy (almost) nothing this Black Friday

Experts tell us how to identify if the promise of savings often conceals the hidden costs of unnecessary expenditures.

How to buy (almost) nothing this Black Friday
[Source photo: Anvita Gupta/Fast Company Middle East]

It started with a steam iron, an electric lint roller, a flower-shaped ice cube tray, and glass straws. I was in a vortex of buying things I didn’t need, falling prey to the sale season. And I’m certain many others share my experience. 

The promise of irresistible discounts and deals is hard to ignore as the annual sales season descends. What often unfolds is not a savvy shopping experience but a journey of mindless spending.

Last year’s statistics from Admitad, a performance marketing-focused IT solution provider, revealed a 135% increase in orders and a 94% rise in spending among shoppers in the MENA region during the sale week. 

Beneath the surface of flashy banners, slashed prices, and cashback returns it’s essential to scrutinize whether these bargains are genuine or if they propel consumers into a whirlwind of impulsive spending.


“Recognizing the warning signs of impulsive buying is crucial to maintaining financial discipline, especially during sale periods like Black Friday or Christmas,” says Abhishek Jha, Chief Administrative Officer and Board Member at Hedge & Sachs. 

Consumers must identify “emotional triggers,” says Jha, that instill a sense of urgency or the fear of missing out, often leading to impulsive decisions. “Individuals should be wary of heightened emotions and the pressure of ‘limited-time’ offers. To address these moments, adopting a mindfulness approach is key,” he adds. 

“One of the biggest mistakes we make with sales like Black Friday is we buy because of the price reductions. We don’t really “need” these items and they may not be on our wishlist,” says Hoda Ghavidel, a Dubai-based F&B, luxury retail and fashion strategist, and founder of Mood La Mode. 


It’s an endless cycle. Consumers may find one great deal and end up with a full cart of useless things. Do you need everything in your cart? Jha recommends pausing before each purchase. “Assess the actual need for the product and consider its long-term value. Creating a comprehensive shopping list before Black Friday and sticking to it can serve as a tangible guide, grounding decisions in predetermined priorities,” he adds. 

There are several ways to break the cycle of endless spending. Jha says it starts with establishing a clear budget that aligns with overall financial goals. This involves understanding your discretionary income and funds available for non-essential spending. 

“Research and create a prioritized shopping list based on genuine needs, and critically evaluate each item’s necessity. When confronted with tempting deals, cross-reference against your list and predetermined budget,” he says. 

Another strategy he suggests is implementing a cooling-off period. Waiting 24 hours before making non-essential purchases allows emotions to settle, enabling more rational decision-making. “Embrace the ideology that strategic purchases contribute to long-term financial well-being, outweighing the momentary satisfaction of impulsive buying,” adds Jha. 

For Ghavidel, having a game plan and a clearly defined wishlist containing things we need is best. Then there are things we don’t need, but it’s nice to have them at a discounted rate; she says it’s important to distinguish between the two.

“When I am browsing online, I either add the things that I need to my wishlist or add the links to my notes on my iPhone and then when the sales are on, I will check what has been discounted and then I will make the purchase,” adds Ghavidel. 

Evaluating the long-term utility of the items is also critical. “We need to ask ourselves, do we use them? And are they worth our price, even at a discounted rate,” she adds. 

Focusing on the items lasting value is also critical. “I always ask if the products will benefit me in the long run and meet my ongoing needs. If I have the same items, do I need another one? Does the new one add any value, or am I buying just because it is on sale,” says Ghavidel. 


Sales events often encourage bulk buying, leading to overconsumption. Many items purchased during sales are unused or discarded, contributing to the mounting global waste problem.

Jha says planning is critical. He reiterates conducting a comprehensive assessment of discretionary income. “Allocate specific amounts to different categories, prioritizing essential expenses and savings. The Black Friday budget should be seen as part of the overall holiday season spending plan,” he says. 

A tip Jha suggests to track expenses meticulously is using budgeting tools or apps and periodically reviewing the same to ensure alignment with financial goals. “A well-defined budget not only acts as a shield against impulsive spending but also fosters disciplined financial habits, contributing to long-term financial stability,” he says. 


The frenzied pursuit of discounted items during sales often leads to mindless consumption, contributing to a culture of waste that directly contradicts the principles of sustainable living. 

“Mindful buying means buying less, buying the essentials, buying pieces that we can re-use rather than buying pieces that we use once, and then they will lose their charm,” says Ghavidel. 

She says buying from sustainable brands and supporting businesses that care about the environment is an excellent step. 

Ghavidel says that while the initial cost may be higher for sustainable products, the longevity of such products often outweighs the need for frequent replacements, ultimately reducing waste. “Investing in higher quality pieces and getting those at a discounted price is a mindful purchase. Choose items that can be reused or repurposed. This minimizes waste and encourages a more sustainable lifestyle,” she adds. 

Citing an example for opting for a reusable water bottle or shopping bag instead of disposable ones is a small step in the right direction.  

Some of the sustainable brands that Ghavidel suggests are worth spending on due to their longevity, recyclability and refillability include Paper London, DL1961, Hermes Beauty, Conditions Apply, and The Giving Movement. 

Perhaps before making a purchase, Ghavidel suggests asking a few questions: 

1. Do I need this?

2. Is it on my “purchase list”? 

3. Is this an impulse buy because of the Black Friday sale? 

4. Is this different from what I already have? 

5. Is it worth my hard-earned money? 

6. Am I helping the environment with this purchase?

7. Does it align with my long-term goals and financial plans?

“A disciplined approach ensures that Black Friday becomes an opportunity for purposeful, planned acquisition,” Jha concludes. 

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Rachel Clare McGrath Dawson is a Senior Correspondent at Fast Company Middle East. More