So Black Friday just happened.  I’ve been getting the teaser emails for weeks. Everything from toasters to DVD box sets. Sneakers and soap. At never to be repeated prices. I found myself meandering through pages of online specials – mindlessly adding things to my wish lists. Those shoes I looked at a few weeks ago but thought were too expensive at R999, and managed to live without and eventually forgot about, they were marked down to R499. I’d be crazy to pass up this saving of R500. Sa-aving!

Erm, not exactly. This is actually a phenomenon known as “Spaving”, a term that joins the words “spend” and “save” together, coined for those of us who irrationally spend money just to ‘save’ by getting that discount or deal. In the end, you will always be out of pocket each time you “spave.”

Sure, if you are buying stuff that you would normally have to buy anyway at a discounted price, you’re saving. But how many essentials were being offered? I don’t remember seeing any ads for toothpaste at never-to-be repeated prices, or buy 1 get 1 free discounts on bread & milk.

There are many different variations on the origin of Black Friday, but the most popular one is this: the term “Black Friday” began to be used by retailers to refer to the single day of the year when retail companies finally go “into the black” (make a profit) after being “in the red” for much of the year. That’s terrific news for retailers. Not so much for the rest of us.

Anybody remember Newton’s Third Law? For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. What he’s saying is that in every interaction (purchase/sale), there is a pair of forces acting on the two interacting objects. The size of the forces on the first object equals the size of the force on the second object. So, as the retailers are getting deeper into the black, the rest of us are going deeper into the red. Pretty terrifying stuff, don’t you think?  Interesting to note that the adjective “black” has historically been applied to days upon which calamities occurred. A black Friday indeed.

A curious thing happened when I went into my online banking to process a payment on Black Friday. Abandoning all budgetary constraints out of fear of missing out on bargains, I hunter gatherered stuff (I did not need) into my basket and went to check out, where they proudly displayed the amount I was saving, congratulating me for being clever enough to have spotted the great deals. Anyway, once in my online banking, I transferred the amount. To my savings account. And closed the shopping cart screens. All of them. And then I congratulated myself for being clever enough to finally understand the difference between spending and saving.

So what shall we call the act of saving, induced by overcoming the urge to spend? What about “Spurging” (purging the urge to spend)? Call it whatever you want, but give it a try. Impulse saving  over the holiday season can let you have a Black Christmas this year.

Photo credit: Thomas Hawk via Flicker

Marisan Bernard

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Marisan works at 22seven. Curiosity killed the cat, but for a while she was a suspect. Someday she hopes to further her studies at Star Fleet Academy.
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