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This Friday is ‘Black Friday’, which is quickly becoming a Christmas tradition for many people. In reality, it is an American custom, which through television, media and eagerness of people here to do all things USA, has seeped into our own culture, much in the same way Halloween has been celebrated in a more American way for a number of years.

As one of the primary things adopted from America in recent times, Black Friday is seen as the start of the Christmas shopping season. It is the day following thanksgiving in the United States, but has grown quickly in the UK since Amazon took the idea from across the Atlantic in 2010 by offering deals to British customers. It’s probably not as glamorous as we picture it in America. A snowy New York street is much more picturesque than the mad scramble for the last TV in ASDA, as the scenes produced during this ‘holiday’ a few years ago proved. But shops over here are certainly trying to make it as big as it is in America, and people seem more than happy to play along.

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Last year, on Black Friday, Amazon sold more than 7.4m items in the UK, a record that included average sales of 86 items a second. This year, it has extended the deals so that offers have been on all week. But is this new craze something we can ignore as an Americanised fad, or in the lead up to Christmas and all the financial strains it brings, is it something we’d be crazy to miss out on?

Everything from retail stores, to sporting organisations and ticket offices are offering special prices. But of course it’s not necessarily all great. As more and more places get involved, it doesn’t necessarily make things any easier. As anyone who has spent far too long scrolling through Netflix will tell you – too much choice can be a bad thing.

Worse still, is the idea that this isn’t even a choice, or a decision that needs making. Products are often advertised as must have, deals presented as too good to pass up. But we should avoid buying things we don’t need just because they’re on offer. This is particularly prevalent in places where sales are on almost year round, as mistakes can be made in a mind-set of deal hungry panic buying.

The key here is to not take big signs and bold capital letters as a guarantee that what is for sale is at a good price. Instead, do your research beforehand. It shouldn’t be too hard, following retailers on Facebook or twitter should keep you updated as they’ll be keen to publicise their best deals, and you can check out whether or not the prices add up. Likewise, focus on what you’re paying, not what you’re supposedly ‘saving’. Just because something is on sale doesn’t mean you can afford it, and places often exaggerate the original price to suggest a better deal.

Finally, if you’re planning on availing of Black Friday online, it’s worth getting accounts set up early and even having your bank details and shipping addresses securely entered before you actually start shopping. Popular websites can become busy and slow, so you won’t want to be hanging about entering your details. Likewise, if you do your research and become aware of different online retailers selling the same products, then a website crashing won’t be a disaster and stop you getting whatever it is that’s on your wish list this Christmas.

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