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7 Things I Learned after Working a Retail Job on Black Friday

Like many, I have worked in both retail and customer service positions over the years. Working a retail job on Black Friday, however, was something that stands out for me, even years later. The position taught me a lot about being conscious of how you spend your money.

7 Things I Learned after Working a Retail Job on Black Friday

I would like to eventually try a shopping ban but I like to think that I don’t spend money as frequently, especially after living abroad twice and moving countries three times. Living abroad and lugging all of my belongings to different countries has taught me a lot about decluttering and how much you can amass over a long period of time when you’re unaware of your spending habits.

Even so, being aware of where your money goes is important. Here are some things that I keep in mind when I do choose to spend.  

1. Doing Your Research is Important

This might sound obvious, but I now do my research whenever I buy anything. I don’t care what it is: shoes, a shirt, a career coaching service, I will do my research. For me, this means reading reviews and watching limited content on YouTube (in the case of beauty products).

I should note that I always take beauty product reviews with a grain of salt. Just because a beauty content creator is calling a particular product their holy grail and perfect doesn’t mean that it will work in the same way for you; there are obviously additional factors to consider.

Reviews are a great source of information that can prevent you from having to return something or spend money unnecessarily. What works for one person may not work for you.

You may find that a reviewer shares information about the product you’re lusting over that’s a complete dealbreaker. There are also cheaper alternatives on the market to consider if you want to try something out without dropping a significant sum of money on a particular product.

2. Consider Your Circumstances and Budget

One of the things I had to consider when I moved to Tokyo was the fact that Tokyo has all four seasons. Coming from California, where there is essentially one season all year-round, I knew immediately that I had to dust off some clothes that I had stored in the back of my closet come winter and fall.

I tried my best to alternate between thrifting when possible and investing in quality pieces where I knew it was necessary. This does not mean, however, that I went all-out and bought a pair of Jimmy Choo kitten heels (although those were recommended to me) and a black Balmain blazer (something that has always been on my luxury wish list board on Pinterest.) 

I invested in quality no-wrinkle white button shirts and thrifted a suit that included an unlined blazer for the summer months. I knew that the Tokyo summer humidity would make my normal winter work suit a miserable experience, and I knew that my budget did not allow for me to go to the more expensive areas of the city to go suit shopping.

This is something that I apply to my purchases even after I’ve moved back to the United States. Am I lusting after a Burberry trench coat and cashmere scarf? Yes, absolutely.

However, I don’t live in an area where I would use those things often enough to justify the price. Those things will stay on Pinterest until I move to a colder location; at that point, I may consider investing in those things.

3. Consider Your Purchase History and Preferences

I was recently on the hunt for comfortable shoes that I could wear to a family wedding because I knew that the wedding would be held in a very hot climate. That meant no kitten heels and certainly no loafers or boots, the only pairs of shoes I owned aside from my rock climbing shoes and figure skating boots.

I distinctly remember seeing a very fashionable pair of black wedge heels. I tried them on and immediately knew that it was a no-go.

First of all, the wedge made the shoe much higher than the shoes I was accustomed to. I also knew that with a taller shoe, I ran the risk of aggravating a chronic ankle injury.

I also knew that realistically, because I had never worn a higher wedge before, I would most likely only wear the shoes once, making this particular pair of shoes a bad choice for me. Obviously, I put those shoes back.

Reflecting on the sorts of things you prefer and what you have purchased in the past is a great way to decide whether to take it or leave it. Can you see yourself utilizing the thing more than once? If this is a piece of clothing, will it fit in with the rest of your wardrobe?

Everyone’s preferences are different, but those things can help guide you. Knowing what your preferences are is great because it allows you to determine what would be a great investment for you.  

4. Consider How Many Hours of Work I Would Need to Earn the Equivalent of the Price

Working as a sales associate was great for me because not only did it hone my customer service skills, but it also forced me to consider how many hours I would need to work in order to afford any and every purchase.

This effectively stopped me from purchasing things that I knew I would have to work long hours to be able to afford. 

During my thrifting trip in Tokyo, I happened to see a black velvet Burberry blazer selling for 8,000 yen. I was certainly tempted. However, I knew that I couldn’t wear a velvet blazer to work, which would keep the cost-per-wear high.

Moreover, I already had a summer suit set in my hands, in addition to a winter blazer in my closet. I knew that I didn’t need 3 blazers. 

To top that off, I knew that I was only being paid 1,500 yen per 40-minute lesson. This meant that I had to teach more than 5 lessons, half of what I would normally teach in a day, to be able to afford that Burberry blazer. Not to mention that the price didn’t even include tax.

Do I wish I had bought that blazer? Yes. Am I proud of the fact that I had enough self-control to analyze the situation and continue to walk out the door? Absolutely.

Considering how much time it will take for you to earn the equivalent price of whatever you are lusting after can effectively prevent you from indulging in impulse purchases. Ask yourself if you really need the object in question.

If so, how many times would you use it? Forcing yourself to consider these things before reaching for your wallet is, from my experience, extremely effective.

5. Quality over Quantity

One of the things I remember the most about my retail job was having to pick up what felt like mountains of clothes that Black Friday shoppers had wrenched from their hangers and left on the floor. The holiday season always seems to mean chaos and retail workers on the black Friday shift, dealing with black Friday sales, bear the brunt of it. 

Let’s just say that seeing that, along with a few choice documentaries about the fast fashion industry that I watched while I was an undergraduate, convinced me to invest in quality pieces.

I haven’t set foot in an H&M or a Forever21 in years.

It will ultimately cost more to continuously buy trendy pieces of clothing rather than the one-time investment in a quality product. With that in mind, I know that things like designer shoes or blazers are outside of my budget, so I look for cheaper alternatives with the intention that I will utilize these things for years to come. 

6. A High Price Doesn’t Necessarily Equate to Quality

I learned this lesson the hard way when I purchased a bag from a company I liked several years ago. I had thought that the high price tag meant that I would utilize this product for years; over the next few months, the shoulder straps of the bag frayed quickly and eventually broke, making the bag impossible to use.

Needless to say, I wasn’t thrilled.

I bought a pair of blue jeans from Uniqlo when I was in Tokyo for vacation a little over a decade ago; I still have them, and they’re still in great condition. Sometimes you can find great things for less than you expect or the things you thought were worth it end up not being worth the big bucks.

7. Try to Get What You Want

I recently thrifted something that I had been hoping would quell my desire for its incredibly expensive designer equivalent; the short version of the story is that I ended up having to pay triple what I had originally invested to get the product tailored and then found a nearly identical product in my size that would have ultimately saved me money had I just purchased that in the first place.

Obviously staying within your budget and your means is important, but trying to find something that you are happy with from the get-go rather than substituting it for something will most likely save you money in the long run.

 Everyone is different; I’m aware that these tips may not work for everyone. Having said that, though keeping these things in mind has worked wonders for me (and my wallet).

About the Author

Alisa Tanaka

Alisa Tanaka graduated with a Communications degree from Lewis & Clark College in 2012. She hopes to develop a career that allows her to make a measurable impact on the world while doing something that she loves. Her interests include psychology, linguistics, and mental health. She can also be found reading, watching documentaries, and writing her blog.