Teri Williams 
Teekay Photography   

The Black Friday and Cyber Monday frenzy is about to descend across America. This means many people are itching to grab up the best deals to jump-start their holiday shopping.

However, Teri Williams, president of OneUnited Bank, the largest African-American-owned bank in the U.S., wants the community to think twice before spending their money and falling into one of the biggest traps on these big spending days: overspending.


“The majority of holiday spending takes place on Black Friday and Cyber Monday and I sort of view that period of time as being one of a lot of need for restraint because if we don’t we end up in a situation where by Tuesday, we’ve spent more than we had … I sort of call it Red Tuesday,” Williams told The Root.

Williams, who sheepishly admits to being a chronic procrastinator when it comes to holiday shopping, attests to better deals toward the end of the season because of her penchant for late shopping.

 “There is a belief that retailers offer these great deals at that time, but the reality is they offer deals … continuously. In fact some of the better deals are closer to the holiday when they are really trying to make their numbers.”

The banker, who, along with husband Kevin Cohee, wholly owns the bank, which has nine locations in Los Angeles, Miami and Boston, and is also the first black Internet bank, believes that there are several financial tools—ranging from using a secured credit card to simply having a budget—that could help African Americans reduce spending, but still enjoy the holidays.


“A lot of people were hurt by this recession. What we don’t want to see is for people to compound that hurt with overspending on their credit card and not being able to pay it back come January. We recommend that people look at secured cards because it is a way to manage your spending. You will only spend what you put on the card as a deposit,” Williams explained, noting that OneUnited recently launched the only secured Visa by a black bank.

Williams believes that spending is passed down from generation to generation, and since the holidays are about giving, now is the time to “pass along the gift of good credit” to children, she said. Holiday club accounts or saving accounts can be opened to help children understand the importance of being financially responsible, and makes an incredible gift with a life-long impact.


“I think that our kids will not necessarily remember that ‘wow’ gift that they got when they were 6 or 5 or 10, but they will remember how their parents treated money."

"Probably one of the reasons I became a banker is that I remember my parents budgeting, buying a car every eight or nine years. So what I think we end up remembering as adults is not necessarily the specific gifts that we receive, but more how did those gifts reflect on how our parents treated money, and that’s a gift that is so important to us to give to our children.”


Another great idea, Williams believes, is to go out with a list to prevent unnecessary and unintended spending. An ideal list would have one or two huge “wow” items, the sort that will make the children in your lives glow and then other items can be “fillers.”

“Sometimes if we don’t have a list, everything looks ‘wow’ when you’re right in the middle of it, and you end up spending too much and buying a lot of gifts,” she said. “I think we need one ‘wow’ gift and then a lot of gifts that are just nice to have, that give us an opportunity to have a lot of things under the tree, but don’t cost as much.”


Giving books is also another idea to stress the importance of education, which the black community, she says, often does through actions, but not with gifts.

One of Williams' favorite practices is to give and to encourage the giving of cards with really personal messages.


“This is something that’s not expensive at all but [is] really sharing with [my kids] how much I love them unconditionally, how fabulous they are and how I wish them a great new year. Those are also things that really stay with our kids as opposed to do they have the latest sneakers or gadgets.”

In the end Williams really only wants buyers to remember one point: that the holiday season isn't about overspending and stressing out the rest of the year trying to figure out how to make ends meet, but rather to focus on all of the blessings in front of them and “just appreciate this time and to be thankful for what we have and to not be focused on what we don’t have. Just to be thankful and recognize that we should focus less on why we’re stressed and more on the fact that we’re blessed."


Breanna Edwards is a newswriter at The Root. Follow her on Twitter.