Black Friday and Why You Don’t Have to Participate

Last updated on December 11, 2022.

black friday scrabble letters, Photo by Wokandapix on Pixabay
Photo by Wokandapix on Pixabay

What are the best Black Friday deals?

Sorry, that’s not what this website is about. But I invite you to read on and rethink this crazy annual shopping ritual.

First, what is Black Friday? It’s the day after Thanksgiving, regarded as the first day of the traditional Christmas shopping season. Retailers offer specially reduced prices on all kinds of items. I’ve linked an article about its history of it in the footnotes.1 But now sales extend beyond Black Friday and into Cyber Monday. The 2022 sales were record-breaking, despite the recession. The sales on Black Friday were $9.12 billion, and $11.3 billion on Cyber Monday. That’s so much money!

“America is back…We are once again spending money we don’t have on things we don’t need to give to people we don’t like.” -Stephen Colbert, joking that this was proof that the economy had recovered.

Shopping mall and escalator, Photo by Dieter de Vroomen on Unsplash
Photo by Dieter de Vroomen on Unsplash.

What has Black Friday turned into?

A chaotic mess of stampeding people who act selfishly and just plain mad. I personally have never participated in the madness because I don’t like crowds enough to save a few dollars. It’s just not for me. And I felt that way before the videos of trampling were captured. Here’s a news report featuring the madness I speak of:

The following video from 2010 is one of the worst I found, where people were trampled and injured.

And if you want more, there’s a link to an entire article dedicated to the nastiness that occurred on Black Fridays in the footnotes.2 Don’t forget that during the 2008 financial crisis, a Walmart employee was trampled to death on Black Friday.

The Materialism of it All

This year, please rethink this whole extravaganza. Why are we doing this to ourselves? Why do we participate in the madness? To save some money? To get another diamond for your spouse? The “hottest” toys for your kids? The newest washer and dryer? It’s mass-marketed materialism at its best. I mean, worst. And it’s just STUFF.

You don’t have to be minimalist to reject this entire mess.

We all have the desire to see our children squeal with delight when they unwrap their toys or see our spouse tear up over a thoughtful gift. And most of us do need to save money. So don’t feel guilty about having participated. Just think through what you plan to buy. Having a plan will save you from impulsive purchases, stress, and maybe even chaos.

If you’re striving for plastic-free, zero waste, or minimalism (or all 3!!!), then you’ve really got to think through the whole holiday insanity of gift-giving anyway. Does your wife really need a bigger diamond wedding ring? Or does she cherish the one you gave her when you proposed? Does your child really need the newest plastic toys wrapped in plastic cellophane that then gets wrapped in plastic-coated wrapping paper with plastic tape? Will your washer and dryer last a couple more years?

If you really just want to save money, how about just shopping less? Think about the impact you’ll have not only on the environment but also on your own pocketbook. Here’s a video from The Story of Stuff Project about Black Friday:

Think outside the box this year.

How about gifting experiences? Think museums, aquariums, hotel packages, airfare, theater tickets, movie tickets, or zip-lining tickets. How about gifting someone a day trip to the spa or a massage package? How about a photography package for your family? Does your son or daughter really want to go to Six Flags next summer? Now’s a good time to buy those tickets.

There are lots of other physical gifts you can give too.

What about a nice plant for your friend who has a garden? Or a cousin who loves houseplants? Does your Mom just love scented bar soaps? You can buy naked soaps (meaning no packaging) in many places these days, including in the Southeastern U.S. Does your brother love Jelly Belly jellybeans? Consumables are always good gifts. People used to give bread as a housewarming gift, why can’t we do that for Christmas? You can even give the gift of beer or wine – I don’t think anyone will want to return those things the day after Christmas.

There are always non-profit gifts, donating to a good cause in someone’s name.

Is there an animal lover in your life? Donate money to their local animal shelter, or to an organization that provides animal therapy to people. Does your Dad really want to help victims of natural disasters? Donate to the appropriate non-profit in his name. Does your neighbor love trees? Plant one in their honor through the Arbor Foundation. Does a friend really want to help people in developing countries? Donate to a cause in their name. (Of course, make sure you are donating to a legitimate organization, it usually just takes a little research).

If you’ve got a friend who is into environmentalism or wants to go plastic-free / zero waste / minimalist, how about a book on one of those topics? I’ve got a list that you can start with. I also have a list of children’s books on topics related to environmentalism, wildlife, the ocean, etc. There are so many more out there too; those lists just feature the ones I’ve personally read.

Person's hands, using a credit card machine, Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash
Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash.

What to do if you do get impulsive

You can always return unwanted items. But there are other options if that’s not possible.

Use unwanted items for that ridiculous Secret Santa routine your office insists on participating in every year. Bought extra children’s clothing or an extra children’s coat? Donate it to a local charity. In Chattanooga, the Forgotten Child Fund’s Coats for Kids annual drive is around the first week of December. Did you buy too many toys for the grandkids? How about donating them to Toys for Tots? Churches, thrift stores, homeless shelters, schools, even some daycare centers are always needing items.

Bought too much wine that you intended on gifting? Bring it to a friend’s house when they’ve invited you over for dinner. Enjoy. Especially if it has a natural cork instead of a plastic one.

Let’s have a peaceful and safe holiday season. Remember, the stuff isn’t what’s important. The people in our lives are. Let’s give them the best gift of all this year: our love and company.

Happy Thanksgiving, and as always, thanks for reading.

People clinking wine glasses over a Thanksgiving meal, turkey and candles with Christmas tree in background.
Photo by krakenimages on Unsplash.

Footnotes:

  1. Article, “What’s the Real History of Black Friday?” History.com, updated November 13, 2020.
  2. Article, “The Worst Black Friday Violence Horror Stories,” Ranker.com, updated August 30, 2022.

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