Today is Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving in the United States.
Since the 1930s, this day has traditionally marked the beginning of the Holiday shopping season. It’s popularity comes from the happy coincidence of Thanksgiving being the last major holiday before Christmas and that employers often give workers the Friday after Thanksgiving off as part of a holiday weekend.
The name ‘Black Friday’ references stores accounting coming out of the ‘red’ (negative numbers) and into the ‘black’ (positive numbers. (citation needed) It’s a day that retailers employ some of marketing’s best tactics to increase sales: entice with doorbusters to get customers in the door, create a sense of urgency by limiting sales to a single day, and utilize the power of the hype train in all communication channels.
Black Friday: Then and Now
Over the past decades, the allure and madness of Black Friday has grown. Every year news outlets report on larger and larger crowds pushing, screaming and fighting over limited, out-of-stock or one-time only items. We see viral videos from inside stores of people physically assaulting one another over toys, home goods and more. All of this media only adds to an ever-growing FOMO (fear of missing out) machine.
In 2015, “…more than 151 million people said they shopped either in stores and/or online over the weekend.” (1) The National Retail Federation (NRF) reports that, on average, consumers spend $952.58 (2). This year, in 2016, the NRF is projecting sales to increase 3.6%, reaching as high as $655.8 billion in sales with single-consumer purchases averaging nearly $935. (2)
A Countermovement: Buy Nothing Day
Over the past few decades there’s been a slowly growing reaction to the world’s rampant consumerism. ‘Buy Nothing Day’ first found its way to the US in the mid- to late-90s. Today, the movement has spread to nearly 60 countries. (3)
Participants do everything from staying home and refusing to participate in the sales, to cutting up credit cards and other small forms of protest, to heading out to shopping centers and staging larger, more public demonstrations.(3)
My Personal Consumerism Protest: Staying Home
In years past I would venture out, usually later in the day after the large crowds had passed, and would scour what was left for a few deals here and there. And while I remember the experience of going out, I can’t remember a single thing that I’ve purchased.
The single most important thing to achieving personal finance success is prioritizing your spending in a way that’s commensurate with your values.
By reflecting on what I want to achieve with my money, I’ve crafted a few rules for myself when it comes to shopping and consuming.
My New Shopping Rules
- Go slowly
- Chances are the thing you’re lusting after will still be there (or something new will have taken its place). Be aware of trends influencing your decision and take time to truly evaluate what you need.
- Learn to appreciate beauty, not to possess it
- Each time I hop online or head out to a shopping center I’m faced with beautiful or enticing items: the beautiful but impractical velvet bootie, the amazing window treatment, the kitchen gadget, the festive holiday decor…Learn to listen for the hints that you love the item because it’s beautiful and not because it’ll serve a purpose in your wardrobe or home, and be OK with walking away from it.
- It’s better to mend, than end
- Learn to fix a blown out seam. Learn to put a button back on. Learn to darn a sock or two. Learn to appreciate weird iron-on patches to hide or repair rips and holes. Or find someone who can and ply them with homemade treats (or money).
- Try to buy responsibly, make the best choice you can
- This can mean many things to many people. As you dive into the world of ‘responsible manufacturing’ you’re going to find flaws at every link in the chain – it could be anything from labor standards and factory conditions, to how the raw materials were produced, to how the parent company markets and perpetuates ‘FOMO’ and destructive consumerism. Make the best choice you can with the information you have available.
- Don’t buy it on sale if you wouldn’t buy it at full price
- The allure of goods at discounted prices can help justify imperfections you wouldn’t accept if it was priced at it’s full retail price point. Small dings, ill-fitting clothing, poor silhouettes, snags, buttons missing, unflattering colors, etc. Keep your eye on finding items that serve your needs and are beautiful first, and address the price point second.
In the comments: How are you spending Black Friday? What are your shopping rules?