November 25, 2011

Some Thoughts on Black Friday

I have to say that the whole idea of Black Friday shopping makes me a bit queasy. Especially when you read about a woman pepper-spraying fellow shoppers so she can have more video games, or seeing a picture on-line of a woman with a shopping cart filled with dolls and toys and reading in the caption that it’s just for one child.

I made it a point to avoid shopping today because I don’t subscribe into the idea of buying things in a frenzy. It’s very unappealing and certainly very unbecoming. My siblings and I have initiated a scheme where we pick names. Certainly none of us needs anything else. We each only buy one present, and then something for our mother.  Now we have added a twist and said all the gifts have to start with the same letter – this year’s letter is P. Ohhhh, some lucky family member’s getting a puppy!!!cute-white-puppyToday, on Black Friday, the outdoor clothing company, Patagonia, ran a full-page advertisement in the New York Times, extolling people NOT to buy their jackets.  The gist of the ad is that every piece of clothing they make costs more in resources and energy than they can sell it for. Click on the ad below to see a full-size PDF. patagonia adThis year, I have made the commitment to do the following:

  • Buy locally – 62% of the money spent in local businesses stays in the community. There are so many great local stores whose owners are working hard to make them a viable concern. trohv28
  • Buy from small businesses – Saturday is Small Business Saturday, and if we all don’t support these businesses, they will cease to locally
  • Taking a page from an excellent post by Empress of the Eye, I am not going to buy products from giant Asian factories if I can help it. As Jane suggests, get gift certificates for a car wash, a hair cut, an oil change, a house-cleaning or a manicure – things that can’t be outsourced off-shore. Do I really need hundreds of white lights adorning my front porch, or is it a better option to use fresh greens and garlands.Magnolia-Garland
  • Not go into debt shopping for the holidays. Nothing goes on the credit card. It’s not to anyone’s benefit to go into debt over the holidays. Spend within your means. That woman I mentioned in the first paragraph… do you think her child’s going to remember that this was the Christmas that she got ten games and four dolls? It’s more meaningful to give a child an experience than an object – especially one that’s been advertised to death.

Rant over… 

For the next few weeks, I am going to offer suggestions that fit in with this philosophy. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.


  1. As usual, you've treated us with a relevant, thought-provoking post.

    I certainly agree that it's best not to take on debt for the holiday, but I do use my credit card for almost anything over five dollars. I've found it helps provide a good record of purchases and make for easier returns. Also, I've been able to gift loved ones with some appreciated items that were available from various credit card rewards programs. I do believe in paying the card balance in full every month.

    Yesterday's photos of Connor and Halas are priceless.

  2. Being a tightwad I stepped off the consumption bandwagon over twenty years ago and I can't remember the last time I didn't pay my credit card bill in full at the end of the month, the few times there is anything to pay. However, it is one thing to be 'brutal' (as Bill calls it) with myself and another to do this at Christmas. I tend to aim for 3 gifts for each person on my list: something I bought, something I sewed/crafted and something I baked. My crafting plans didn't quite come together this year and I'm a bit less organised so I expect I will throw money at it instead, but nothing like the idiocy that makes the papers. I think a prettily wrapped surprise and evidence that a person thought of you at this time of year is a sufficient gift. A parcel in the post is fun or dinner at our house is delicious. I put up at 8 foot tree with decorations dating back to 1944, Mom & Daddy's first Christmas together. Bill's children don't often all come to us at the same time - and last year that didn't happen, which may be an omen for the the future - so it tends to be special in that regard. I try to convey the idea that being together and eating nice food is much more important than what is under the tree. I don't know if they agree whole-heartedly, but it does seem to be working.

  3. I concur. However, I must admit to white lights on the porch. No new ones, though!

  4. Hi Meg,
    I am in total agreement. I do not use credit cards either...especially in this economy and being a small business owner. I love baking pies--so I bake many pies which are presents to some. I love making ornaments--one year Fortuny stockings embellished with semi precious stone, last year-rock crystal, tourmaline, turquoise, etc. ornaments. This year, probably no ornaments, but lots of pies. The grandchildren get a fun gift and then something that they actually need...I decorate minimally with natural elements and love. It works and I always stay within what I can afford--the last few years have been more sparse, but then so many of us have suffered so much more. Thanks for this super thought-provoking post. Mary

  5. Ooops--as for Black Friday--I hate it. I dislike it even more with the stores opening super early and the poor store employees robbed of a true Thanksgiving day. Is there any way to stop this mania? Perhaps closing all big department, warehouse, etc. stores until noon on Friday? The greed factor? The buying addiction? Please tell me where that fits in with Christmas and Thanksgiving? Thanks for letting me rant. Mary

  6. Thanks for the rant!!!! We all need to think about all the crazy stuff going on at this time of the
    year. I have one no one mentioned.
    Christmas decorations going up before Thanksgiving!!! Plus the
    playing of Christmas music on all radio stations constantly. Think how many times you're going to hear "Little Drummer Boy" before
    Christmas. Excuse me, I think I'm supposed to say holidays. I wait for the King's College Choir to start my Christmas music.

  7. Oh, I love your philosophy. I feel exactly the same way. I'm only buying 1 or 2 things from stores this Christmas. I think focusing on spending time with family and being kind to each other is better than any presents we can buy.

  8. Great post, I agree wholeheartedly wih everything you said!
    We also avoided shopping yesterday and enjoyed just hanging out with our college boy eating leftovers, watching football and relaxing... It was wonderful.

  9. A belated Happy Thanksgiving Meg! Thank you for this post. We only visited and shopped 3 stores on "black" friday. 2 novelty gift shops and a local coffee shop. Today we plan to visit a couple more local small businesses. I love your idea of gift certificates from local services i.e. oil change,haircut. Great idea. I also agree with your thoughts on gift giving during the holidays. When our family and friends learned we were adopting, their first thought was that we would spoil him on his birthdays and christmas with gifts. It has been the opposite. Only 1 gift each occasion. That's our tradition with him and he is fine.

  10. Brilliant post, as always, Meg, proving once again why you're my favorite blogger. I haven't succeeded in buying all locally this year (I pace out shopping, starting in October, but not because I buy a lot), but the list gets shorter each season, and we aim to spend most of the holidays making food and doing stuff that we don't often have time for during the year. I'm stashing this away for 2012 however, and intend to make it my permanent motto. I plan to include Baltimore and Washington shops in my "local" though, as Annapolis ships see me regularly.

  11. Yes. Yes. Yes. I just simply cannot believe those people who feel they had to get to Macy's, or wherever, at midnight on Thanksgiving. Who ARE these people?
    Anyway, our gift giving seems to get more and more local, and less "expensive", each year and i feel wonderful about that. My favorite gift is a bottle of California wine... all brothers and sisters and parents like that one!

  12. Little left to say but AMEN!

    All the best for a wonderful holiday season --

    I love the dog pics!

    Rebecca R. Dyer

  13. That makes complete sense!It sounds like a great book. Thanks for sharing.

  14. I can't agree more. My knowledge of Christianity is limited but I don't remember anything in the Bible about Jesus saying his followers should go into credit card debt for his birthday. I must admit, being on a budget and in dire need of sheets and towels that aren't terribly worn out I did shop online on Black Friday for needed household items but only because they were so cheap. As for gifts though, consumable gifts are always my favorite and a better choice for the environment - no unnecessary "stuff" that may eventually end up in a land fill. The best Christmas present I ever got was a jar of homemade jam - peach and hot pepper. It was so good. That was over 10 years ago and I will never forget it. Many years ago a friend treated me to a facial and massage (so peaceful and relaxing) - something I normally would not treat myself to. This year I was treated to a wonderful birthday present - a basket of fresh and unusual fruits and vegetables from a farmers market. So fresh and delicious and absolutely no waste. I ate it all!

    As an aside I should add for your readers that unless the recipient is really keen and knows in advance puppies should not be given as gifts. There is so much responsibility involved in caring for an animal. No one should have that responsibility thrust upon them unexpectedly without first having the opportunity to think it through thoroughly. You know that I'm sure. I just wanted to put that out there. That puppy pic is really cute, though!

  15. Wow---I came here from Muffy's blog to read the NYT ad from ''black Friday'' by Patagonia and I find it first is your blog. I avoid most newspapers (even the NYT) but am glad to be made aware of this particular ad. Thank you for posting it.

  16. I need to stop commenting on your blog at 4:00AM when I am fatigued by insomnia. Apologies for my atrocious grammar and confusing sentence structure. More than one paragraph for that diatribe wouldn't have been amiss either. I read much but having no formal education past the ninth grade I'm not used to writing. Next time I'll try not to write like an idiot.

    My apologies and thank you for bearing with me.

    I hope your Thanksgiving was a happy one and that your Christmas will be just as memorable.


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