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One Black Friday Tip to Rule Them All: Buy Nothing

This article was written by in Consumer. 19 comments.


For those in the United States, tradition and media influence have established today as a day for spending time with family, over-eating, and watching television. What could be more American than Thanksgiving Day?

Fast becoming a tradition for consumers is Black Friday (and to a lesser extent Cyber Monday). Retailers have discovered a tendency to for consumers to use the day after Thanksgiving as the perfect time to finish shopping for the holidays. With this observation, the stores compete with each other to grab shoppers’ attention with the goal of having customers depart with as much as their own cash as possible.

Tips for saving money on this holiest of holy consumer days are plentiful. Boiling down the most typical advice, consumers should pay attention, prepare with as much information as possible, stay focused, and get out or online early. For more solid tips for shoppers who are determined to spend money, take a look at The Insider’s Guide to Black Friday Bargains, an article I wrote for PC World.

But even the best advice ensures that you will spend more money. Retailers are happy with bargain hunters because they will spend more in the long run.

There are two paths for the informed citizen:

Path 1: Accept you are one small piece of a larger economy and admit that despite finding bargains, you will spend more money this holiday season than you probably should.

Path 2: Resist the desire to spend spurred by society and spend nothing.

Buy Nothing Day is the anti-consumerist “holiday” promoted by Adbusters. While it is “celebrated” on the Friday following Thanksgiving Day, the movement encourages focus on a larger issue than fighting against retailers who market to us 24 hours a day.

In a consumption-based society, we are draining the planet of its natural resources. Simply refusing to take part in Black Friday festivities will have little effect on the companies or the world. Buy Nothing Day should offer us a chance to look at the relationship humans have with the planet and look for room for improvement.

Use this winter, with the economy deteriorating and leaving many people with less money to spend anyway, as a chance to re-evaluate the way you celebrate the holiday season. Rather than buying CDs and DVDs, plastic toys, and electronics, all which will sit in landfills for thousands of years before breaking down after their usable life has ended and sometimes contain dangerous chemicals, discover new ways to share your love with family and friends.

One tip outweighs all others for Black Friday and the holiday shopping season at large: buy less. Buy intelligently and find your bargains, but use this year as an opportunity to rethink the way you approach holidays sponsored by retailers.

While you’re at the dinner table with your family today, use the friendly atmosphere to discuss whether a new approach to the gift-giving season could apply to your holiday experience.

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Photo credit: Hey Paul

Updated December 20, 2011 and originally published November 25, 2011. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Andrew Chilton

I wholeheartedly agree and the ‘Buy Nothing’ slogan is the one I shall be using (of course, I’m not in the States so we don’t have either Thanksgiving or Black Friday. Either way, it’s the same here just after Christmas, Easter and pretty much any other public holiday it seems and for each of those, I decide to Buy Nothing.

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avatar generation millionaire

I agree, I am over the commercials and the push to spend money on things we really don’t want. I subscribe to the buy nothing theory as well.

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avatar Kyle

I concur with the “buy nothing” slogan but for a different reason: you’d have to be insane to wake up at 5 in the morning and stand in the cold just to save a few bucks on something you didn’t need in the first place.

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avatar tbork84 ♦1,867 (Half-Dollar)

I agree with you, but I have to make one correction. Lots of places this year are opening at midnight, so people are not sleeping at all between Thanksgiving and shopping. I think that makes them even crazier.

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avatar Andy

An individual “will have little effect on the companies or the world”, but magically help the environment by not throwing things in landfills.

One isn’t capable of affecting a company’s bottom line, yet one is very capable of helping save the planet?

Here is the reality, regardless of which path you choose, you are not going to affect either outcome. One simply doesn’t have enough money or time to matter either way.

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avatar Craig

Nice way to think about it. I did that this year for myself. Instead of wasting money on electronics like usual, I took the year off and bought nothing. I feel good about myself and hopefully I can continue to save throughout the rest of the holiday season. The sales will last all month, so no rush for those who are looking to buy.

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avatar Emily Guy Birken

I totally agree with this, Flexo. I hate how our national holiday that celebrates the abundance in our lives is followed by a day where we need to buy buy buy to be fulfilled. We should all be glad of the things we have and remember we really don’t need to buy anything, no matter how good the deal may be.

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avatar wylerassociate ♦162 (Cent)

the hysteria over black friday is just ridiculous & foolish. I’m not wasting my time at any store this weekend. I’m going to buy gifts online & avoid the malls.

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avatar Ceecee ♦53 (Newbie)

If I have to see that Target ad with the lady in the red tracksuit one more time, I’ll boycott Target for the rest of my days. Our extended family is having a gift swap this year, bring one gift, get one gift—-Yankee Swap Style. It takes a load off everyone. I like to give gift cards for restaurants rather than stuff to sit on a shelf.

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avatar Miranda

Finally! A rule I can get behind. Sadly, my husband spent all day hitting up Black Friday deals on Amazon. And he will, in fact, buy something everyday for the next two weeks. I actually build this spending into our plan, saving up for this point in time. At least it’s mostly stuff we’ll watch/use. Eventually. At least once.

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avatar Jonathan

It’s amazing how many additional spending holidays struggling retailers are coming up with to try and encourage consumers to part with their hard earned cash. Personally I’ll wait for the January sales when the biggest bargains will be available.

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avatar Cejay ♦1,521 (Half-Dollar)

I agree with the buy nothing day. I recently had a birthday and when asked what I wanted thought about it and said nothing. I really donot need anything. Christmas will be pared down and I may be unpopular since I plan on getting no gifts for my multiple niexes and nephews but take them shopping for gifts for less fortunate. Then we will come home, make cookies, play games and wrap the gifts. I plan to spend more time with them the coming year. Will I be the most unpopular aunt there is do you think?

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avatar qixx ♦1,895 (Half-Dollar)

With many retailers moving the start of their Christmas Season to before Thanksgiving i expect someone to come up with a day before Thanksgiving like Black Friday. What with Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. Plus the anti shopping movement. The weekend is just getting crowded. I’m thinking the Sunday before Thanksgiving should be Santa Sunday. The day Santa’s start to show up in malls and stores around the world. It could be a Forget Black Friday Sale starting the week after Halloween. Promote your layaway options and what not. Maybe a Don’t go into debt for Christmas campaign that starts in June with the first of the Christmas Specials. Have some every week or once a month to spur shopping for Christmas earlier than ever.

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avatar SteveDH

Although I agree that the advertising and business practices surrounding Black Friday are bad and lead far too many folks around by their noses, I must admit that I like Christmas shopping amongst the crowds over any other kind shopping. The world just wouldn’t be the same without the time spent deciding on the right gift for someone you care about. I refuse to make list or decide beforehand, but rather look for the “thing” that just seems right. I always shop with either my daughter or daughter-in-law (so that the “thing” will meet the approval of my wife) and it always turns out to be a great day of shopping followed by a good dinner with one of my daughters.

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avatar shellye ♦107 (Cent)

Yesterday, I inadvertently participated in “Buy Nothing Day” a day early…because there was NOTHING to get excited about in any of the Black Friday ads. My family and I don’t need anything – we have all the gadgets, electronics and handbags we need for now. It was kind of nice, actually.

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avatar bob bolesic

I don’t care for the “hysteria” or the 3am lines… but I went shopping at noon on black friday and bought something I was going to buy anyway in the next 2 months, a plasma tv. I was able to afford a much larger tv (51″ instead of 42″) and spent hundreds fewer dollars ($500 for my 51 vs 630 for the 42″ months ago). My belief is that if u cant afford it, or know u will impulse buy, then ceebrate buy nothing. If u have any self control and believe u have enough money to enjoy it, use the opportunity to capture a sale. There is no virtue in sitting in and thumbing your nose at debt-free dealhunters.

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avatar Mike

I was gonna buy a plasma too but my neighbor had so many problems with his new plasma. I decided to buy an LCD for gaming purposes. Good luck with yours.

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avatar lynn ♦155 (Cent)

Friday, I didn’t buy. Thursday evening I shopped online.

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avatar DonnaFreedman ♦90 (Newbie)

Today is Cyber Monday. I learned that the shoes I wear all the time were 40% off at Rockport, and that if I ordered through the Mr. Rebates cash-back site I’d get a 7% rebate and free shipping.
I’m just starting to wear my last pair of the shoes (which are comfy, not glam) so I ordered three more pairs. I would have ordered six pairs but three was all that the company had in that style in my size.
Holiday deals aren’t just about gifts. Discounts judiciously applied can help you get things you might need, or even want.
I did the Black Friday thing at midnight with a friend and it was surreal. Lines were forming hours before the store opened, even though the temperature here in Anchorage was 15 degrees and it was snowing pretty heavily. I wound up writing about it on my personal site, in part to share the weirdness and in part because I was dying to use the headline “A mall and the night visitors.” ;-)

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