The turkey coma has worn off, the stretchy leggings have come on, and another Thanksgiving is in the books. The Christmas season is officially upon us, and you know what that means: buying stuff. Last year we served up some fun alternatives to Black Friday chaos – for instance, t.v. binges: Orphan Black Friday or Orange Is The New Black Friday, anyone? Today, we’d like to introduce you to some Black Friday options for anyone who’s weary of consumer culture, capitalist mayhem, or just crowds of people in general. And if this is the day for you to do your holiday shopping, then we have included a few ways you can help make this day a little nicer for everyone, too.
Don’t Buy Anything
Buy Nothing Day is a protest of consumerism. Some groups call it Occupy Xmas, but that feels a little Grinch-y. Some people participate by just not shopping on Black Friday. Others engage in demonstrations like cutting up credit cards, staging “zombie walks” in malls, or organizing fun, non-shopping events on the Friday after Thanksgiving.
My take on it: if you’re not changing your buying habits (buying less, supporting local vendors, or avoiding credit card spending, for instance), it isn’t going to make a lick of difference if you choose not to go out on Black Friday. And if you’re engaging in some kind of public shopping protest, all you’re doing is gunking up the walkways of already-crowded shopping centers, which isn’t going to make people want to hear your point of view: it’s going to make them hate you. But I’m all for organizing non-shopping community activities on a day when kids are off from school and many of us are lucky enough to have off from work!
Support Kinder, More Sustainable Shopping
Note: while these shopping events are scheduled on particular days, these are great ways to shop at any time during the Christmas season!
Small Business Saturday: on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, support smaller, local vendors. Many of them participate with special deals or longer hours. You can find participants by checking out the map on the Small Business Saturday website or looking for the “shop small” sign in their windows. Or, you can check out the hashtags #SmallBizSat and #ShopSmall. Instead of lining the pockets of the head muckety-mucks of chain stores, shopping local helps people in your community pay their mortgages and send their kids to school.
Handmade Monday: You might be thinking that even if you shop local, most of the goods they sell are still made by giant corporations. Enter Handmade Monday. The Monday before Thanksgiving, many Etsy shops offered coupon codes and sales. But you can still make next Monday your personal Handmade Monday! It’s the best way to find unique gifts for hard-to-shop-for relatives. You can hit up your local artisans and markets, or head over to Etsy where you never have to find parking or stand in lines with humans.
Fair Tuesday: Support ethical shopping by buying fair trade items. Follow the #FairTuesday hashtag, visit the Fair Tuesday website for participants, or check out the movement on Facebook. If every Black Friday shopper supported Fair Tuesday instead, $1.15 billion would go to fair trade workers. And when you support workers, you support their families and communities, too.
Thrifty Thursday: Not a real thing. But shopping second-hand is green, has no negative impact on the developing world, and often generates revenue that will be used in your community. Poke around Goodwill, Volunteers of America, or another charity shop. You can find records for your vinyl-philes, first edition books for readers, or supplies to upcycle into an art project.
Give Stuff To People Who Aren’t Your Family and Friends
A lot of folks complain that generosity spikes during the warm-fuzzy Christmas season, then plummets the rest of the year. And that’s probably true. But if you feel compelled to reach out to the less fortunate this time of year, it can never hurt to do it. Millions of people giving to others every year – even if it’s always in December? I’ll take it!
You can make a lot of these donations online, so this Black Friday you can kick back on the couch with some leftover pumpkin pie, do some good, and satisfy your urge to shop without having to deal with parking lots or consumer guilt.
Education: Education is everything. It’s the opportunity for employment. It’s critical literacy – the ability to process and criticize what you are told. It improves health outcomes and a community’s entire economy. If you give to one cause this season, I’d recommend education. There are many charities to choose from and if you search around, you can find something that speaks to you.
My personal plug would be for the Enlace Project. They do a lot of great things, but you can specify that your money go to their education program. The first day I walked into a classroom in Nicaragua to teach English, a little girl stuck out her hand and – in English – said “Pleased to meet you, my name is Mary Jo.” Maria Jose made my heart grow three sizes and now I’m walking around with this messy, overfilled water balloon of a heart.
Toys: It makes sense that people donate toys at Christmas. For one thing, a lot of us are already buying toys for kids in our families. For another, it’s tangible – this item I’m holding is going to make a child’s Christmas better. Toys For Tots is probably the most popular donation point, but a nearby children’s hospital, Ronald McDonald house, or prison may be running a drive as well.
Toiletries: Clear out last year’s unopened shower gel/lotion gift sets before this year’s comes in. Many charities need un-fun, unopened donations like shampoo, razors and hand sanitizer. I volunteer at a refugee center and we gladly accept all of these, as will many youth centers, domestic violence shelters, and homeless shelters. Ask first so that you don’t donate anything that’s unneeded.
Time: This can be the WORST time of year to start a volunteer program. “I can show up on Mondays, but not next Monday, my son has a school concert, and the one after that is my office holiday party, and then there’s a baking party with my church group the one after that…” It’s just busy now. But if you’re farting around on the internet on Black Friday, it’s the perfect time to see what local charities could use your particular skill set, then make plans to start in the new year.
Funding: Microloans and microfinancing works. Although it might make more economic sense to donate to a microloan org and let them disperse the funds as needed, many organizations let you choose the recipient. Since this feels more personal and you have more control over where your money goes, more people donate – so it’s really a good system. Kiva is a good starting point. If you’re relaxing with family and friends today, surf around the website and see if you can find something you can all agree to help fund.
If you must shop
Whether it’s tradition, an incredible sale on one of the items on your list, or a need to get all your shopping done in one go, sometimes you end up out with the masses on Black Friday. I don’t think anyone who reads here needs advice on how to be nice while shopping – I just don’t think the “I need to speak to your manager” type comes around here, really? But there are some extra little ways you can spread some holiday cheer to workers whose feet and hands and eyes are probably exhausted:
- Say hello, goodbye, and thank you. So small but so important.
- But, you know, keep it moving. The 19-year-old college student facing down a line 50-deep does not need to hear that you can’t believe you found the one Monster High doll that your daughter’s been looking for, etc.
- Don’t get up there and complain about the line. You were waiting in it, but your cashier was ringing up everyone in it. They know.
- If you’re behind an a-hole customer in line (is it just me who always gets stuck near one of these people?) at the very least, give the cashier one of those sympathetic eye-rolls when you get to the register.
- Don’t make a mess. Put things back where they go. If you come across some abandoned merch, put it back if you’re going in that direction even if it isn’t your mess.
- Return your cart. Return a loose cart, too.
- Get the name of a worker who was really helpful or cheerful or hardworking, and on a less-busy day, put a word in for them with their manager.