The Anti-Haul: Why I’m Not Black Friday Shopping

I do not need more stuff. I do not need more stuff. I want more stuff, but I do not need more stuff. 

I’m going to do something crazy right now and tell you that you don’t need to go Black Friday shopping: You don’t need to go Black Friday shopping. 

This might sound outrageous coming from a 20-something year-old North American woman but hear me out: Black Friday is designed to make you spend your money on things you don’t really want, don’t really need, or don’t really have a purpose for. You spend an hour finding a parking space, elbow your way through crowds of people, sweat through your parka because coat check is full, and you come back with bags of stuff you didn’t really want. Your size was sold out and you never wear electric orange, but you bought it because it was cheap and, well, you woke up early and left your house for this! Plus, you want to tell people about the amazing deal you got, even though it’ll hang alone in the back of your closet until it’s out of style like an old pumpkin on November 1st.  The worst part? You’ll do it again on Boxing Day, at the end of spring, at the end of summer, and next Black Friday. 

Unless, like me, you sit this one out. Not for equally impulsive Cyber Monday shopping, but maybe forever. 

Now, I’m not telling you to not buy that TV or that sweater you wanted for months but couldn’t afford. If there is a special thing you want that’s going to be on sale this Friday, get it! If you can keep your impulse purchases to a minimum until the end of November, Black Friday is a great way to get things you’ve wanted or needed for a while without breaking the bank. 

I’m not saying we should not spend; I’m just suggesting we learn to spend wisely. 

Unfortunately, most of the best Black Friday steals are the result of massive overstock due to unsustainable production and cheap labour, especially when it comes to clothes. A company that pays its textile workers fair wages and has safe working conditions will not sell you good quality clothes for a couple bucks. Think about it: why would a business sell you their products for so little money? Poor quality, ephemeral styles, and unethical production are just a few reasons. 

Besides what marketing masterminds convince you about their “one day only” sales, you can probably go back and find a lot of the same discounted items the day, week or month after! You’ll find that on Black Friday, a lot of summer or off-trend pieces are the ones on sale. If you’re heading somewhere hot for the holiday season, it might be just what you need. But if you’re going to be anywhere in Canada for the next three or four (or five) months, you risk buying things that you won’t even like when it’s warm enough to wear them.  

Our neighbours south are huge fans of post-Thanksgiving purchasing. They did create the “holiday” after all.  In 2016, according to finance and economy experts at The Balance, 101 million Americans shoved their ways through Walmart’s, Forever 21’s and Best Buy’s looking for the best deals their favourite stores had to offer. Even though more shoppers are opting to scour e-commerce sites from the comfort of their beds, the 75 million Americans who did shop on Black Friday (and its ensuing weekend) in 2018 spent an average of US$1000 each. That adds up to more than US$700 billion spent on stuff! In a day! Even though shoppers keep participating in Black Friday shopping, we don’t ever seem to buy less. We buy more and we spend more and the trend continues to climb. 

Who’s benefiting from our exploding shopping habits? 

Besides, what marketing masterminds convince you about their “one day only” sales, you can probably go back and find a lot of the same discounted items the day, week or month after! You’ll find that on Black Friday, a lot of summer or off-trend pieces are the ones on sale. If you’re heading somewhere hot for the holiday season, it might be just what you need. But if you’re going to be anywhere in Canada for the next three or four (or five) months, you risk buying things that you won’t even like when it’s warm enough to wear them. 

Admirably, some businesses are trying to turn the tide on Black Friday traditions and lower their impacts, encouraging shoppers to do the same. Canadian retailer Frank and Oak is having a sale, but is choosing to donate a dollar from every order to reforesting the Peruvian Amazon rainforest, a collaboration with One Tree Planted. San Francisco-based e-commerce brand Everlane is continuing their years-long tradition of using money generated from regular-priced purchases to fund initiatives like meals for factory workers in Bien Hoa, Vietnam in 2017 and beach clean-ups in 2018. This year, they’re working with Oceana to fight for policies that protect our oceans from plastic.

We Westerners are notorious for our rampant consumption of commodities. Take this Black Friday as a chance to scale things back, slow down and learn how to be a conscious consumer.  If we stop feeding into the culture of consumption, we grow to appreciate the things we have, and we can focus our time and energy on the things that matter more, whether that’s family, friends or food. 

So, you’ve decided that you don’t actually need anything this Black Friday; how will you spend that once fruitful Friday? You can go to the class you were going to skip, declutter and donate articles from your lifeless closet, rediscover some old favourite hobbies or just relax. 

Believe me, there are far better things to do than sweat in a shopping mall.