Friday, November 25, 2011

Black thoughts about Black Friday

I must admit, I don't "get" the phenomenon of Black Friday. People go wild and crazy, they spend the whole day shopping, they come home with great deals, women "bond" with their girlfriends, etc.

I... just... don't... get... it.

[Disclaimer: I hate shopping anyway, so that could have a lot to do with it.]

But honestly, where do all these people get the money? And how lavish ARE their Christmas gift giving? How many people are they buying for?

Maybe it's because we've lived so close to the poverty level for the last eighteen years (since starting our woodcraft business), but such extravagant spending is simply beyond my comprehension.

That's why I found this article to be so amusing: the One-Day Holiday Shopping Plan from Real Simple Magazine, possibly the most amazing waste of paper on the planet. Ready for the highlights?

Fuel up. Don't eat a sugary breakfast, eat something healthy. Okay, makes sense if you have a full day ahead of you.

Don't dress for comfort. Huh? The logic behind this idea is that if you feel dowdy in sweatclothes, you'll buy more. Instead, "cute flats or an on-trend top" will "boost your self-confidence." So you'll buy less? Right.

Download an upbeat playlist. Oh no, don't listen to the warm fuzzy nostalgic music the stores play which, presumably, encourage you to shop! Instead, bring your iPod and listen to music "with a beat faster than your resting heart rate" which will keep you moving "quickly and efficiently" through the stores. Right.

Get dibs on discounts. This means getting "apps" (whatever the heck those are) on your smartphones for sales at your favorite stores. (This makes me think if people applied as much legwork and research into choosing a good spouse as they put into Black Friday sales, the world would be a happier place.)

Head out solo. The idea is if you shop with a girlfriend, you'll go to places you wouldn't normally go and buy things you normally wouldn't buy. But don't worry. "You can share deals with friends by using the free My Shopping Circle app, which notifies them about sales you see (and vice versa)." Right.

Stop at the bank... In other words, use cash and not a credit card. At last, a sensible suggestion.

...Then hit the mall. But go in through a side entrance to avoid any "lavish displays" encouraging you to spend. Oh, and you can "avoid unplanned detours by using the free FastMall app, which contains full maps of more than 1,250 malls nationwide." Sheesh, what IS it with these "apps"? Can't people think for themselves anymore, or do you need an "app" for that?

Buy less expensive stuff first. The idea is "once you shell out for something costly, your brain loses perspective on what's a good price." Cough.

Eat lunch. What??? All this was done before lunch? Criminey, how much shopping are you doing?? Oh, and you're supposed to go easy on the carbs at lunch because those will "make you want to nap." Yes, heaven forbid you should want to stop shopping.

Perk yourself up. After lunch, you're supposed to "treat yourself to an inexpensive manicure at a salon or a free chair massage at Brookstone" (whatever Brookstone is) lest your enthusiasm for shopping start to flag.

[At this point in the article, please note, is a link to another article on How to Make the Holidays More Affordable. How's this for an idea: Stop shopping.]

Skip lines. The concept here is if you're standing in line behind lots of other people, you're bored and will buy something on a whim. So, pay for your items in the men's underwear department.

Steer clear of attractive salespeople. Yes really. I guess unattractive people are more trustworthy and less likely to deceive you about a product. Right.

Get in, get out. So you don't, um, spend too much by listening to alluring sales pitches.

[By now you've reached 6 pm in the evening...]

Multitask at dinner. This can be accomplished by meeting "your spouse or friends for dinner at a restaurant that offers gift-card freebies." Cha-ching, you've spent more money. Congratulations!

Back at home, search for discount codes. But wait, your shopping day isn't over! Now you're supposed to go home and do some online shopping, preferably patronizing websites that offer free shipping.

Cash in your rewards. After all the purchases you've loaded onto your smoking credit card, you can now take your credit card points "to buy gift cards or make online purchases through the card's rewards site." This, of course, nets you more "points" for more pointless spending. Right.

Buy toys online. Presumably you're so pooped from fighting the crowds all day that now you're allowed to buy toys online and save yourself the hassle. Good thinking.

Be a little sneaky. I'll quote this murky advice in its entirety: "'Just as you're about to finalize an online purchase, cancel the order,' says Lindstrom. 'If you've previously shopped the site, the merchant should have your e-mail address, and you may get a message within minutes touting a discount code.' Or contact a site's live-chat associate and ask for a discount. This simple action could save you about 15 percent off the price tag, says Robert Pagliarini, the founder of, a financial website."

And now, says the article, you're all done! Whoo-hoo! You've racked up hundreds or thousands of dollars buying things you can't afford for people who don't need them. What an accomplishment!

What cracked me up is these suggestions are supposedly real and legitimate techniques to make your Black Friday experience more enjoyable. Me, I prefer the Black Friday experience of staying home, doing some repair work on the barn, eating leftover Thanksgiving goodies, listening to early Christmas music, visiting with some friends, and other free activities.

And people wonder how we can afford a good life on a low income...


  1. That's incredible. Boggles the mind.

    Our Black Friday tradition (since Shay and I got out of retail) consists of staying home, resting from all the cooking of the last two days, and watching snippets of football as we go about other homebound activities. I sewed, Shay worked on completing a model train diorama (made almost entirely from free materials - Shay's hobby actually supplements his income).

    Shay doesn't make much either, but we live so well on it. We are so very blessed. :)

  2. I agree with you completely on this! I spent Black Friday crocheting a pretty vest in multiple shades of blue for my 19-year-old, and placing 2 online orders -- one for seeds for my garden since I'm experimenting with winter-sowing, the other on behalf of above-mentioned daughter who spent all of $25 (from her hard-earned paycheck, she works as a nanny) on cute decorative cupcake boxes & jingle bells for the tasty gifts she'll be baking and giving to everyone for Christmas. Tomorrow I'll do some spinning for my older daughter, who specifically requested handspun yarn.

  3. We ate left overs from Thanksgiving. Slept in a bit because even though I love being with relatives is tiring. We put up our 4 ft. tree and watched tv it happened to be Gilmore Girls. We talked about our future having no idea what is ahead but talked of the "maybe" or possibilities. Listened to music and as we went to the post office stopped by a gift shop and bought calendars for each other for Christmas. No sales but they offered us each a homemade cookie fresh from the oven. It was a good day.

  4. I too just don't get where the money comes from? Charge Cards? We never shop Black Friday.

  5. Well, I went out on Black Friday this year. I usually have all my shopping done before Thanksgiving as I do have presents to get (that's a whole 'nother story) and I don't like to ruin my holidays doing it. I went this year because of the sales. I tried to do my shopping early, online, as usual, but the prices were even higher this year. So I went out late morning, stuck to my list like duct tape, and saved enough money to make it more than worth it, plus finished my shopping in one day. I did have to wait an HOUR at Joann's for my turn at the cutting counter (this at 11 am). I didn't pick up anything extra during that wait, spending most of it sitting at the pattern table rechecking and reorganizing my list to visit fewer stores, but I could see how people could be tempted to pick up extra stuff. Joann's was my first stop and the rest of the day was full of good prices and few people. I did treat myself to Panera mid afternoon, but that was planned.

    I treated it like the job it is, just like grocery or appliance or curriculum shopping. I planned, I executed. I smiled. Now I wrap :)

    If you are usually a sensible shopper late Black Friday shopping may make sense. If you are a recreational shopper (which I think is who the article is aimed at) nothing is going to keep you from Black Friday, as it would be a great high.

    However, that all said, there's no way you would ever get me to one of those early doorbuster mob scenes - trampling and pepper spray, no thank you!

  6. We have nine grands. The youngest baby boys will get life time hunting license, the one who lives on the coast will also be covered for salt water fishing. The older kids get money in their college funds. The oldest who is 20 will get a gift card. Done!

  7. It is so crazy, our car didn't leave the driveway yesterday!! We do buy a lot of gifts for Christmas, some are handmade most of the rest is bought during the year on sale. I finished our shopping last week so I could avoid all the crowds, malls, traffic and crap that takes away from the spirit of Christmas!

  8. Patrice, I've gone 3 times in my life ( shopping on black friday) . First time was with a friend that wanted company , the whole time I was just scratching my head wondering "why" ( as I bought nothing) . The second time was to purchase a gift that was seriously on sale ( that I could not afford any other way ) for my son... so I suffered through those miserable waiting lines. The last time someone broke in to my car and stole everything I had purchased.... never again will I subject myself to that craziness. Now that I am older and wiser, I sit home and relax. No gift is worth that torture.


  9. I don't get it, either. Aside from the fact that you are spending so much money on junk that people don't need, you are putting your health and maybe you life at risk in order to do it. Another shopping tip: be prepared for potential assault, being shot, pepper sprayed, or trampled to death. Yes, that's definitely the good life. Jesus is weeping and Satan is laughing.

    The extent of my Black Friday shopping: buying scratch and straw for the chickens. And I did go in the drug store and get a couple of candles, but thought I was pretty safe since there were only about 3 cars in the parking lot.

    Enjoy the rest of your weekend!


  10. People fill the void in their hearts with "Stuff" not knowing why they are really doing it. A person without a personal relationship with Jesus, a nation without God and following His ways is filled with "Stuff" that will burn in the end, and the cycle continues....I pray that people will turn to Jesus and repent and be freed from all the "Stuff" that binds them...
    Just my thoughts....AND, I LOVED your post about Thanksgiving....
    Thank you for blogging and writing....Your book on Simplicity is very thought provoking and straight forward...
    Love from NC

  11. Patrice, I do believe you are my long lost twin! Thanks for yet another entertaining piece!

  12. I usually stay home on black Friday, too. I see no point in going out into the feeding frenzy of irresponsible spenders. However, this year, I had to get feed for the chickens and was planning this around the weather. The first no snow/rain day, other than Thanksgiving day, was black Friday. So off to the new Big R we went to buy our large amount of chicken feed. It turns out that everything in the store was 15% off, including the feed. Wow! So we got what will hopefully be a 3-4 month supply of feed and saved money.
    With what we saved, and the discount, I was able to purchase a small Otter sled. I have wanted one ever since I saw yours and Enola's. I have used tippy little sleds for years and had never seen the Otters. I can't wait to use it. Or, maybe I can, since that would mean too much snow for the rubbermaid wheelbarrow ;-} Will I plan to go out on black Friday on purpose? No, but it did work out for us this year.

  13. I've never been fond of shopping either, Patrice. I like to BUY when I find what I want and have the cash ...but shopping for the sake of shopping is drudgery to me. Judging from yesterday's headlines, those who DO love shopping might be safer to run with the bulls in Spain. Same thrill, less chance of bodily injury.

    : )

  14. Yet another who doesn't get the hoopla over Black Friday here. I also don't get why a magazine supposedly dedicated to making things simpler in life would have an article about shopping hints on Black Friday. I can't imagine anything more complicated than joining the masses to shop for things they can't afford, others don't need, and aren't going to appreciate anyway. Seems a colossal waste of time, money, and energy to me. In fact, I needed a nap after reading all the things the article suggested a simple shopper do. If they really wanted to simplify their lives they'd stay home and skip shopping altogether.

  15. We keep Christmas pretty simple, but we do put aside a little each month all year for it. About mid-November, we decide what we'll get for the kids and I start looking for deals online.

    We spent yesterday at home. We ate plenty of leftovers, watched the kids play outside in the unseasonably warm weather, and stalked the online retailers who were all falling over themselves to price match the deals that people were out pepper-spraying each other for.

    Happily, except for Christmas cards, a couple of stocking stuffers for my husband and the gifts we'll get for our Angel Tree person, I am done with shopping! My goal was to be to this point before Advent began. Now I can just focus on the preparation for Christmas.

  16. I'm completely on your side with all of this.

    The article you read seems as irritating to me as the ones that claim to have "13 tips to save money next year" and then spout off such common sense dribble that I don't learn a thing....

    - Cut out your daily coffee. $4 a day adds up to $1400 a year.
    [ DUH! If I couldn't figure that out on my own......who is your target audience here? ]

    They continue to suggest that I buy an iron and stop using dry cleaning, cut my "cleaning service" back to once every two weeks and 10 other "tips" that I decided long ago would only work for rich folks.

    I mean, I'm not poor by any means. I live in one of the cheapest cities in one of the cheapest states, and I still can't
    - Cut your cable plan down one level.
    [I don't HAVE cable!]


  17. Some of the women in my family used to go years back. They would go as a group typically each wanting a specific item that they could not afford otherwise, or a great deal on a better model than they would otherwise buy. Money was tight and that was a way they could get somebody a better present or put a few dollars that would have gone to it elsewhere. They certainly didn't camp out or shop all day or anything. They got there about when the store opened, tried to get what they came for (usually succeeding) and then were home by breakfast time.

    All of the news about the craziness kind of makes me want to go just to check it out! It sounds like a live version of Jerry Springer meets cops. However my aversion to making up early in the morning on non work days would get in the way I suspect. All joking aside I guess I would probably go if there was a specific thing we planned to buy anyway on sale, especially if it was something we really wanted but couldn't quite afford otherwise.


  18. ...I am a black friday shopper. From my Sofa. It is the only day a year that I shop for things that arent food or some sort of "emergent" item. I have a special Christmas savings that I add to all year long then buy a PRE-PAID visa card and plan way ahead. This year I made a list of things that I wanted to buy and started planning two weeks before, looking for discounts, free-shipping, gift with purchase deals, etc... I bought 4 items total, paying less than half price for each. However, the things we get for Christmas are what most people consider "needs" not wants. This year my husband is getting a new pair of Danner boots (his old ones are 11 years old and just now starting to fall appart) Kids are getting Snow-suits ("used" but with tags still on them.)

    I could probably find good deals other days of the year too, but to be able to get it all done in one day, from the comfort of my sofa and pay reasonable prices without going into debt, is the best way I can imagine shopping. I don't think anyone could even pay me to go out into stores on a day when people are fighting over half-priced socks and standing in line for hours to purchase cheap plast technology that will be outdated by next year.

    Plus I have the knowledge that I won't have to do it again for a whole year!

  19. I found myself nodding along with your post but then realized that perhaps there is a place for SOME Black Friday craziness. While we didn't go out this year, it is a good chance to get things we might not otherwise be able to afford. With 6 kids, our money needs to be parted with wisely and we've gotten some amazing deals on gifts for them that we otherwise wouldn't have.

    I'd be extremely interested to hear from other frugal folks who DO give gifts to their kids, what types of gifts they give that don't cost too much. We usually spend about $60 per child between stockings, two gifts each, and a new ornament.

  20. Now I did go out Thursday night for a bargain buster type event at WalMart (one mile from our house...yes pity me that I live this close to urbanization) and let me tell you what I saw.

    I had dear husband drop daughter and me right at the door then he drove away as the entire parking lot was full. When we got inside, store employees with box cutters were standing next to pallets wrapped in plastic wrap. Well, someone gave the "GO" signal too early and employees prematurely started cutting the plastic and customers started grabbing the advertised bargains, all while the store manager ran wildly yelling, "NO NO NO! Not yet!" Forget prying those bargains back out of the customers hands! So the manager ran to the cashiers and yelled "Don't ring them up until 10 pm". Customers would grab a bargain and RUN to the next part of the store for another bargain.
    It was kind of scary.

    We had come in for 24 AA packs of Duracell batteries at a great price (plus we had coupons).
    Silly us to be thinking preparedness planning for our LED emergency lighting. We should have been thinking pink Barbie Bike and Paula Dean cookware!

    While standing in line to pay, we saw a woman being told to leave the store immediately by two employees and then the store manager calling into a headset for the city police to meet them at the door. An employee told me this woman had stabbed someone with a pencil. Tisk tisk! The whole event was surreal.

    I found shopping to be safer the next day at Hancock Fabrics where we used 50% off coupons for great savings. I was pleased at the large numbers of industrious women calmly planning sewing projects and calculating the amount of fabric that would be needed. Evidence of sanity!

    At another store, I purchased 1 liter bottles of extra virgin olive oil for $5 each. I had read how cooking oils were scarce during previous hard times in history so felt it prudent to beef up in this area.

    Then there was the 50% off coupon used at the hardware store for another roll of weedblock landscape fabric for the garden.

    It's all about choices. Decisions decisions. Do I get weed block fabric or diamond ear rings? Batteries or a little black dress? (read sarcasm here). Our family is convinced challenging days are ahead of us. Brace for impact.

  21. Several years ago our kds talked me into going Black Friday shopping with them. I did pick up a few things at good prices, but overall it was not worth standing for hours in the cold.

    Last year I made just one Black Friday purchase - on-line at 12:01 AM - then went to bed :>)

    This year I really tried, and went through all the sale fliers in the paper, plus all the sale info emailed to me, plus visited websites that sold things I might be interested in. Most of the flyers were offering toys and/or junk of no interest. The few on-line sites with stuff I might consider buying were too expensive for our current budget.

    So I got some needed sleep, and an early start on the 15 hour drive home from visiting the kids and grand-kids for Thanksgiving. We had a wonderful Thanksgiving with family, and got home before midnight :>)

  22. Too funny! I stayed at home and didn't spend a dime yesterday--just the way I like it. But then again, I hate shopping in the first place too. I wonder where all the money comes from...and it just seems like people want more and more every year even though the economy is worse.

  23. I slept in, then headed with the kids to a carefully selected JoAnn's Fabrics for some flannel at $1.49/yd. We picked a store with a smaller selection, but away from large shopping centers. Less than 45 minutes in the store total and out with only our planned purchases.

    I did that 4am thing ONCE. Never again!!!

  24. stayed home and organized my pots and pans-after all that cooking dont cha know...anyway, i never go to these black friday events-ever. and my number one question remains the same..where does all this money people are spending coming from...with the unemployment, foreclosures, and inflation of food and gas/fuel.............i just do not understand how someone could be so frivolous.

  25. I've gone out on Black Friday once before and stood in line to check out for over an hour, then overspent by purchasing items that were located strategically next to our line, since yes, I was bored. This was before I had a preparedness/simplistic mindset. I vowed never to do that again!
    However... I did go out on Black Friday this year. But I didn't go to the large big box stores. I went to Walgreens (our local pharmacy) and used coupons on some of their deals to stock up on TP, paper towels and some other toiletries that I plan to give to a local homeless shelter. I didn't even have to deal with any crowds!

  26. Heather, we spend varying amounts of money from year to year on Christmas gifts for our kids. We try to pay attention the year through to their likes and wants, and look for ways to give them something we know they will like and use, but which is either also practical or creative.

    Examples from the past -

    Our son loves Legos, but those are prohibitively expensive at the store. We found an eBay seller who sells them in quantity, with lots of weird and fun pieces, for a much more affordable price. A box of four POUNDS of Legos, with shipping, was something like $35.

    Our daughter is fascinated with Japan, and started putting her hair up with (unused) chopsticks, and then with colored pencils (which really was quite cute!). Enter another eBay seller who sells hair sticks. 15 pairs for $13 or so. They're not the highest quality, but she loves them. We figured it was an inexpensive way to give her a taste of real hair sticks.

    Our son would borrow my husband's knife to flake bits of wood off of a stump. He now has his own sturdy, well-recommended, but inexpensive, whittling knife.

    Our daughter loves tunic-style tops. She was delighted to receive a box full of all kinds of them, purchased used at a thrift store.

    Gifts for the adults are fewer and tend to be even more practical. Last Christmas, I was given a pressure canner, a manual grain mill, and a high-necked kitchen faucet with sprayer. And I couldn't have been happier!

    My mom, who has macular degeneration, was given a magnifying gadget that you put on the page and it transfers it to a TV screen. The larger the TV, the larger the print.

    My husband and my uncle got books they had been wanting.

    Stockings are stuffed with tangerines, nuts, and snacks that are the favorite of each individual. The kids' also have large jerky sticks in theirs, as well as small, frivolous-but-fun gifts, and they are allowed to delve into their stockings as soon as they get up, while the adults are taking it easy.

    We never did tell them that Santa Claus brings them gifts. We have taught them about the very real man Nicholas, who gave gifts to children and poor families, and around whom this legend has grown. We also have taught them that giving gifts on Christmas is merely a commemoration of the gift God gave us in His Son Jesus.

    We have been delighted to see the kids noticing what others in the household might want or need -- things that would be a help to them -- and coming to one of us with practical gift ideas.

    For example, my uncle sometimes has trouble with his neck aching (usually on weekends, when he can't get to the chiropractor). Our daughter wants to get him a massage pillow this Christmas. :)

  27. I have gone out on "Black Friday" for the past several years - but I don't go out ridiculously early or buy unneeded things.
    I picked up several things I needed at very good prices, and actually did not get 1 sale item because I found a cheaper (and non sale) way to fix my problem.
    I think that Black Friday should be approached like anything else in life, measuring resources, time, hassle, etc. For me it is a useful tool, but it won't be for everybody.

  28. I don't get it either. We always go to a Christmas tree farm on black Friday and spend the rest of the day decorating and relaxing. Although this year my wife got meningitis and had to go the emergency room Thanksgiving morning and spend 3 days there (she came home today). So needless to say we'll have to wait for another weekend to go get our tree.

  29. Black Friday isn't all bad.
    We have a tendency to wait on buying certain things to wait for the BF sales (frugality anyone?). We've saved up for things throughout the year anyway. So I got a few things like Legos and a few board games for my children, my husband went and got us a dryer for half off (no clothesline can handle my household after a vomit-filled week), and I got a discounted dual-burner camp stove from Cabela's (oh, canning is going to be *so* much quicker next year!). All things we'd been looking for sales on for the last 6-12 months. :)

  30. Thank you for those great ideas, Br'er Shaygetz. It feels to me as though we're on the same page. While we "do" Santa, it's pretend and the kids know it, knowing that we do it in rememberance of St. Nicholas.

    Your gift ideas are very thoughtful and the gifts that you received last year would have pleased to me no end, too!

  31. Wow, I'm a little late to this party... I hope everyone hasn't moved on before I put my two cents in:

    Black Friday? "Kess-kuh-say" Black Friday? (I don't know how to spell the actual French words.)

    Never done it. Never will. Don't care.

    To each his own, I guess.

    Just Me

  32. Heather --

    I accidentally posted under my husband's "Br'er Shaygetz" ID. Hope I didn't cause any confusion! :)

    My kids have actually experienced a bit of confusion when people have asked them what they asked Santa to bring them. We have brought them up not to ask for things for Christmas, instead, to allow themselves to be surprised. They are always surprised to see how we've often managed to give them exactly what they wanted, without them having asked for it.

    We've also taught them not to ruin Santa Claus for other kids. We've told them that that's between those kids and their parents. My husband used to play Santa at the apartment complex where he worked, and I always had to remind the kids not to call him "Daddy" while we were there. That was pretty funny!