“Stuff” is peculiar. I grew up in a lower-middle class household, and I always idolized material things. Among all of life’s materialistic temptations though, Black Friday shopping had never been something on my radar. I guess I didn’t really pay much attention to it since it’s not really something my family could afford to do. And as a young adult I was never quite enticed enough by good deals to wake up at some outrageous hour and wait in crazy lines while still trying to nurse my turkey hangover.
In 2012 however, my now husband (then boyfriend) and I felt we had a great reason to go Black Friday shopping. We had plans to move in together in the new year and we had a bunch of stuff we wanted for our new digs.
On January 8, 2013, just a little over a month after our Black Friday shopping extravaganza I got a call from Junior that the apartment building was on fire. We lost everything that night. And there we were, just 23 days away from the move-in date at our new place, with nothing.
Since that day, I couldn’t help but think maybe it was a bit of karma.
I’ll never shop on Black Friday again. Not because of the fire itself, but because of what it taught me. “Stuff” is not what’s important. Just two years after we’d rebuilt our lives in the wake of the fire, we decided to sell most of everything we had newly acquired, and move to Costa Rica.
I saw this graphic circulating on social media the other day and it really resonated with me. Apparently, 135.8 million people plan to shop over Thanksgiving weekend, 73.5 percent of them on Black Friday. Here’s a few things for you to consider before you decide to join the crowd:
1. Experiences outweigh materials.
Can you tell me everything (or even one thing) you received for Christmas when you were 11? Now, can you tell me about a memory you have from an experience at age 11? If I even attempted to list Christmas gifts from 16 years ago, I’d just be making stuff up, let’s be honest. But I can tell you that when I was 11, my grandparents took my cousins and I to Mexico. It was my first international trip and I can still remember the smell of our hotel room, getting my hair braided by locals on the beach and visiting the Tulum Mayan ruins.
At the end of the day, we value our experiences rather than material goods. If you’re shopping aimlessly for people on your list who you feel like already have everything, maybe you should skip buying them a random gift and opt for an experience together instead.
2. What are the economic/moral consequences?
Black Friday is what it is because of the “phenomenal deals.” According to Accenture’s annual holiday shopping survey, for 69 percent of the consumers planning to shop on Black Friday, apparel tops their shopping list. To be completely candid, the global human rights issues around sweat shops overseas has never been on my radar until recently after I watched the Netflix documentary ‘The True Cost’.
There are shocking consequences to buying clothes at ultra cheap prices. The roughly 40 million garment workers in the world today are some of the lowest paid workers in the world, held under the thumb of one of the world’s most profitable industries. As we consume more for less, they work more for less.
Does your sister really need another neutral tone cardigan? Do you really need another pair of jeans solely because they’re only $20? Perhaps a fun girls weekend trip would be more memorable.
3. You may not really be “saving.”
Unless you have a highly impressive level of self control, odds are you’ll end up one of the millions of people who spend beyond their means on Black Friday every year.
The enticing deals promote overspending rather than saving in reality, at a time of year that has a history of plummeting families into financial instability. Sounds like a great way to head into the new year, eh?
Look at your personal shopping history. How many times have you purchased something that you did not intend to buy, just because it was on sale? Don’t fall into the retail trap.
What if this holiday season, we decided to truly focus on the spirit of giving and save ourselves from the stress induced by holiday shopping?
Just an idea: Accenture’s annual survey revealed consumers spent $50.9 billion last year on Thanksgiving weekend alone. If we cut last year’s spending by 15 percent, we could free up $7,635,000,000.00.
With that we could buy approximately 1,319 $10 meals for every single homeless person in America, and STILL have $5,587,440.00 leftover to make some meaningful impact in our communities.
Let’s spend a little less, give a little more and maybe put a dent in some of our world’s greatest issues this holiday season.
Featured Image by We Heart It.