Black Friday - settling in as part of the American culture

I can hardly believe that Black Friday is settling in around America as a cultural tradition, almost like it's part of the "holiday season." Evidence I've seen just through casual observation shows clearly that this is happening. And, it will no doubt have an adverse effect on our personal finances as frugality will go out the window. Well, it won't go out my window, but I'm certain it will for many others.

Here are just a few examples I've seen in November of 2011:

  • Sierra Trading Post in Cheyenne has purchased billboard space to advertise that they'll be open at "7am on Black Friday."
  • Target employees are trying to convince their employer not to open at midnight after Thanksgiving as this interrupts time with their families. And, Target isn't the only one planning to be open at midnight, there are several others.
  • Gardener's Supply Company has a "free shipping Black Friday offer" for online orders.

One might think that we've had enough of all night shopping vigils, fist fights, injuries and death from trampling, and days of camping out, all in the name of getting our hands on a specific product and saving some money. Well, we're talking money and emotions here, so that often overrides logic and reason at both ends of the equation.

Shoppers want the loot, and retailers what the cash.

Besides, another American cultural characteristic is a short memory, so what could possibly go wrong? - it's just shopping.

For those who know me, you know that I'm a Libertarian, and that means I believe that you can do whatever it is that you care to do as long as it isn't unreasonably harming or interfering with another person. It's the old "your rights end where the rights of others begin." Black Friday shopping most certainly fits that bill. You have a right to participate. Jump in and partake, as it shouldn't adversely affect anyone except you, if it's done with some level of civility.

The problem I have with Black Friday is it's now being promoted as a part of our culture, and that starts to obliterate the two holidays that it's associated with - Thanksgiving and Christmas. I'm not here to preach about the sanctity of these holidays, but shouldn't they be held in higher regard than frenzied shopping? I think so.

Whether it's time with family, friends, or just some alone time, it seems that anything is better than the mass contact sport that shopping on Black Friday has become. If for no other reason, perhaps out of respect for those who have been hurt or killed on this day, you might consider simply staying home and not getting caught up in the madness of others.

Alternative Activities

If you're the type who just loves the crowds and wants to get involved, let me suggest an alternative; arrive at the store of your choice just before it's scheduled to open. Watch the crowds push and rush the doors. After the mob is inside, take up an observation place inside and watch the feeding frenzy, the fights, and whatever else tickles your fancy. Mill around inside the store, fighting the crowds. Watch the cash registers as the credit cards are swiped, the cash is handed over, and the loot is bagged up and hurried out the door.

Enjoy the moment of spending splendor, but do it vicariously, not through direct participation.

Interview shoppers as they exit the store. Ask them if they obtained what they went in there for. Look for expressions on their faces. Immerse yourself in their exhilaration - the kind that only comes from having made a grand purchase by swiping items off the shelf only an instant before other frenzied shoppers had their grimy mitts on them.

Do whatever observation and participation you think is appropriate and fun on Black Friday, but I implore you to do so without spending a dime other than the cost of getting you to the retail outlet and back.

A Focus on Frugality and a Dedication

For me, frugality is seated in reasonableness, and Black Friday sees so utterly unreasonable to me. I just can't find any good reason to participate, even as an observer. If you seek videos on this subject, you'll be sure to find many disturbing scenes of shoppers in fights, trampling one another, and acting much more like animals than civilized individuals.

I dedicate this page to Jdimytai Damour, the Walmart employee who was killed in 2008 as Black Friday shoppers knocked him down and trampled him. The crowd of perhaps 2,000 people contained many who were much more interested in shopping than the safety of others.

Not to pick on Walmart, perhaps the most clear indication of the insanity of Black Friday shoppers can be seen in the following clip taken at a Target store. Clearly, there are multiple people who are injured. Many blame inadequate security, but really folks, isn't it just a matter of a lack of civility?

We shouldn't be issuing Purple Hearts to holiday shoppers, and we shouldn't be burying anyone either. Stay home, save money, and stay safe.

Done with Black Friday, take me back to Frugal Shopping

There certainly is a broad scope of topics here at Frugal Living Freedom. When you think about it, money permeates so very many activities in our lives, therefore, being frugal encompasses a wide range of interests, from being employed to taking a vacation, and just about everything in between. Enjoy the variety, pick up some new ideas, and start making frugality a part of your signature.

I'm a big proponent of being debt-free, and I mean entirely debt-free - no mortgage payment. It's not essential for financial freedom, but you'll love the feeling once you get there. If you didn't have a rent or mortgage payment, how much more could you do for yourself with your current level of income? I suspect plenty.

If you ever hope to see an abundance of wealth, you need to plug the hole in your boat. The wealthy don't necessarily make lots of money, instead, they know how to hang onto what they make, and make it work for them.