One Facebook friend shopped for eight hours on Black Friday last year. Another took three friends and filled one shopping cart a piece. I looked at photo after photo as they flooded social media. There were a lot–and I mean A LOT–of shopping hashtags and not a single #OptOutside on my Facebook feed. The Black Friday critics on Twitter weren’t shy to call out their disappointment. And now I’d like to do the same.
Twitter, I’m disappointed in you. For approximately 364 days of the year, bloggers espouse the power of budgets and eschew the notion of impulse purchases.
- Save your money.
- Plan your spending.
- Give every dollar a purpose.
- Don’t let events or occasions or emergencies sneak up on you.
There’s a caveat, though, that becomes quite apparent on Twitter and other forms of social media each year.
You can carry out your spending plan however you want as long as it doesn’t happen on Black Friday. Because that’s irresponsibility. That’s reckless consumerism. That’s a waste of time and everything that is wrong with America.
Except it isn’t.
I understand that some of the criticism of Black Friday comes out of regard for the workers. In past years, some of the criticism was also tied in with the Dakota Pipeline. But for the most part? The tweets telling people to not buy anything prove once again that opting out is, indeed, a privilege.
While a board game that is $10 cheaper or shoes that cost $20 less on Black Friday may not make a difference to you, it does to some. People have all sorts of reasons to try to stretch their budgets. Who are we to judge?
Let’s take things one step further. If we spend the entire year encouraging people to spend strategically, track expenses, and be future focused with their budgets, aren’t we missing the mark by calling out people trying to be smart with their dollars?
And while we’re on the subject of mixed messages, let’s talk REI. It’s wonderful that their employees get to spend extra time with their families instead of working on Black Friday. But Opt Outside is also clever marketing and branding that largely misses those Facebook Black Friday shopper friends I told you about.
These families aren’t doing their outdoor shopping at REI on Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or any other day of the year. They’re shopping at Blain’s Farm and Fleet, Menards, and Bass Pro Shop. Or Walmart. That’s what happens when the only REI locations in Illinois are closer to open-air malls and Tesla dealerships than hiking trails and wilderness.
And guess what? These same families that chose to forgo the hashtag are already outside. Their kids hunt, fish, hike, and push each other in the mud like it’s their job. Just because they don’t tag themselves doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.
Have your minimalism. Give your presence. Stick to your principles if Black Friday, Christmas presents, and consumerism aren’t for you.
But sitting back and judging people from the comfort of your keyboard might make you feel better but it won’t make your message heard. What these shoppers really need isn’t criticism or mocking. They don’t need to be turned into clickbait for articles or fodder for headlines on nightly news.
They need reminders to stick to their budgets and encouragement to spend purposefully. All those things that personal finance writers do so well most of the year? This is the time of year that people need that support the most.
If you plan to buy nothing on Black Friday, congratulations. If you finished all of your holiday shopping, congratulations. It’s not a contest.
And just like the Joneses who want to outspend each other, the Savers can be just as competitive. Let’s be better than that.
This year, let’s go a bit lighter on judgment and a bit heavier on joy.
So Tell Me…What is the best advice you have for people who are doing their holiday shopping?
This article was originally published on November 28, 2016. It was updated on November 27, 2019 in the wake of the relentless (and misplaced) criticism that is still pervasive on social media today. Especially thanks to the Minimalists Suitcase Salespeople.