What Black Friday Critics Miss

missOne Facebook friend shopped for eight hours on Black Friday. 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. The Black Friday critics on Twitter weren’t shy to call this out. And now I’d like to do the same.

Twitter, I’m disappointed in you. For approximately 363 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 became quite apparent on Twitter this 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.

I understand that some of the criticism of Black Friday comes out of regard for the workers. This year, 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?

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 we do so well most of the year? This is the time of year that people need that support the most.

If you bought 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? 

What Black Friday Critics Miss

42 thoughts on “What Black Friday Critics Miss

  1. Well put! My best advice is shop how you see fit.

    Like you said, using Black Friday sales and related weekend deals was when my family would stock up on socks, t-shirts, underwear, and other basics that we may have been putting off due to tight, tight finances. When the “good towels” are scratchy and threadbare and you can finally get new ones for over 60% off, heck yeah we’d take advantage. Of course, we never did the early line up, storm the stores type of deal, because, well, people don’t fight over towels and socks, lol.

    1. That’s such sage advice. Shop as you see fit. You could write fortune cookies…or a blog! 😉 I haven’t taken part in the lines on Black Friday thanks to the good ol’ Internet!

      1. True, but I’m 39 and when I was a kid, mid to late 80’s, there was no internet…. Yep, even into high school thru the mid 90’s still no internet shopping. 😊 Again, no biggie because people weren’t really lining up and brawling to get stuff then. I never remembered those scenes or news stories then. Most people were pretty civil and nice and it may be crowded but not horrific. Anyway, this weekend, I did nothing but online shop except for 3 strings of lights we needed, and that was Michael’s in a 5 minute line. And everyone was nice. 😊

        1. That’s great that it was such a pleasant experience! And trust me, I get the no Internet shopping. We had a typewriter until I was in 6th grade because my parents weren’t sold on the whole computer thing, especially when I could go to the library to type!

  2. Well said. There are ways that Black Friday marketing traps people into overspending, but there are also lots of people who carefully plan ahead and only buy gifts or purchases they’ve waited for all year. Nothing to judge there. I’m too lazy for Black Friday, but I’ll gladly shop Cyber Monday sales today, which is no better or worse in my mind.

    1. Yes. So true, Kalie. There are definitely pitfalls that people would be wise to avoid. And I’m right there with you when it comes to preferring clicks to bricks and mortar shopping.

  3. Yeah, I get it. There were some great deals to be had, and even though I’m not a big fan of the circus atmosphere, I caved this year and went over to Kohls because my mother in law gave me my birthday money early and I knew it would go further there on that one morning. So yep, got a new pair of sneakers to replace my ratty ones and a couple of $10 sweaters in red and purple that are just like the blue one I choose to wear at least once a week.

    There’s no one right way to do Christmas shopping, no one right way to do anything really. No one right way to raise your kid, feed your kid, pursue your life, maintain your marriage, manage your money. As long as you’ve explored the consequences of your actions and are willing to live with them, you should have a lot of freedom to choose to do things the way you want to do them.

    1. Glad you were able to score some sweaters! And you’re absolutely right. Different strokes for different folks. And if you’ve got the wisdom, share it!

  4. How funny – I wasn’t really active on social media this weekend, so I must have missed all the hysteria. I figure that – as always – people are using anything and everything to pimp their hustle.

    The worst is when personal finance bloggers use death (I saw a lot of tacky PF posts right after Prince died). Like, really? Profiting off of someone else’s tragedy?

    My advice for holiday shopping? Make a list of all your peeps and arrange dollar allocation according to your budget. Remember, it’s not about the gifts, it’s about time shared with loved ones.

    And, stop trying to keep up with the f#@!$ng Joneses, good grief!

    1. Yup! Awesome advice, Katasha. I make a Christmas budget in October and start slogging away at my gifts. That way, I can balance shopping with charitable giving without feeling like I need another job!

  5. TJ says:

    I’ll never understand the Black Friday Hate. I thought this community was all about taking advantage of the best deals so that we have more cash on hand to purchase the things that we really want?

    Either way, some of the best deals can be found online. It must sound crazy to some people, but you actually can find killer deals *AND* opt outside on the same day, perhaps even at the same time!

  6. So many of the Black Friday benefits are overshadowed by media reports of fights and people being trampled at stores. I wonder how many others quietly take advantage of the day to shop as Christmas Angels for underprivileged families.

    I’ve been lucky (privileged) to not need any necessities and not have to shop on Black Friday for years. In addition, our Christmas gifts are simple and only for the kids–and now that they’re getting older we try to give experiences and time rather than toys. It’s my nature to avoid crowds and lines, so I’m #Thankful that I got to skip them again but hope that everyone who was out stayed safe and got what they needed.

    1. My mom and I went to Kohls to pick up some board games since her school does a giving tree every year. It’s fun to be able to scoop up extra!

      We also went to a local hardware store that had poinsettias on sale since they make nice gifts for my bosses and my neighbors who don’t have pets (I hear they’re not safe for dogs!).

  7. Great line, Penny – “Just because they don’t tag themselves doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.”

    I shopped on line at Belk this weekend for a wedding dress. Prices were good, shipping was free, and I can return to a store close by (where inventory is limited). I wasn’t motivated by Black Friday although it was a good reminder to get cracking on finding a dress.

    With careful planning shopping Black Friday can be helpful but sticking to a budget is critical. Personally I’m most perplexed by the car commercials where they’re wrapped in big red bows. No judgments here but do you know anyone who gets a car for Christmas?

    1. I can’t say I’ve ever seen a Lexus gifted to anyone with that big red bow! I would definitely stop and stare if I saw it sitting in someone’s driveway.

  8. I’m one of the ones that wrote a post about avoiding Black Friday, but hopefully it wasn’t interpreted as offensive to those who did choose to go. I agree, if you prepare, make a list and stick to your budget, it can and does work. I love to save money but, as a introverted person who strongly dislikes crowds and shopping, it’s not for me. We do a pretty simple Christmas, with limited gift giving, which makes it easier to avoid.

    1. Oh my gosh, no! Not at all, Amanda. Like I said, the more opinions and viewpoints the better. There are plenty of reasons to avoid Black Friday and there are plenty of reasons to partake. It doesn’t make sense–at least to me–to judge from either side 🙂

  9. I’m not always a fan of Black Friday. I guess it always felt strange to me to celebrate thankfulness and family and then fight over a flat-screen TV 24 hours later. But this is an excellent point that Black Friday is the only way many people are able to afford gifts or other items. I hadn’t thought of that, so thank you for bringing it up.

    I think Black Friday is all right as long as you maintain a sense of civility (seriously, why tackle someone over boots?) and buy items that you planned on purchasing.

    We accidentally took advantage of several Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales. It was for items we were already planning on buying, so it worked out spendidly! We got a great deal on blinds for our home, a KitchenAid, and even the kitten we adopted.

    At the end of the day, it’s really no one’s business how anyone else is spending their money. I have a problem with the competitive “gimme gimme” culture of Black Friday, but I see nothing wrong with buying items you otherwise wanted to purchase while they’re on sale.

    1. Yes, the juxtaposition does stick out to me. Fortunately, I’ve never seen anything crazy like that. I wonder how much of that is actually sought out by news crews and stores. I have a big issue with people who are rude customers ANY day of the year. And I agree, a sale is no reason to be a jerk.

  10. kim domingue says:

    Well, I don’t use Twitter or Facebook or anything similar to those platforms so I surely missed the hoopla over people shopping on Black Friday. I’ve only gone shopping on Black Friday three times in my 57 years. Once was to purchase two Christmas trees, one for myself and one for my daughter. A savings of almost $250. The second time was to purchase some quilt batting and a Cricuit machine as a gift. The savings amounted to well over $400….. worthwhile. The third time, I went with my sister in-law ( at my husband’s urging…..so we could “bond”). Up at 1:30 in the morning to be at Walmart for 2am. From there we went to every other store in town. We got home at 2pm. I told my husband that the following year HE could go with her because I was NEVER doing that again! It was a horrible experience for an introvert who hates crowds and there were almost no items on sale that interested me. I purchased one thing. Twelve hours, one thing…..lol! And I absolutely refuse to go to stores that open for Black Friday sales on Thanksgiving afternoon. That’s unconscionable on the part of those stores to require their employees to come in to work on Thanksgiving Day, in my opinion.

    However, if someone has made a list of items that they want and have drawn up a budget and are cautious about sticking to both AND can handle the crowds and the madness of Black Friday shopping…..well, why shouldn’t they? I rarely find a Black Friday sale on the types of gifts that I buy…..camping or rock climbing equipment, Magnalite pots, swing sets and the like are rarely featured! Cyber Monday usually has the best deals on electronics, Kitchenaid mixers, small kitchen appliances and the like. And the best part is that I don’t have to deal with crowds! I shop the after Christmas sales for small items and stocking stuffers for the following year when they’re discounted at 75 to 90% off. And when my children were young, I shopped the after Christmas sales for the majority of the next year’s presents. Nothing like getting a $150 Lego set for $15!

    My in-laws used to give us money for Christmas and, while that sounds kind of cold and impersonal, it was actually pretty nice. We could buy things we needed or wanted after Christmas when a lot of it went on sale at deep discounts…..things like winter clothing, for instance…..and get a lot more bang for the buck!

    I think that as long as you have a budget and a list then how and when and where you shop is up to each individual’s temperament and needs.

    1. Sounds like it was worth it two out of the three times! 🙂 I also enjoy receiving cash or gift cards. It’s nice to spend what I want when I want. And I don’t think I’d go shopping on Thanksgiving evening, either. Though I did have to run to Walgreens for medicine last year. I felt kind of bad about that!

  11. A lot of the people I work with (teachers) shop on Black Friday – and get extra things for their classroom and for our “giving tree” too. They are also off that day – and don’t get any other weekdays off until Christmas. We went out last year on Black Friday at night and got a great deal on a TV. I wasn’t going to wait in line, but they had plenty of them – and at 6 p.m. it wasn’t crowded and we still saved $100. It’s not for us (to go in the morning) but my son had fun going with some friends the last few years. We try not to judge but think keeping within budget is key.

  12. I shop for clothes once a year, and it’s on Black Friday. I can’t pass up the deals on some designers because it’s the only time I can afford it! (Though I do all my shopping online.) I understand the Black Friday shamers, because it is out of control and kind of gross. But I’ll probably always take part in it, because I’m low income and the deals mean a lot to my wallet.

    1. I definitely think it’s appalling to see workers mistreated or people fighting over things. But I’ve never witnessed anything like that. Maybe I’m not getting the deals that I think I am! 😉 Follow your budget and mind your manners works for me when I shop sales.

  13. The problem with judgement is that while it may feel almost as good as indulging in a slice of gooey chocolate cake, it accomplishes very little. Judging someone will never make them change their behaviour, so if that is the end result you are after you need to pick a different tactic. If, on the other hand, your judgement is your way of feeling better about yourself, indulge all you want – and I’ll judge you for needing judgement to bolster your self esteem (you have _got_ to love the irony in that).

    1. I whole heartedly agree! All the judging that I saw on Twitter is never going to reach my friends who shopped until they dropped. And if it did, they could easily write it off. It’s much easier to dismiss someone who is being judgemental than someone who is presenting helpful information on how to follow a budget, I think.

  14. This excitement over Black Friday falls squarely in the “to each their own” portion of my brain. Though I am a sucker for a good deal, it is rare that I am in need of anything. We went to the mall so I could earn ShopKicks on Friday…now that was worth it! 🙂 While we were there my BF found a pair of shoes that were 50% off. He had to have them. I reasoned with him by saying one thing “You didn’t know they existed until two minutes after we walked in. Had we walked passed would you still be in search of boots like this?” His answer was yes. My answer is usually no. But, again, no judgement. I got a bunch of ShopKicks and he got some boots. In the end no one died and we both walked out happy. 🙂

    1. Oh, gosh. I’ve been feeling so under the weather, but if I had more steam, I totally would have collected those Shopkick points! Kudos to you for doing that. I love when I find a few stores in a row that I can duck in and out of while running my regular errands. I get in some extra steps and get closer to my Target gift card!

  15. We did a little shopping on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Nothing extreme, nothing we weren’t planning to buy anyway, just a couple of decent deals. That people get so worked up one way or the other seems a little crazy to me. Sure we should encourage everyone to act responsibly with their money, but they may be doing exactly that by shopping the sales. Hopefully no one goes overboard, whether it’s with spending money, acting unpleasantly, or judging others.

    1. Perfectly put, Gary. It’s not worth getting worked up over either way. Unless you’re stumped for a post idea and then you come up with five hundred words. Guilty as charged!

  16. Best advice? Put your cart back!

    Hubs and I always go out Black Friday, now Thursday shopping. It’s the one time each year that his second love (blu-rays) goes on sale. He plans for it all year, makes a list and we execute. Apparently that’s enough for me to feel the need to defend myself every year. Thanks for talking about the other side. To each their own!

  17. That’s awesome that you scored some great deals. Makes sense to me if you can save money and/or get more of what you enjoy, why not? Though I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to push myself away from the Thanksgiving table to shop. The couch is about as far as I travel!

  18. I’m always on the lookout for good deals – on things I’m already planning to purchase. I went out last year on Black Friday to get the most bang for my buck on a gift card from my birthday. You have to be careful though, I had a $10 off coupon that you could only use on regularly priced items, but almost everything in the store was discounted. So, they had this table right next to the register of things that were not on sale – such as $15 candles. The sad thing was that people were scooping them up. I wanted to yell at them, “It’s not a deal!! You’re still spending an extra $5!!”

    You can find good deals and I have nothing against that. However, the fine print and gimmicks are frustrating because they take advantage of people.

    1. Yes. And posts about that, I think, would be far better received than simply telling people they’re silly or mocking them. Coupons and the fine print, man! The death of shopper Penny!

  19. Great article Penny 🙂 and you’re so right about the encouragement. I think it’s all about being sensible and thinking about your purchases. I am all for spending money in general on things you want/like, as long as you are not getting into debt for it and it’s a sensible decision. I didn’t buy anything on Black Friday, but my husband got me some Xmas presents 😉 it was 50% off, and was stuff he was planning on getting anyway!

  20. Totally agreed. I tend to buy a lot more than usual on Black Friday/Cyber Monday, but it’s almost always things I’ve been waiting to buy until a good deal came around. Sure, plenty of people get caught making complete impulse purchases, but if you’ve been planning your shopping, there’s nothing wrong with getting good deals.

  21. My shopping advice is the same as my life advice, vague but applicable to all situations: probably don’t be stupid.

    Interpret as fits your life. (“Probably” because what’s stupid to me isn’t stupid to the next person. I have a friend who makes many choices I would not because of the sheer foolishness but they always work out for her. But she’d never run up debt so we can stay friends. 😉 So, know thyself. And don’t be stupid for your measure of stupid.)

    I’ll likely never do real Black Friday lines and middle of the night runs again because I am just too old for that but there was a nice nostalgia in doing that for fun with a couple of college friends who wanted deals on things and I wanted to just hang out. Then people lost their minds in our town and actual stabbings happened and I’ve looked at it sideways ever since.

    I’ll do a BF sale online any time, but that’s my personal preference anyway. I don’t judge if people shop til they drop because – I was going to offer a good reason to do it but you know what? They could be buying their Great Aunt a fifth x-box, it’s still none of my business.

    I do take issue with the stores starting the nonsense of opening on Thanksgiving. For the love of cheezits, retail workers have it bad enough, we have to encroach on the holiday as well? It’s the principle of the thing. But they saw a willingness to be absurd so they’re accommodating it.

    I do still have the last thing I ever bought on a Black Friday in store sale, and I didn’t even remember it was Black Friday: an $8 hair dryer. Must be ten years old now. This year I got my holiday cards 50% off thanks to BF sales online of course so I’m done with that particular project.

  22. I’m here for this! YES! Every Black Friday-Cyber Monday weekend, the hate and criticism towards shoppers comes out. I don’t see the need for it. Many people are responsible shoppers. They plan out what they are going to buy and once it goes on sale for Black Friday, they buy it. Money saved on something you were planning to buy anyways!

    The biggest tip I would give is like I mentioned, to go into holiday shopping with a course of action about what things you’re going to buy. It helps when the temptation arises to buy something on sale that you don’t really need.

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