If you followed any of the Black Friday news this year, you know that many stores including Target, Wal-Mart, and Best Buy pushed their opening times to midnight on Black Friday. Some stores, like Toys R Us and my local outlet center pushed the opening even further back by opening at 9:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. Of course, these stores were still beat out by K-Mart, which is open most of Thanksgiving Day and has been for a few years. This pushing of Black Friday into Thanksgiving caused a bit of controversy. Some people saw it as a good thing while others saw it as just another way that crass commercialism is taking over everything.
I tend to fall into the latter camp. I hate to see national holidays turned into buying occasions. (I cringe at the Martin Luther King, President’s Day, Veteran’s Memorial Day, etc. sales bonanzas, too. Really? What is there about remembering our war dead or national heroes that has to be commemorated by buying a new coffee maker or boots?) In reading many message postings and news reports about this “new” Black Friday tradition, I kept seeing “experts” and consumers alike saying, in effect, that this is what consumers want. The thinking goes that people are bored on Thanksgiving after the turkey is eaten and the football is over and they want something to do. The stores are simply riding to the rescue, saving people from boredom!
If this is even a little bit true, all I can think is how sad it is. On a national day of thanks the best thing people can come up with to alleviate boredom is to go shopping. Here’s my take. Instead of rushing out to shop when you’re bored, why not do some of those things you say you never have time for? Use your holiday time to do all the things you keep putting off.
People constantly complain about having too much to do and not enough time during the holidays (and during the rest of the year, too). Rather than using shopping as a crutch, do some of the maintenance and odd jobs around the house you’ve been putting off. Go out and play with the kids or get everyone together for a movie or game night. Spend some quality time with your kids that gets neglected during the work week. Work on some of the hobbies you claim you never have time for. Put up your Christmas decorations. Clean out that closet that’s overflowing and donate some of it to worthy organizations. Just sit down and read that book that you’ve been meaning to get to. If all you can think of to do when you’re bored is to shop, you’ve got no reason to complain when you don’t have time to do anything else.
If you use the time you would have spent shopping to do other things you’ll have a less stressful holiday because you won’t be trying to cram your shopping in with everything else. And you’ll save money. Guaranteed. Instead of wandering the stores buying cheap imported crap that will be broken or obsolete within a year, just stay home and do something productive. Nothing saves money more than leaving your wallet on the dresser while you go out and rake some leaves or play football with the kids.
If you really want to save money and time this holiday season, just say, “No.” Just walk away from the mall and use the time and money you gain to do all of the other important things you never get around to doing. If you feel like you’re getting bored and that hitting the sales will somehow cure that boredom, find another cure. (This also applies to time spent mindlessly surfing the Internet, checking for deals.) Sure, shopping is part of the holiday season, but the mindless trekking from store to store all day long “just to see what’s out there” is a waste of time. You could spend that time doing much more meaningful, fun, and important things.
Of course, if you really want to alleviate your boredom this holiday season and do something worthwhile, volunteer to work at a soup kitchen serving meals to the homeless. Volunteer with an organization that collects and distributes toys to less fortunate kids. Find something meaningful to do with your time rather than wandering the mall. There’s nothing like spending time among the less fortunate to remind you how good you already have it and how you really don’t need to buy any more stuff.
(Photo courtesy of Jim Robinson Films)