Saturday, November 5, 2011

Seeing Green at Black Friday

Black Friday and green consumerism don't seem to go hand in hand. But holiday shopping can be more about the deep sales.

I can't remember a year when I didn't spend part of Thanksgiving Day pouring over the Black Friday ads--and only one year when, pregnant and miserable, I just stayed home.

Everything about Black Friday, on its surface, is about more, more, more. More sales. More early hours. More lines. More stuff that you didn't know you needed. More waiting in lines and driving circles around the parking lot. I can see why it turns a lot of folks off.

But my Black Friday shopping has evolved in recent years, particularly since my family has grown. I've transitioned more out of the "buy" mentality to using it as an opportunity to buy things my family did need at a deep discount. Like replacement items, winter clothing or tools for the home.

But recent years and my shift toward being more sustainable have cut my Friday-morning sales even more.

By planning better, I'm able to find gently used clothing and books for my children throughout the year at a fraction of the price of even those fabulous Black Friday sales. Are they new? To them.. (I admit I can't always find what I need at a resale shop or sale, but it helps dramatically.) And my daughter, a new "chapter book reader," as she calls it, is getting a shoebox full of animal books for Christmas, bought for just a few dollars.

By listening more, I've found great ideas for gift-giving, instead of just buying something so that I can check that person off the list. My brother? Desperate to figure out how to landscape his shady scrap of land. I found the perfect book on shade gardening, at a library sale. I doubt I would find it if I'd waited until December, even on Amazon. My brother-in-law, a new dad? Literally wants a nap. So I'll give him free babysitting time during their visit.

By sharing more, I will have helped others and my family. We have always adopted someone for the holidays, no matter how tight things are. But the last few seasons, instead of racing to buy things, I've gotten more creative in my gift-giving there too. Last year, our daycare adopted a family with a little boy my son's age. I'd just gotten a huge bag of train tracks and accessories at the used children's store, and divided them up among my son and this boy. Sure, the boy got a new Thomas too, but it was a way to stretch my resources and bring more joy. My son never missed what he didn't have. This year, the daycare is adopting two little girls whose mother is a college student but can't find work. I posted on our employee classifieds that we're looking for clothes in their size, and people are coming through. And my children, bless their hearts, have always come through with my requests to "be a Santa" and donate an outgrown toy to a child in need.

This year, I suspect my shopping outlay will be even smaller than before. Many of my gifts this year have leaned on the practical, spiritual or creative sides. And I've encouraged my family, whom I still know will buy the toys, to subsidize experiences for my children this year.

Will I still go out for Black Friday? Yes, and here's why. My mom and I have, since I was little, created a tradition of early-morning (I said morning, not middle of the night) shopping followed by breakfas t and a few other mixed errands. I'd miss that one-on-one time too much to go without it. But maybe this year, I'll leave my wallet at home.

Posted at the Green Phone Booth Nov. 5, 2011

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