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Why Black Friday won't give you what you actually want


By now, many of us have heard that big shopping “holidays” like Black Friday and Cyber Monday are problematic. These holidays tend to fuel overconsumption of often lower quality items that end up returned or thrown away in droves, leading to increased emissions and more things in landfills. 

Yet, for me, the biggest problem with the frenzied approach to shopping that comes this time of year is that we rarely get what we actually want.  I don’t mean that we don’t receive an item that we put in our cart.  I mean that we usually don’t even want the things in our cart.  Black Friday co-opts our desire for abundance and our fear of missing out to push us to buy things just because they are on sale.  In the end, however, many of us feel anything but abundance and fulfillment.  Rather we’re left having spent too much money on products we will likely end up returning. 

This said, there are increasingly more reasons to try to save money, and it’s a great feeling to get a deal on something that truly does add to your life. Here’s how I navigate this shopping deal season with more clarity and intentionality so I only get what I actually want: 

1. Write down what makes you feel a sense of “abundance” 

Most of us probably won’t write “being surrounded by a bunch of cheaply made stuff I didn’t really want.” For me, I wrote down: 

  • Learning new activities and hobbies 
  • Having quality and novelty in my wardrobe so I feel confident in what I wear
  • Enjoying memorable, unique experiences with my favorite people
  • Spending time in my home feeling comfortable and cozy 
  • Owning awesome technology that makes my life easier

2. List items and experiences that help me truly build a life of abundance

Our purchases and possessions play a role in how we build our life. That’s ok! Here are some examples of things in my life that contribute to a sense of abundance (as I’ve defined it): 

  • A beginner knitting kit 
  • A perfect fitting, high-quality, somewhat impractical pantsuit to wear to a concert 
  • Tickets to a local show with my friends 
  • Nice candles I can burn (usually all day) while while working at home 
  • A desk treadmill that allows me to get more movement during the day 

3. Get creative in how to save money for those items and experiences

Now, instead of being overwhelmed by “unmissable” deals, I can take advantage of opportunities to save money with more clarity and intentionality.  Knowing that I love learning new hobbies, I’m on the look-out for deals on guitar lessons.  Recognizing that I love well-fitting, quality clothing, I have my eye on investing in a vintage, luxury coat.  To get more cozy, I’m taking advantage of deals to save on new Boy Smells candles (I’m buying multiple to reduce shipping).  

It’s not helpful to create a sense of shame around the holiday shopping season. The goal with this approach is to offer a structure for how to come out of this season having only spent money on things that will actually add to our lives and to realize that sometimes the best gifts don’t require you to buy anything at all.