Happy Buy Nothing Day

Are you one of the millions of Americans who goes out and buys all their holiday gifts on the day after Thanksgiving, fighting for gifts on sale for amazing prices? After all, it is practically our national duty to get out and spend, spend, spend!

Instead, why not join me observation of Buy Nothing Day?

What is Buy Nothing Day?

It is an active boycott of all shopping on the Friday after Thanksgiving. It was started by Canadian artist Ted Dave, and was promoted throughout the 1990s by Adbusters.

I was raised by anti-consumerist parents who commonly railed against gratuitous consumption and the advertising that encourages it. My dad used to revel in calling himself Scrooge or the Grinch with respect to the purchasing of toys and other presents.

I went out Christmas shopping for the first time on a Black Friday some time in my mid-thirties. I went to a department store expecting to walk around and get all of my gift purchases done at once.

Walking through the shoe department, a sign for a special discount on boots caught my eye. I love boots, but for many years I seldom bought them because of the cost and the lack of opportunity to wear them in Phoenix, Arizona weather. But at half off, how could I resist at least taking a look?

The shelves were a shambles. There were no employees available to help locate things in different sizes. After spending way too much time hunting for something in my size, I picked out the only pair that seemed to fit okay and headed for the checkout line.

The line snaked around the racks of clothes and piles of items like handbags and belts. It took forever to check out. Along the way, I added a couple of scarves to my basket that I thought would make a good present for at least somebody in my family.

By the time I was done with my purchase, I felt like my brain had fried from the noise of bickering kids and Christmas carols blasting from overhead speakers. So instead of going through the rest of my list, I went home.

The next day, I returned the boots.

I suspect this experience represents what happens for a large percentage of holiday shoppers. Instead of thoughtfully selecting just the right sweater for Dad or a lovely pair of earrings that you know will complement Mom’s favorite necklace, people either just scoop up whatever is most prominently displayed and figure out later who to give it to, or end up buying things for themselves.

No one ever talks about Buy Nothing Day anymore. Take a look at the Google Trend chart for search volume on “Buy Nothing Day” and it is clear that awareness has faded steadily.

Screen Shot 2018-11-23 at 2.22.20 PM

Ironically, Black Friday is losing its edge as well. Retailers have tried to expand the window of frenzied shopping by offering deals throughout the week of Thanksgiving. In doing so, they quite possibly have killed the goose that laid the golden egg.

Fewer people are willing to line up in the wee hours outside a Walmart entrance to buy cheap tv’s at even cheaper prices. In an era of same-day-delivery e-commerce, who wants to go mosh with strangers over the toy of the year? As pointed out in this article from Time.com, more people feel that it just isn’t worth it.

I’m not against giving presents, or definitely not against taking advantage of discounts. But giving great gifts takes thought and planning. I don’t think that rushing through a disorganized Walmart and grabbing at things on sale is the right way to say to your loved ones that you really care about them.

I suppose one could take time during the weeks ahead to make lists of what would be good for each person on your gift list, then diligently read through all the advertisements and mailers to match up the deals with the planned gifts. Maybe I’ll try that next year.

This year, I think we’ll just have to fall back on homemade things like boxes of fudge and handmade Christmas ornaments.

Happy Buy Nothing Day to you!