Forget holiday specials: Shop consciously, year-round

How did all those cutesy shopping holidays get created? And how do we resist their allure?

Published December 15, 2017 7:21PM (EST)

Shoppers head into Target just after thei doors opened at midnight on Black Friday, Nov. 28, 2014, in South Portland, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty) (AP)
Shoppers head into Target just after thei doors opened at midnight on Black Friday, Nov. 28, 2014, in South Portland, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty) (AP)

This article originally appeared on AlterNet.


November and December are clogged with special days asking you to spend or donate money: Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday.

Then comes Weeping Wednesday, the day you realize how much you’ve spent.

Sure, each of these days makes for great #hashtags, fun memes or some pretty sweet sales. But all are rooted in the same thing: Sharp marketing hell-bent on getting you to spend money. As the sales saying goes, “Everyone has money. My job is to figure out how to relieve them of it.”

Truly, the spirit of the season.

But here’s a secret intrepid marketers don’t want you to know: The principles these cutesy days are promoting — big savings, shopping locally, shopping online, and giving to a good cause — aren’t just mantras for the holiday season. Some can be incorporated year-round, to your benefit and joy.

Here’s how to keep the spirit of the shopping season with you year-round, with peace of mind and without overspending or looking like a frantic nutcase fighting another consumer for a $9.99 Peppa Pig toy.

1. Black Friday

The day after Thanksgiving got its name in post-WWII America, from the day hordes of workers called in “sick.” This, in turn, led to hordes of people shopping that day, which by the early 1960s created a headache for traffic police, who then started calling it Black Friday for all the extra work that tangentially landed in their laps as a result. Is it any wonder retailers started capitalizing on the natural flow of the populace? But lots of retailers have sales year-round. If there’s an item you really want, there’s no reason to battle the crowds or line up at 2am for a sweet deal at Walmart on something you really don’t need. Better to save your money and spend it with a local retailer at a later date. Even if you spend a few extra dollars, the peace of mind you save is worth it. Unless, of course, fighting Black Friday crowds for a cheap TV to put in your dining room is your jam, in which case, go for it!

2. Small Business Saturday

Perhaps the best American holiday ever created by a credit card company — American Express (in conjunction with Facebook) — the intent behind Small Business Saturday sounds pretty good: Shop at your local small businesses. But the fact that we need a day like this, created by a credit card company, speaks volumes about our society. So rather than go out and shop small businesses on Saturday and rest on one-day-a-year laurels, why not shop local all year long? The benefits are exponential, and you’ll be doing your community, and yourself, a service, rather than complying with AmEx’s marketing campaign.

3. Cyber Monday

Another holiday created by marketers to promote shopping online, Cyber Monday was created by in 2005. Today, people shop from their offices for a good deal, flipping between Facebook and Amazon looking for coupon codes for stuff they may, or may not really want — but the price is just so good! Rather than waste a workday shopping, why not save your money and spend it locally, on stuff you really do need and want. Do you really need all that stuff from Amazon? Really? Maybe take a deep breath, pause and consider what else you can spend your money on, and where, before absentmindedly clicking “one-click” purchasing.

4. Giving Tuesday

Giving Tuesday was created by the 92nd Street Y in New York City to celebrate generosity. And we are a generous nation. But this day has led to an enormous amount of non-profit time being spent developing social media campaigns to get you to give. Rather than buying into yet another day to spend your money, why not spend some time thinking about the causes that are important to you, and then identify the organizations that are doing good work and could genuinely use a hand, locally and in your community? There are plenty of multi-million-dollar non-profits doing good work. But there are also small organizations in your backyard where a little bit of money will go a long way. Look into those and determine the best way to give to them, and then plan to make regular contributions, year-round. Maybe even become a monthly volunteer. There are 100 ways to give, and 364 other days in the year to do it.

Of course, there is no shame in getting a good deal on one of these days in support of your loved ones. It’s only natural to want to give. When you support local small businesses, and give to people and community and charitable organizations close to your heart, year-round, it’s easy to resist the mass frenzy of spending that surges after Thanksgiving. You’ll rest easy, knowing you don't overspend, still get some sweet deals and support the people you love. And you'll smile instead of weeping on Wednesday.

Valerie Vande Panne is an independent journalist whose work has appeared in the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine, Columbia Journalism Review, The Guardian, Politico, and many other publications.

By Valerie Vande Panne

Valerie Vande Panne is a writing fellow and chief correspondent at Local Peace Economy, a project of the Independent Media Institute. She is an independent journalist whose work has appeared in the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine, Columbia Journalism Review, the Guardian, Politico, and many other publications.

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Alternet Black Friday Business Cyber Monday Economy Finances Giving Tuesday Small Business Saturday