In the week of Thanksgiving, my anxiety goes through the roof, and it is nothing to do with preparing pumpkin pie or family social gatherings. I’m not American, I don’t live in America and the only reason I even know that this week is Thanksgiving is because of all the emails I receive and ads I see which are talking about the day after Thanksgiving. Black Friday.
Basically, the day after Americans give thanks for everything they have, they are encouraged to buy more stuff they don’t need through sales and price drops and special “Black Friday” offers.
Whilst Thanksgiving may not have spread across the ocean, Black Friday most certainly has.
As someone who has unsubscribed from almost every store newsletter, has a “no junk mail” sticker on the mailbox and uses adblockers on my laptop and phone, I’m still being heavily exposed to ads this week. Every business (whether selling products or services) seems to be trying to get me to buy stuff.
I don’t want to feel bullied or worn down into making a purchase. I don’t want to feel pressured or guilt-tripped into making a purchase. I do not enjoy being bombarded by adverts. Even if I actually need something, Black Friday will not be the day that I buy it.
On the day that every business on the planet seems to want to sell me something, I put my foot down, and buy nothing.
Black Friday is also international Buy Nothing Day.
Buy Nothing Day is an international day of not buying stuff. First organised in 1992 “as a day for society to examine the issue of overconsumption”, it has been held on Black Friday since 1997 (technically outside the USA and the UK, it is the Saturday after Thanksgiving).
For me, Buy Nothing Day is an opportunity to take a quiet personal stand against the pursuit of more. It’s a gentle protest.
Yes, it is only one day. It is not so much about giving up shopping for a day, as the significance of giving up shopping on this one particular day.
On the day where retailers are counting their customers and raking in profits and celebrating one of the top ten shopping days of the year, I choose to opt out.
And I’m going to invite you to, too.
Buy nothing. Sure, not the new electronics and new white goods and new clothing and new footwear. But also, no second hand items either. No eBay shopping or charity shop purchases. Not the groceries. No petrol. No stamps from the post office.
Literally, buy nothing.
It’s just one day.
It shouldn’t be that hard, should it?!
If you need a distraction from the pull of shopping, here’s 5 things you can do instead. No buying stuff required.
1. Borrow Something.
Head to your local public library and borrow books, magazines, board games, DVDs and more. Or, if the library is shut, browse the online catalogue and make some reservations. Some local libraries have ebooks, emagazines and even digital copies of movies for borrowing.
Or, if you’re not a member, become a member! At the very least, pencil in a time that suits you (and they are open) to join up.
Find out if there’s a tool library, or a toy library, or a library of things in your area.
Ask a neighbour or a friend if they can lend you something that you’ve been needing or wanting for a while.
And then, once you’re done with whatever it is that you borrowed, give it back.
2. Write Something
Write a blog post. Write a comment on your favourite blog post. Write a thank-you note to a friend. Write a to-do list of all the things whirring round in your head.
Write a letter to your local councillor or MP. You could add your voice of support or concern for a local project, or raise issues you think are important and would like them to address.
Write a letter to a business telling them what you think of the way they do business. Do you love their commitment to zero waste? Let them know? Do you find their lack of commitment to zero waste disappointing? Let them know.
Do you have a question about their sustainability policies, stance on single-use plastic, or eco-friendly initiatives for the future? Have you been wondering why they choose to do business the way they do? Do you have ideas for making their business more sustainable?
Don’t just think it…say it. Tell them what you think.
3. Bake Something
Don’t go out to the shops, though! Instead, look in your pantry and fridge and see what ingredients you already have, and then find a recipe that suits. It’s a great way to use up random ingredients that have been languishing in the cupboard a little too long.
Not a baker? Don’t have the ingredients to make cakes and cookies and sweet things? Well, get creative with what you do have. Discover a different way to cook a vegetable, or make a dish you’ve never made before.
4. Plan Something
We all have more ideas and less time than we’d like. Rather than go shopping, make a plan for putting one of your ideas into action. Whether it’s a bit of decluttering, planning a holiday, finding out where you can learn a new skill and when it would fit into your calendar, organising a catch-up with friends or family, or figuring out a few days to go hiking in nature, take some time to turn one of your great ideas into an action plan.
Next step, execute the plan!
5. Donate Something
Even better than not buying anything – give something away! Gather together some items that you no longer need, use or love, and take them to the charity shop, list them for free on Gumtree or another online classifieds platform, or – best of all! – join your local Buy Nothing Group and offer them for free there.
If you have packaged food or unopened toiletries, you could donate to a local food bank or refuge. If you have unopened pet food, or old towels and blankets, you could donate to an animal refuge.
If you’re really keen to spend some money on Buy Nothing Day, make a pledge to your favourite charity or local organization. Be sure to check the “no stuff” option – donations in exchange for “things” (sponsoring an animal and receiving a “free” stuffed animal toy, for example) is a little too similar to buying stuff!
If you’re in North America, then happy Thanksgiving. I hope you have a marvellous time eating good food with great company, and that you have enough reusable containers that all of your leftovers may be saved for later.
Whether you’re in North America or not, happy Buy Nothing Day. I hope you’ll choose to opt out of the spending frenzy, take the time to borrow something, write something, bake something, plan something, donate something – or however else you’d like to spend your day – and buy nothing.
It’s only one day. Let’s make the most of it.
Now I’d love to hear from you! What are your thoughts on Black Friday? How have your views changed over time? Have you heard of Buy Nothing Day? Are you keen to take part this year? (Oh, go on!) If you’ve been taking part for many years, what tips do you have for things to do instead? What do you plan to do to avoid the shops and adverts and pull of buying stuff this year? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!