Mindful Consumption amidst Black Friday Craze.

Over the past 5 years that I’ve lived in America my feelings towards and experience of Black Friday have been all over the map. I’ve done the crazy game plan of studying the catalogues, planning where I want to go, standing in line for hours to spend a ton of money on things I don’t need. I’ve also worked retail for a few years, and instead of Black Friday being this fun experience – it’s been the most dreaded work day/night of the year. Last year I worked 2pm-11pm on Thanksgiving Day and then 7am-4pm on Black Friday. I definitely don’t feel like it brings out the best in most consumers – seeing people fight over a pair of $5 pajama pants, or make a mess with total disregard for the girl who has to clean it up has definitely left a bad taste in my mouth.

This year, as I have tried to be more mindful of where and how I shop, Black Friday has me thinking. Part of me is so opposed to the whole thing: Big businesses, mass consumption, and obnoxious advertisements that capitalize on our selfish desires and need to accumulate more, more, more without any regard for the way it affects the people who produced it, the planet and our own long term wellbeing. I love a good deal as much as the next person–but how much stuff do we really need? And if it’s really that cheap–how long is it going to last?

I’m not here to shame any shoppers or Black Friday fanatics–but I do think we can all ask ourselves some questions and consider alternatives!

  1. What do I really need? Sure, sometimes we have a specific physical need that shopping can meet. If you can get that on sale–why not?! But maybe if I’m honest I don’t NEED a new sweater or a new pair of shoes. Maybe what I really need is contentment, to be okay with what I already have. Maybe I’m lonely and I use consumption to fill a void, when in reality I need community. Maybe I’m stressed or anxious or overwhelmed, and buying new things helps distract from dealing with my pain. We all have needs, that is okay. This year, let’s challenge ourselves to be honest and deal with them in healthy ways.
  2. What is the actual cost? A typical retail markup is 50%. That is, the price they charge you is at least 50% more than what it actually costs to produce. This gives the company leverage to discount the price and still make a profit. Big businesses have the power to do this on a mass scale, and while it might seem great to a consumer, there a plenty of external costs to consider as well. What is the product made of? What affects did the production of this product leave on the environment? Are their chemicals or components of this product that will be harmful to my health/wellbeing in the long run? Who made this product–were they treated with respect and dignity? Is my purchase contributing to a system of injustice that perpetuates the struggles of the most vulnerable?
  3. How can I spend money in a way that promotes my values? Every dollar spent is a vote cast. There are so many small businesses in the world doing amazing things! We can choose to purchase things that not only meet our own needs as consumers, but help promote the type of world we want to live in. We can be environmentally conscious, waste free, inclusive, and justice oriented.

Here is a list of ethical businesses with some great Black Friday deals:

ABLE – Enjoy 30% off leather goods, handmade jewelry, denim, clothing and footwear (all made by women, leading us a step closer to the end of generational poverty!)

Krochet Kids – 30% off clothing/home goods all made by women in Uganda and Peru! They provide the transparency that allows you to know the name and biography of the woman who created your product!

Parker Clay – 25% off storewide! Lifestyle goods handmade in Ethiopia!

31bits – 25% off your purchase under 100$ or 30% off when you spend over $100. Your one-stop-shop for jewelry, home goods and bags!

Thought Clothing – 50% of each purchase (sustainably produced clothing) will be donated to a Refugee Council and the London Wildlife Trust!

And don’t forget about Small Business Saturday! I can’t think of a better spent Saturday than walking around your downtown area and shopping locally with loved ones. Help boost your local economy, engage in the community you live in, and find some unique, special products!

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This week is all about gratitude, and gratitude isn’t just a nice thought to make us feel good, or a nice conversation to share around the table. We can live out our gratitude through generosity and making conscious choices that reflect the abundance we have been gifted with.

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