Black Friday Musings

by Katy on November 26, 2010 · 18 comments

I’m not sure when it happened, but somehow the day after Thanksgiving became known as “Black Friday.” My guess is that this term had been used by the business community for decades, and only recently entered the vocabulary of American consumers at large. I’m not going to mock those who choose to pick up these screaming deals, as these sales do afford a lot of people to buy gifts they could not otherwise afford. I do find the term a little creepy though.

To me, there is no deal that screams loudly enough for me to get up at 2:00 A.M. and stand in line. Especially when I’m freshly off a pie bender. Oy.

I actually enjoy figuring out gifts for my friends and family. Yes, we’ve winnowed down the gift list over the past few years, but I really enjoy the challenge. I have a reputation for giving really good gifts, despite mostly shopping at thrift stores. I totally cheap out on some things and then completely splash out on others. (We usually give my in-laws a $100 gift certificate to their favorite restaurant.) Of course, I totally panic at the last minute as I try to figure out those last minute gifts.

What am I giving this year?

Unlike previous years, I’m almost done buying for the kids’ Christmas stockings. I’ve already stashed away cute Xmas mugs, (free pile) iTunes gift cards, (Swagbucks) as well as a few cute thrift store finds, (like a new-in-the-box tiny Japanese calligraphy kit.) I have amassed a large amount of Amazon gift card codes, (also through Swagbucks) and will judiciously use these to fill in the gaps. I subscribe to Frugal Living NW, which is a fantastic source for great Amazon deals, (I bought my husband a $5 subscription to This Old House magazine and my step-mother will be receiving a $10 subscription to Real Simple magazine.)

My husband and I do not exchange Christmas gifts, as neither of us see the point in spending unnecessary money. My husband took some convincing in this matter, (he likes to buy me stuff) but my birthday is January 4th, so I do allow gifts then. (Aren’t I fun?!)

I am neither artsy nor crafty, so it would actually be insulting to give anyone a handmade gift from me. (Seriously, nobody wants my patented rocks with googly eyes.)

I have tried hard over the past couple of years to transform the holiday season from a time of dread and stress into something joyous. But as a non-consumer as well as a non-religious Jew, it’s slim pickings.

Do you stress out over the holiday season? Do you have any tips to share to magically turn a season of teeth gnashing stress into a blissful time? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Kristen@TheFrugalGirl November 26, 2010 at 10:07 am

Reducing the number of people we exchange gifts with definitely helps! My siblings/siblings-in-law and Mr. FG and I do a name-drawing kind of thing, so each of us only buys for one other person. Still fun, but not stressful.

I think we’re going to do some paring down on Mr. FG’s side of the family this year too.


Katy November 26, 2010 at 10:10 am

My sister-in-law set up a gift exchange last year that included the kids picking names, (they have no kids) and I somehow gave more gifts than ever!

Super annoying.



Martha November 26, 2010 at 11:12 am

We draw names in the immediate family only…10 with foster kids…and limit price to 50$ or under.The kids have all been thoughtful and creative. The money we would have spent is sent to build wells in Haiti…vitally needed after the earthquake and cholera epidemic!


NMPatricia November 26, 2010 at 11:57 am

“I have tried hard over the past couple of years to transform the holiday season from a time of dread and stress into something joyous. ”

I really think this is the crux of the challenge. For a different set of reasons, this time of year has become dreadful and stressful. And the constant bombardment of consumerism highly contributes to that feeling. I HATE IT. I somehow feel like I am missing something by not shopping today. On the other hand, don’t know what I would buy that I need. I live in a city where most of the functions cost money – A LOT. So I am searching for a way to create some meaning and fun.


Lori from Michigan November 26, 2010 at 1:51 pm

I have gradually been trying to wean my 13-year old daughter away from her strong desire for so much “stuff” over the past year, but am meeting with a considerable amount of resistance. She’s a typical American teen, and wants her fashions and gadgets, trips to the movie theater, etc. I have been working on introducing the idea that experiences are of more importance than material things. We’ll go to a few local holiday concerts, go caroling, tour the Nativity Scene display, do more home cooking of holiday recipes. But since we are splurging this year on her 8th grade trip to D.C. this spring (over $500 – yikes!), it really just won’t be possible to put the usual number of gifts under the tree. I don’t think she gets it yet, and I’m preparing to see a sad face.


Jinger November 26, 2010 at 2:30 pm

I had a wonderful Black Friday Austin style…went to St. Vincent de Paul…no crowds there and for under $5.00 I bought a lovely amber glass votive candle holder with a silver filagree design at the bottom, a new cookbook, a new looking photo frame, an unopened advent calendar, a new roll of Christmas wrap, 2 magazines and 1 paperback novel. My family’s stockings will be stuffed to the brim with these treasures. I only do stockings for my adult son and his wife and am trying to wean to college girl at home off expensive presents under the tree. I think gift cards will suffice this year.


Kimberly November 26, 2010 at 2:47 pm

I’m not sure how my tip will work out as I continue through the season, because I tend to be quite the Type A personality, but twice in the last week, I turned what could have been a stressful shopping trip into one of peace even when there was total chaos around me. I just decided that it didn’t matter how long the trip took. It didn’t matter if there were a million people in my way. I wasn’t going to be ruffled by it. And it worked!

The first time was my Thanksgiving grocery shopping trip. I had put it off until the Saturday before and was dreading it…but used my “calm method” and had no trouble at all.

I tried it again this morning. I wasn’t going to go out, but found one thing that was just perfect for my sister. So I went out for one thing around 11, made my way through the crazy parking lot, then didn’t find the item in the store, but managed to find a clerk who ordered it online for me (and gave me free shipping that I wouldn’t have had from home!).


Marianne November 26, 2010 at 5:26 pm

Its called “black friday” because its when the stores financials come out of the red and they make a lot of their yearly earnings. I prefer buy nothing day and hunker down like im expecting 3ft of snow lol!


Janice November 26, 2010 at 6:52 pm

We are having a “presence only” Christmas this year. We’re all excited.


AnnWilson November 26, 2010 at 7:23 pm

I don’t stress out about Christmas. I only buy for the two sets of parents, my husband, and my daughter. The god children get Gladys Boalt ornaments every year. I buy things all year long, funny things, or cheap things, or stupid things from garage sales. My husband’s birthday is less than a week before Christmas so he doesn’t get much .
We concentrate mostly on stockings. We don’t “need” much and often give each other a gift to or another charity. We also adopt a local family and give them about $200 worth of gifts. One year we cancelled Christmas presents because we took a big trip for our anniversary and our daughter got an Airstream trailer. We had the best, goofiest stockings that year. I stopped Christmas cards about twenty years ago after I figured out that I never got them finished. By not worrying about what we want, we seem to do just fine. Our stockings seem to have iTunes, and Amazon cards, a fresh $2 bill, and a little York peppermint patty in the bottom. We usually ski every Christmas day. What could be better? Ann


Sara Wolk November 26, 2010 at 10:00 pm

I’m a huge fan of the winter solstace. As a spiritual, non religious person I love celebrating our connection to nature as opposed to Santa, ancient history, consumerism, or any other event that I don’t really feel that connected to. (If you do feel connected to it that’s awesome, but I don’t.) To me, its our natural new year, and the best time for a festival of lights. It feels so good to celebrate a day and event that is as significant this year as it ever has been, and that is just as significant to everybody, everywhere in the world.

For me, a full on solstace celebration includes a party with friends and family, a feast (potluck is great), music, a fire, candals and lights, and decorating with boughs and leaves and things from the outdoors that you find. All my favorite parts of Christmas/Hannukah, with out the stress and financial strain. And “christmas trees”, gifts and “menorahs” are all totally compatible with solstace. So if you want, you can include them! What’s not to like?


Dmarie November 27, 2010 at 6:25 am

had a “white elephant” Xmas gift exchange in my family last year. Great fun seeing what “treasures” each person wanted to get rid of…actually some pretty good stuff given, but since none of us are big on accumulating stuff, no one wanted to do it again! We give our daughter & son in law experiences, in the form of bowling/movies/ice skating passes. Considering giving a hotel stay this year, a suggestion I came across on Zero Waste Home.


Tracy Balazy November 27, 2010 at 1:34 pm

This will be the first year I go totally giftless. My husband of five years and I don’t exchange gifts and our pets don’t seem aware of the holidays, so if I can just convince my dad’s wife that at 43, I’m OK with no material gifts, it’ll be good. She means well, but last year when I told her, “Please don’t buy me anything for Christmas, really,” she looked at me quizzically and said, “But, I HAVE to.” {sigh!} She’s very much a consumer of cheap stuff that breaks easily and ends up in a landfill. Perhaps this year will be different.


Melissa November 27, 2010 at 5:46 pm

It almost seems like now that Black Friday has overtaken Thanksgiving Day. Such a shame. I try to cut down on the stress by taking a big picture view of things. No one is going to complain about the gift they get (at least not out loud), and I wouldn’t think to, either. And really, if they did, what would be the result? Me running out to buy them something “better”? I’ve already told my sons that we didn’t get them any Legos this year because they have plenty (even though they pour through the catalogs like they’re religious texts and there’ll be a big test later). I think their initial disappointment has been replaced with wonder at what other toys exist in the universe.


Rachel November 28, 2010 at 11:40 am

It’s been getting increasingly tricky for me to be a non-consumer during the holidays. My older sisters have moved on to well paying jobs and have high expectations for gifts, to such an extent that driving home from Thanksgiving I started crying because I realized that I had the choice of getting everything they wanted or being able to eat for the month of December.

I’m a fairly crafty person, and while I do still put out duds sometimes, I’m really happy with what I’ve made so far this year and have left to make, but my family’s made it clear they don’t enjoy homemade gifts. This leaves me with lots and lots of stress, to such an extent that I’m not really looking to the holidays this year – except for my small celebration with my roommates, where the only the expectation is of “presence”.


Shannon November 28, 2010 at 4:55 pm

We’ve been transforming our holidays by doing more than just what we refer to as “greed fest” like inviting our to go to the zoo lights, having a tree trimming party, or seeing a holiday music performance. For family members we do experiential gift certificates. For children we buy books. And for our kids we get them one “whiz bang” gift (this year it’s scooters) an outfit, a book, and a game or a dvd. So far this is super easy—today we even had the MIL over for tree trimming and lasagna, we are nearly done with Christmas shopping, and managed to have a pretty good weekend.


Joanne McArthur November 28, 2010 at 6:08 pm

I would suggest that you make a donation to a worthwhile cause in the names of all your family members. They need not know how much the donation was and you get to choose which worthwhile agency to support. Most will send an acknowledgement to the person in whose name you send it, for example “two goats were purchased in your name by susie, your sister” etc. Then you can choose how and where to spend your hard earned, limited dollars and feel good about helping out someone who may in fact appreciate it much more than those on your “must buy for list”! That assumes of course that you feel you MUST buy, you could write each a letter outlining all the things you admire, appreciate, remember about them. Or even a general ‘book” of memories for the whole family. Photos, drawings, report cards, anecdotes all done up in construction paper and bows.


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