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November 15, 2016

6 giving alternatives (or complements) to Black Friday

Thanksgiving is fast approaching, which means the inevitable shopping frenzy looms for the day after: Black Friday.

Black Friday, known as a day millions wait in line for a chance to get great deals, symbolizes not only the start of the holiday shopping season, but also the consumerism that has come to define the season itself.

The day presents a dichotomy and stark contrast to the traditions of family togetherness and giving gratitude that Thanksgiving offers. Black Friday shopping has even started seeping into communal celebrations, with masses lining up early Thursday evening waiting for a great deal. Is it possible at this point to reimagine what “Black Friday” could be?

To balance out the abundance of ads and media attention that this famous Friday affords, we’re offering some alternative Black Friday activities which provide a benefit not only to you, but to others in your community and around the world.

1. Give your time

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The notion of “giving” during the holiday season often gravitates toward the purchase of physical items. An alternative, or at the very least a complement, to buying gifts this season is to give  our valuable time to someone, or something. This can be done on Black Friday in many ways, including volunteering at your local food bank, helping loved ones decorate their house for the holidays, gathering with friends to pick up litter along the river or in your local park, or volunteering your professional services to someone in need. The holiday season can also offer a moment to reflect on your potential to experience the positive relationships that long-term volunteering fosters. For example, you can make a direct and lasting impact on a student by volunteering with Reading Partners for just an hour a week!  

Volunteering doesn’t just serve the person or organization that one volunteers for, either: it provides numerous physical and psychological benefits to volunteers themselves, as numerous studies show. Let this Black Friday, and many other days, be an opportunity to find your calling as a volunteer with a cause you care about!

2. Shop with Amazon Smile

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You might be asking yourself why the word “shop” is something you’re reading in an article about alternatives to Black Friday. That’s because when you shop using Amazon Smile, a portion of eligible purchases go directly to a charity of your choice. If you do decide to shop on Black Friday, using Smile guarantees that a portion of that money goes to a great cause that you care about!

3. Buy gifts that give back

Want to give a truly meaningful gift? There are tons of options for gifts that support national and international charities and causes. If you’ve never tried making a donation in the name of a loved one, or gifting an item that supports a positive cause, try it. There is no better feeling than buying and gifting responsibly—the recipient will be grateful you did.

4. Vote with your wallet

If you will be shopping the day after Thanksgiving, this is a good opportunity to vote with your wallet. Use your money to support local shops and socially responsible companies. You can search online for corporate social responsibility reports (CSRs) or use CSR tools to learn more about the brands before making a purchase.

5. Write a thank you letter
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It’s the Friday after Thanksgiving, and what are you to do? Well, with just a pen and paper, you can choose to make a person’s day (or week…or month)! In a matter of minutes, many of the things you’ve been meaning to tell that special someone can be conveyed through the timeless act of writing a letter. There’s no need to be fanciful, either— you can write a genuine and thoughtful letter of appreciation that is sure to make someone feel special before you even finish your Friday morning coffee.

So, this Black Friday, brew up your favorite fall blend and put those generous thoughts to paper!

6. Opt outside

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You may choose to “opt out,” but have you thought about opting outside? The #OptOutside movement first began in 2015 when REI, the outdoor retailer, decided to close all of its stores on Black Friday and pay its employees to enjoy a day in the great outdoors. It’s shaping up to be an annual tradition for the retailer, but the act of opting out of shopping and opting into the outdoors on Black Friday has extended far beyond REI employees. This humble author’s family put on boots and snow chains to explore Yosemite Valley on Black Friday and has decided to make it an annual tradition!

This Black Friday, give back to yourself and to your loved ones by creating memories outside.

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