One of my favorite seasons (and very likely yours too) is just around the corner: Christmas time! There is nothing like the Christmas season. It brings snow, it brings family and friends together to celebrate, and it brings a generous and loving spirit into focus. Unfortunately, it can also bring discontentment, materialism, and debt, and those negative aspects seem to peak on one particular day, Black Friday.
I don’t remember ever going shopping on Black Friday growing up because we always decorated for Christmas on the day after Thanksgiving, but I do remember wondering when I was a young girl what “Black Friday” meant. Those words made it sound like a horrible, cursed day! The year I got married, I decided to venture out and see if I could get a deal on some new boots for my husband for Christmas. I woke up early and headed to the stores, and I loved it! I loved the busy, festive feeling in the air and the excitement of all the shoppers. (I found a good deal on some boots too!). I have gone shopping on every Black Friday since, sometimes alone, sometimes with my husband or mom, and it has become a tradition for me.
I have fun shopping for my loved ones on Black Friday, but I have also seen how things can deteriorate pretty quickly. Bad attitudes, grumpy shoppers, overspending, and a focus on things instead of people really can make Black Friday seem like a “cursed day.” I have a few tips and ideas on how to use Black Friday as a blessing for your own family and others when materialism seems to rule.
How to Make Black Friday a Blessing
1. Don’t go without a plan. Overspending happens when you go shopping without really knowing what you are looking for. There are many websites that will gather all the ads for major retail stores, so it is easy to scope things out and find the best prices on the items that you want to get. Pick your items, know what times the stores open, plan out your shopping route, and stick to it.
2. Bring paper, not plastic. If you want to stick to your Christmas budget, it’s best to bring cash and leave your credit cards at home. It can be very tempting to add that extra item to your cart and think you’ll figure out the finances later. With cash, it’s easier to keep the budget in mind. This is not to say that you can’t purchase anything that is not on your list (I usually bring a little extra money for those unexpected items). But once all my cash is gone, it’s gone, and I save myself the debt that might be tempting if I brought a credit card.
3. Be realistic. I don’t recommend treating Black Friday as a sport. It’s exciting to get good deals, but if you are too determined to be one of the ten people to get that doorbuster, Black Friday can become stressful, and even combative, very quickly. Try for the deals you want, but be okay if you don’t get everything you wanted.
4. Bring a shopping buddy. Black Friday shopping trips shouldn’t just be about the deals (this can be a great opportunity to spend quality time with someone you care about). Ask someone to join you and think of ways to make this an outing, instead of just a stressful shopping trip: break out the Christmas music and sing along, go out to breakfast or dinner after you find everything you want or shop for each other and make a show about trying to hide your purchases. Just have fun.
5. Give to someone you don’t know. Spend some of your Black Friday cash on a gift for someone you don’t know. Buy some items to put into bags for the homeless you might see on street corners in December. Check with your church and see if there is anyone in your congregation who could benefit from your help in buying Christmas presents for their kids. Buy the coffee of the person behind you in line.
6. Keep your focus. Remind yourself throughout the day why you are going shopping in the first place. It’s to buy gifts for those you love as part of your celebration Christ’s birth!
This season is about celebrating Him, not celebrating stuff. If you are bringing your kids, read The Blessings Jar in the car to remind your kids to be thankful for what they already have. Read the Nativity story in Matthew and talk about how the Magi gave gifts to baby Jesus – and how God gave us the greatest gift when He gave us His Son.
Be cheerful to the harried cashier. Be gracious to the person that cuts in front of you in line. Represent Jesus to all those crazy Black Friday shoppers that you have joined because all of the Christmas festivities should point back to Him, even Black Friday shopping. It can be a struggle to keep the focus where it should be during the busiest shopping day of the year, but I believe it is possible. With the right focus, Black Friday shopping can save you money, give you some quality time with the people you love, give you opportunities to show Jesus to someone who might not know Him, and become a fun tradition that you and your family can look forward to each year.
Do you have any other tips for balancing the craziness and being a blessing to others on Black Friday?