Black Friday 2012: A near-minimalist approach.

Black Friday 099 © by Neon Tommy

If I were a true minimalist I wouldn’t shop at all, or I’d specialize in experiences over Stuff. But I came pretty close to skipping the madness this year: one online order late Thursday night and one small ($3.99) purchase this morning.

Not without a bit of danger first, though. My niece and nephews and I had spent about an hour looking through the ads from the biggest newspaper of the year. I’d hesitated to bring them out, fearing the site of all that swag would turn the boys (ages 6 and 11) into Monsters of Acquisition.

Surprisingly, that didn’t happen. Even more surprisingly, the only person who got a little monstrous around the edges was me.

Ooohhh! Pretty! Shiny! Oh, I bet Britain would love that. This one would be perfect for Malachi. I could buy this for Linda or Fran, and that for Glenn or Mike, and I wonder if Dad could use….

Then I mentally shook myself and decided to stay home – especially when I learned that Old Navy’s free-shipping offer included Alaska. How delightful not to have to pay for “free” shipping.

Thus on Thanksgiving evening my niece and I sat on the couch picking out a handful of items: two for her boys and three for a family with tight finances (the baby has cancer).

Alison contributed two $10 Old Navy gift cards, which were part of her Christmas present from me (I always give her the option of getting the cards early) and I paid the rest. Since I accessed Old Navy through the Mr. Rebates site, I’ll get 5% cash-back. (If you aren’t a Mr. Rebates member, I suggest you join – and I hope you’ll use my referral link.)

But the beauty part was that free shipping. It meant we didn’t have to push through the stores. That’s becoming less and less attractive to me, even though she and I did have a good time, sociologically speaking at last year’s Black Friday. (See “A mall and the night visitors” for the full report.)

Thousand-yard stare

Alison decided to hit a sporting-goods store at its midnight opening, in hopes of getting those $20 scooters. On the way back she stopped at two others, which were busy but not insanely so. Total time away from home, including driving: just under two hours.

Me? I conked out in the lower bunk in my older nephew’s room, having agreed to pick up just one item on Friday morning. After borrowing a friend’s car I hit the Fred Meyer store for a $3.99 chenille throw to replace one damaged in what we refer to as the Silly Putty Incident.

Yet in the store I felt the same twitches as I’d felt reading the ads. Isn’t there something else I need? Am I going to see prices this low again?

No, and yes.

I did wind up buying some $2 Triscuits to take to the Talkeetna Bachelor Auction and Wilderness Woman Competition on Nov. 30. My friend is making her infamous “bar cheese,” which recipe begins with two pounds of Velveeta and a pound of bacon, and then veers into Miracle Whip and creamy horseradish territory. It’s hot enough to make your eyes bleed, and cholesterol-laden enough to raise your health insurance premium. But damn, it’s good.

You know what else is good? Getting out of that store without buying anything else. I fully understand the powers of advertising, but as a psychologist I interviewed for “Why we lose it on Black Friday” said, most of us are nearly powerless against the wiles of the 6-hour sale. Even frugal ol’ me can get thousand-yard stare when faced with the notion of 99-cent anything.

Avoid it, I say. Or make a list and take along a spotter who can talk you down from the extra Barbie or Lego set. Yes, it’s cheap. But is it necessary?

I try to apply that filter to just about any purchase. Maybe I’ll earn my minimalist badge yet.

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  1. Punkinpye

    Any chance of getting that bar cheese recipe? 🙂

    • Donna Freedman

      @Punkinpye: Melt 2 pounds of Velveeta. Add 1 pound crisply fried, crumbled bacon, 1 cup Miracle Whip and two small bottles of creamy horseradish. You can use one bottle, but where’s the fun in that. Let it cool to the consistency of spackle. Serve with really sturdy crackers; I recommend Triscuits.

  2. Toby Morris

    Liked your humorous article. I, too, am a minimalist. I long ago gave up the frantic shopping. Since I’m 66 yoa, I know I should no longer fill my house with gadgets, and I buy for my son, daughter, and grandson during the year. I don’t like shopping, so I stash things away as I find them. There is way too much emphasis on material things at Christmas.

  3. Congratulations, Donna! I took today off from work which is only the second time since I started the job in 5+ years because my local library was having a used book sale at one of the branches. That was as close to retail shopping as I wanted to experience. I already have my Christmas shopping done for the year. Now I can kick back and enjoy the holidays.

    • Donna Freedman

      @JoAn: The trouble with those used book sales is that you can get utterly, happily lost for hours… 🙂

  4. Christine

    I resisted the 5.65 cake pop makers online at Kohl’s. Yay! I almost caved because it was soo cheap- but who needs more crap? 🙂

    • Donna Freedman

      @Christine: Agreed. If you still want it, watch garage sales this summer — gadgets often end up being sold for pennies on the dollar.

  5. Rochelle_Hamilton@hotmail.com

    My “Black Friday” started Wednesday online. Using discounted gift cards I purchased clothing for family members at great prices.

    Today had some $10 off $10 in merchandise at 2 different stores and ended up with some great stuff.

    With another discounted gift card I shopped Sears Ootlet today and scored at their BOGO sale on apparel.

    Since I did quite a bit of online shopping I avoided most of the craziness. I spent the past 2 days visiting with family so I consider this probably my best “Black Friday” ever.

    I also picked up 100% rebate items at drugstores today I will donate to my local church’s women’s project.

    • Donna Freedman

      @Rochelle: Quite the frugal haul. I’m impressed.
      I got a few free-after-rebate things, too, and will put them into three different stockings. Some of the 32-cents-a-can sweet potatoes are going to a church food drive, and if I get any more free toiletries they’ll head to a women’s shelter called Clare House. The rebate stuff stretches my giving dollars so well, as you and your coupon group know.

  6. Rochelle_Hamilton@hotmail.com

    That should read “Sears Outlet”

  7. Diane Concepcion

    I went to the flea marketm on black friday, paid $2 for a tale and SOLD my junque!!! it’s my new Black Friday tradition, I will do it over and over again. I am $60 richer!

  8. lostAnnfound

    I went out yesterday morning, but not until 8:30. Last year I waited until 9:30 in the morning. Got some awesome deals and stuck to my list (mostly…four little bottles of yummy-smelling hand lotion for the girls’ stocking, all for $4.00, that was not on the list). The crowds are gone by that time and the stores are busy, but not in a crazy way.

  9. Somehow in life bacon makes everything better….
    Our trip on Black Friday was pleasant and didn’t seem as crowded as in years past. Wonder if other readers had a similiar experience?

  10. Katie Schulz

    Usually I try to abstain from all shopping on Black Friday but this year I splurged – two paint rollers, a half gallon of milk and a six pack of beer.

  11. Your fellow minimalist here stayed home on Black Friday; I painted my laundry room a beautiful blue. I don’t even know where the paint came from; seemed to just show up in my garage.

    I wanted to let you and your readers know that I’m doing a giveaway of a $50 Amazon gift card (I don’t think everyone needs to be a minimalist). Come on over to visit, if you like.

  12. Shoot! I mistyped. If you’re interested in my Amazon gift card, click on my name above THIS comment, not above my former comment.

    Sorry about that. Too much multitasking scrambles my brains.