Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Surviving Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and Buy Nothing Day

It’s got very confusing. I don’t know anyone who is not aware of Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or any of a number of other crazy sales days or anti-consumerism initiatives.

I have to admit that I have stood in line in past years and exploited the opportunity. I feel okay with this because I have always bought something that my family ‘needs’ (let’s not go there, okay), and would have bought anywhere. The self-righteous like to point fingers at the fanatics, the violent, and the irresponsible. Fair game. But, as Eugene Cho commented a year ago, this is often the privileged who can afford to buy these items year round.

So the question is: do we throw the baby out with the bath water? Answer: only if there is a special deal on babies or bath water – check out Bed Bath and Way Beyond.

But here are five steps to embrace Black Friday and not feel like you sold your soul to consumerism.

1) Decide on a number of items that you want to buy, how much you are going to spend, and only buy these.

2) Bring an extra cup to share that hot chocolate you have to avoid hyperthermia and share with the person in front of you.

3) Support Small Business Saturday by patronizing a local family-owned shop, also for something you need.

4) I’m impressed with the idea of Buy Nothing Day. I think it is something incredibly powerful and educational. The kids will love you for it!

5) Take a portion of the day and do something for charity. Maybe donate what you bought last year at Black Friday to Goodwill or Out of the Closet. You need to donate something of worth. Those stained, musty t-shirts don’t count.

6) There is no No. 6 – we are sticking to a plan and the plan was 5 ideas, remember? You alway want more than you set out for, looking for the extra deal and value. What do you think this is? Black Friday?

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. His next novel, Unwanted Heroes, is due out in early 2013. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Jewish Student Center, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

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