Monday, November 28, 2011

Moolah Monday - Black Friday & Cyber Monday

Are you all Black Friday and Cyber Monday peeps?

With my tendency toward frugality and need desire to find deals you'd think these annual occassions would be right up my alley.  Truth-be-told, they are, but not necesarily for the frugality.  I've never really participated in Cyber Monday so I suppose Black Friday is the only one really up my alley - which will make sense after I expound a bit more.

I've done Black Friday shopping maybe 4 or 5 times or so since I've been married (which, I'll remind you is now 9 years).  There have been years I've been able to shop and some years where it just hasn't worked out.  Prior to having children it was easier to participate even though it's never been "easy" to get up and out of the house at the necesary hour.  Since kiddos have entered the picture it's been much more difficult, especially with the hubby's work schedule.  I just can't see me taking them out that early in the morning to fight the crowds and stress over keeping them safe to get a semi-good deal.  It's more and more unusual that I get to participate in Black Friday for that reason.

Honestly?  That's ok with me, especially this year.  I had NO desire to go out for Black Friday deals this year.  Maybe it was the move to shopping earlier (on Thanksgiving) that got me, but this year I was not only uninterested in the festivities, I was repulsed by them.  The whole idea of Black Friday shopping just made me sick.  Am I alone here?

Usually I love Black Friday not for the deals (though those are fun) but for the experience.  Contrary to normal people, I actually love the crowds.  I love being around all the people.  I love being part of the shopping while others are shopping and feeling the comraderie of it all.  I enjoy the special craziness it takes to get on a motorcycle with your dad at 11pm on Thanksgiving night in your mom's leathers to stay warm in the freezing temperatures to introduce your dad to Black Friday deals at the outlet malls.  (was that just mie?) Super fun!  I love the idea of walking around through all the people and fighting traffic and waiting in lines.

I'm not being sarcastic.  I actually love those things!  Though I hate getting out of bed on a cold morning, or any morning before 8 really, I love doing it "for Black Friday".  I love that it usually signals the beginning of the Christmas season and what's to come with other holiday festivities.  I usually love getting my first pumpkin spice steamer from Starbucks.  I love going to my favorite stores and seeing how they've decorated and what deals they have and how other shoppers have left the place a complete mess whether or not I'm actually going to buy something.  I just love the passion in it.

This year was different though.  I couldn't get myself to get excited over all those things because I realized that the passion and tradition I love so much has turned into something that is destroying the meaning of Christmas.  Rather than all that I love about Black Friday, it has turned into an all-out free-for-all where anything goes including violence, to save money on stuff.  It's just stuff.  And people are out trying to check off all of their Christmas lists.  Check them off.  I got something for Jim and Bob and Sam and Sara.  Check check check check.  This year I sensed that it was all about finding something to buy for someone on the list.  It felt like a bunch of people making a mad-dash for junk.  It is, after-all, just junk.

As a society, have we become more interested in giving something because it's obligatory than because we want to bless someone with a gift?  Are we teaching our children to expect people to give us stuff, and to love that stuff more than we love the people who give it?  Do we really need a flat screen tv in every room and every video game system and the latest i-device?  Really? 

Don't get mie wrong.  I love giving.  I love blessing my children with things their little hearts desire.  I love seeing something I know would bless a friend and being able to pick it up at a good deal.  I love being able to spend money on other people.  I love surprises and watching someone open the gift I carefully picked out just for them.  What I don't love is how it feels like we've turned into a society that expects something for nothing, that believes we "deserve" the latest and greatest and demand that others go to great lengths to make us happy with stuff.  I don't love that at least on some level we've lost the sentiment behind gift-giving so that its now something we have to do to keep up with the Jones' or prove our love rather than something we do out of a joyful spirit.  I don't love that the Christmas season is now feeding a never-full hunger for more stuff rather than getting us closer to the heart of God that sent us the most amazing gift 2000 years ago and that the celebration of that day has turned into a day of debt and consumerism instead of freedom and gratitude.

I did go shopping at night on Black Friday but only because I was out-of-town at the time visiting friends and family and I wanted to leave them with gifts I'd picked out for them, saving the unnecesary cost of shipping.  I would have much rather shopped over time, as I felt led to pick out just the right thing for the people I wanted to shop for.  I only had a few gifts to buy because I had already started picking out the right gifts months before as I saw things I knew would be a blessing to the special people in my life and I had already brought them with me on our trip. 

And we went at night because during the day we took a day trip to the mountains with my parents and kids.  We saw the desert and enjoyed creation.  We took the kids sledding in snow in the mountains and played with them for hours.  We went on a nature hike on a small trail in the mountains to see what we could find - to learn about that area - to play some more.  We were together.  We had a good time.  We could have done it for free (but chose to take a rather expensive tram ride).  I'd much rather THAT be our Black Friday tradition from now on. 

Treasuring memories, creation, and time-spent with loved ones instead of stuff that will eventually rot away.

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