I will let you in on a secret: I usually love Black Friday.
This fact is hard for me to admit, given that I’m somewhat of an aspiring minimalist and detest going out shopping. But even though I’ve never been the wake-up-at-5 a.m.-and-fight-it-out-in-the-box-store kind of Black Friday shopper (I like sleeping and loathe lines), I do love a good deal.
I loved getting my kids’ presents all wrapped up and watching them open gifts on Christmas day as I smiled and held a hot mug of tea like a suburban mom in a Hallmark movie.
On any given year, you could find me sneaking a peak at my phone on Thanksgiving afternoon, looking for deals. As I tossed items in my virtual shopping cart, I’d feel a spark of excitement when I found something marked off for a fraction of the price. It didn’t really matter whether the gift was for me or for one of the kids; I loved the hunt. And I loved getting my kids’ presents all wrapped up and watching them open gifts on Christmas day as I smiled and held a hot mug of tea like a suburban mom in a Hallmark movie.
But this year felt different. Thanksgiving came and left. My virtual shopping carts were mostly empty. The few that I filled remained largely untouched and unpurchased. I scrolled past about 50 million Black Friday and Cyber Weekend emails and social media ads, but that magical, buzzy feeling that used to come with finding deals was nowhere to be found.
Not that I didn’t try looking for it. I went to my favorite websites and looked at cute outfits being sold for a fraction of their normal price. I imagined myself wearing all new clothes and having a closet bursting with options to choose from. But as I closed out my browser, I admitted that a new sweatshirt might warm my bones, but it wouldn’t make me feel any different.
Strangely, I’m not the only one in my family feeling lackluster about the buying frenzy. None of my children are asking for fancy gadgets, toys, or shoes. Though maybe they wouldn’t articulate it this way, they seem to have realized that they don’t need any more gadgets and that more gadgets wouldn’t fill the void anyway.
If we associated gifts with abundance, status, or worth when we were growing up, we may overload our shopping carts now to provide our children the kind of holiday we never had or to give ourselves the type of holiday we have always wanted.
A few months ago, I interviewed author Christine Platt about how she’s working to redefine minimalism, especially for people of color and other marginalized communities. In our conversation and in her book, The Afrominimalist’s Guide to Living with Less, Christine discussed how our relationship with money and gift-giving can be formed by our families and communities of origin. If we associated gifts with abundance, status, or worth when we were growing up, we may overload our shopping carts now to provide our children the kind of holiday we never had or to give ourselves the type of holiday we have always wanted.
That has been true for me in years past, and it always felt like a delicate and impossible balancing act. I wanted to delight in the Christmas season and place less emphasis on things. But I also wanted my children to squeal with excitement when they opened a present and found something they wanted inside. I was sending dualling messages: life is more important than stuff; but don’t you love all the new stuff we bought for you?
This year, the children seem more content with what they have. I do, too. We’ve talked about gifting experiences rather than things because they seem to want more time building memories with their family and friends.
If you’re wondering what made the shift, I can’t take any credit. I do think there is something about living for nearly two years in a pandemic that has taught us that life is fragile and unpredictable and a new PS5 or set of pots and pans won’t make it less so. But connecting with the things and people that matter – family, friends, nature – might make it more bearable.
Today is Cyber Monday. With it will come more ads, emails, and nudges to buy something new. I can’t say that I won’t be making any purchases between now and Christmas Day. But when I do, I won’t be looking for the thrill of the purchase to carry me through the season. I’ll be looking to my experiences with my family to do that instead. Sounds like a Hallmark movie to me.