This week, around 147 million U.S. shoppers will hit the stores or shop online to take advantage of Black Friday sales events. Black Friday, otherwise known as the kick-off to the holiday season or the busiest shopping day of the year does draw big crowds, and each year the chaos becomes more insane. For instance, this year Black Friday, which is supposed to occur on November 23rd, is already in action, and many retailers have released their Black Friday deals before Thanksgiving. So now ‘Grey Thursday’ has been born — and in a ridiculously unprecedented move, stores including Target, Walmart and Sears are opening their doors to begin their giant sales on Thanksgiving Thursday. Insane! Plus, there’s Cyber Monday to contend with as well. However, you don’t have to participate in this shopping madness. You can shun Black Friday, and especially Grey Thursday altogether, participate in Buy Nothing Day instead and do something more meaningful with your family.

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Photo © Flickr user denipet

What’s the big deal – aren’t sales good?

Buy Nothing Day is a saner alternative to Black Friday. Started years ago by AdBusters, this event that ditches the notion of a day where you shop til you drop, and embraces more meaningful activities, such as family time. It is Thanksgiving weekend after all. But why ditch a day that offers sales galore? There are plenty of reasons, such as…

  • Standing in stressful crowded store check-out lines is not the best use of your time, especially on a holiday weekend when you could be spending that time with your family.
  • Driving around, from store to store, on such a crowded day is slow and a huge waste of gas.
  • Black Friday is short, and forces you to buy stuff right away, which gives you zero time to consider purchases, and you may end up with less eco-products.
  • Kids should NEVER be exposed to a holiday devoted to buying as much as you can as fast as you can. Kids are overly bombarded with material goods, as it is. An event like this sets a horrid example for your child about what really matters.

Worst of all, Black Friday encourages overspending and is massively expensive for the average consumer.

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Photo © Flickr user tshein

Most people don’t stick to their holiday budget

In 2010 consumers spent an estimated $648 million on Black Friday, up 9% from 2009. Cyber Monday reached $1.028 billion in online spending in 2010, a figure up a huge 16% from 2009. That’s a lot of spending. People often argue, “Black Friday is a great deal because I get stuff on sale.” However, market research shows that most people spend more than they originally budgeted for during events like Black Friday. 2011 consumer research shows that shoppers say they’ll spend $704, on average on Black Friday. However, in 2010, people estimates were off by a lot. When asked before Black Friday, folks said they’d only spend $688 each, but after, people admitted to spending an average of $719 each. If we’re going by average trends, people will spend more than they think this year as well. Many people are very susceptible to impulse buys during Black Friday.

Consumer Reports agrees that shoppers spend more than they plan, noting that last year, shoppers spent about 22% more on holiday gifts then they said they would, and a full 45% of Americans who made a budget last year exceeded it, with 5% going over budget by a lot more than they planned. Plus, even though people are spending more than ever, Consumer Reports notes that about 14.1 million adults are still carrying debt from the 2010 holiday season.

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Photo ©dunnink via sxc.

20 fun activities that don’t involve shopping

There is absolutely no reason to participate in Black Friday shopping. Instead, try one of these awesome family activities below.

  1. Sleep in!
  2. Go on a nature hike.
  3. Bake, decorate and eat homemade cookies.
  4. Eat leftovers and watch eco-friendly family movies together.
  5. Spend some quality time with grandparents.
  6. Get started on some homemade Christmas snow globes.
  7. Play board games.
  8. Have a beauty makeover day for tots and mamas.
  9. Create a bird-friendly winter yard.
  10. Make and bury a recycled family time capsule.
  11. Get started on some homemade Christmas crafts and cards.
  12. Plant a tree, or two or three.
  13. Make a family gratitude journal.
  14. Get friends and family together for a homemade Christmas gift making day.
  15. Make a fun DIY magazine dollhouse with your little one.
  16. Gather used clothing, toys and books and get it ready to donate to a local thrift store or charity.
  17. Help your kids put on a puppet show.
  18. Teach your kids to make homemade soft pretzels. Bake some extras for a neighbor.
  19. Build a recycled kite – go fly it.
  20. Make a gingerbird house.

Remember, Buy Nothing Day isn’t about changing your lifestyle for just one day a year. Talk to your family about how you can all create a meaningful life that includes living with less stuff and spending more time together. Will you be participating in Buy Nothing Day or Black Friday? Let us know in the comments.

Lead image © Flickr user jbhthescots