Black Friday may be among the busiest shopping days of the year, but shopping isn’t the only way to get into the holiday spirit this Thanksgiving weekend.
This pseudo-holiday piggybacks on the time off granted by a real national holiday, after all. The kids are home from school, and your friends and family probably have that extra day off work.
If you want to skip the mall but don’t want to spend the day hiding out at home, we’ve found a few ways you can take advantage of Black Friday without joining the shopping frenzy.
Be Charitable on Black Friday
The holidays tend to bring out our charitable side. If you don’t want to kick off the season with shopping, why not use Black Friday to start giving back instead?
1. Donate Blood
The Red Cross needs your blood, more this time of year than any other. As people get busy with holiday festivities, blood donations tend to decline between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.
2. Be Charitable Without Spending Money
The holidays can hit your wallet hard, and you might not have money to donate to your favorite causes. Instead, offer your support without spending money!
Here are some ways to do it on Black Friday:
Host a bake sale or carwash for charity
Coordinate with local businesses to set up in or outside busy shops and provide a bit of reprieve for Black Friday shoppers. Choose your favorite charity, and make sure everyone knows their money is going to support the cause.
Volunteer at a food bank or soup kitchen
Instead of spending your weekend off shopping, spend it giving back to your community.
Visit a children’s hospital as Santa or Mrs. Claus
Is there a more heartwarming way to kick off your holiday season than spreading joy to children who can’t get out to join the fun this year?
Volunteer at an assisted living facility
You could bring the holiday cheer with craft projects, musical performance or other fun group activities.
Or, you can bring Black Friday to those who can’t get out by organizing a computer lab and assisting with online shopping.
3. Bright Friday
In a blatant contrast to the consumer frenzy of Black Friday, Bright Friday aims to promote “community-wide acts of benevolence, generosity, sharing, giving, mentoring and overall goodness.” Core efforts are based in the Miami, FL, area, but anyone can get involved.
You can participate in Bright Friday with something as simple as a random act of kindness — open a door or help someone carry shopping bags if you go out for Black Friday.
Or skip the shopping altogether, and organize a group to volunteer or host a community event.
Connect with other participants and share your activities with photos and updates on Facebook with the hashtag #brightfriday.
4. Smile Always
When you shop with AmazonSmile, Amazon will donate 0.5% of your eligible purchases to a charity of your choice.
Want to show off your abstinence from the shopping madness? Here are some ways to opt out of Black Friday that you can brag about to your friends all year.
6. Make Money
Skip spending altogether, and try making money on Black Friday instead of spending. Here are just a few ideas:
- Take stock photos of holiday shopping scenes.
- Work on your passion project or side hustle with your time off from the day job.
- Work on micro-gigs — you can nab the best ones while everyone is taking time off!
7. Buy Nothing Day
If you want to be part of a community, but don’t want to contribute to the madness of Black Friday, look into Buy Nothing Day.
Launched by the anti-commercialism magazine AdBusters in the early 90s, Buy Nothing Day encourages not just abstaining from shopping but doing so publicly.
The movement encourages consumers to “consider what it might mean to celebrate a holiday that isn’t driven by commercial forces.”
If you don’t want to make a display of it, participating in Buy Nothing Day can be as simple as it sounds — just don’t buy anything.
Welmoed Sisson says, “Our family has participated in BND for years, even before we found out it had an official name… Instead, we spend the day sleeping in, reading, enjoying a hobby and raiding the fridge for leftover turkey.”
For his family, Sisson says, “No amount of discount on anything in a store could compensate for losing such a nice day.”
If you do want to make a statement, AdBusters suggests doing a Credit Card Cut Up or Zombie Walk at shopping malls.
Why go to these lengths? To some, Black Friday shopping seems an out-of-control display of consumerism. Buy Nothing Day provides an alternative to shift us away from mindless consumption and towards thoughtful spending.
Marilene Richardson, owner of SongCroft Naturals, explains, “I avoid [Black Friday shopping] so much that I close my own retail business so others will be encouraged to do the same. As a small family business, this does impact our bottom line but our values of family and less consumerism are more important to us.”
8. Get Outside
Similar to the objectives of Buy Nothing Day, the co-op business wants to help shoppers opt out of rabid consumerism.
“We define success a little differently [from other retailers],” REI President and CEO Jerry Stritzke told USA Today. “It’s much broader than just money. How effectively do we get people outside?”
You can participate by making plans to go outside and skip Black Friday shopping this year. Then tell the world by joining REI’s campaign and sharing your experience and photos on the Friday after Thanksgiving with the hashtag #OptOutside.
Get Great Deals Without Shopping
Need something to occupy the family? Get everyone out of the house for a few hours without standing in line or worrying about your shopping list.
You’ll find discounts at many businesses you wouldn’t expect, so be sure to ask about deals wherever you go.
9. Visit a Museum
Many museums offer discounted admission prices on Black Friday. You might even be able to nab a membership at a reduced rate — so check with your favorite local museums, and plan ahead!
10. Go to a Movie
Catch a good deal on popular Thanksgiving weekend releases by taking in a Black Friday matinee — you could have your pick of seats while everyone else is shopping!
While you’re out, you could always check a few people off your holiday shopping list. Many theaters offer freebies or bonuses when you buy gift cards.
11. Go Out to Eat
If your refrigerator isn’t overflowing with Thanksgiving leftovers on Friday — or you just don’t even want to look at your kitchen — you can go out to eat.
Look into your favorite local restaurants to see who’s offering deals for the holiday weekend. If you’re looking for something familiar, chains often offer limited Black Friday deals to draw in Black Friday shoppers.
Your Turn: Do you plan to opt out of shopping on Black Friday? What will you do this weekend instead?
Dana Sitar (@danasitar) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s written for Huffington Post, Entrepreneur, Writer’s Digest and more. She’ll probably spend Black Friday working on an elusive essay and eating ALL the leftover green bean casserole.