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Practicing “Self-Defense” on Black Friday

Practicing “Self-Defense” this Black Friday Season

My mantra this Black Friday season is… “Constant Vigilance!”

This quote was made popular by Mad-Eye Moody, a teacher in the Harry Potter series that taught a class called “Defense Against the Dark Arts.” He wore a mechanical eye that could swivel 360 degrees and see through anything. Walls, invisibility cloaks, and even the back of his own head. His job before teaching was in magical law enforcement, which required him to “think as dark wizards do.” He was by far the most paranoid character in the series.

“Dark wizards” is the perfect name for the marketing geniuses out there this holiday season. They’ve successfully created the mystique of all the “Black Friday Deals” you can’t live without. Savings galore! And you gotta checkout what crazy new price drops there will be tomorrow! These billion-dollar companies use every psychological spell in their book to get our attention to make a purchase.

But as much as the marketing copy says “gifts for him and her,” I still want to spend most my time looking to buy things for myself.

I know this because I’m insanely efficient at Christmas. A few years ago, I knocked out purchasing all our extended family’s presents on Black Friday morning before I even got out of bed. It helped that we created a shared document to put our wish lists on, including direct links to Amazon to buy them. No more guessing.

There’s only one explanation then for why I’m scrolling through Best Buy’s Holiday deals for two months: I’m looking for stuff for myself.

Why is that a problem? It’s fun to shop, and it’s on sale too! I’m a conscious consumer, aren’t I? Well kind of, until I realize the disparity in attention. A couple hours buying gifts for other people in comparison to weeks on end preoccupied with how I could properly manicure my wish list or see how far my fun money can stretch to get as much as possible.

“Materialism” is when you care about wealth, comfort, and having shiny things. “Consumerism” is an infatuation with acquisition and getting more. For me personally, I struggle most with the latter. Consume, consume, consume. Almost doesn’t matter what it is, just as long as the box on my doorstep is for me. The quantity of time spent on myself goes through the roof every Christmas season.

It’s hard to be generous to other people if all you think about is yourself. I’ve been under their marketing spell for a long time. But not this year. Here’s how I’m staying vigilant this Black Friday, and throughout the holiday shopping season.

#1 Psychological Defense: Sales Suck & Scarcity is a Myth

The legend of Black Friday deals always had two things going for it: (1) Insane Prices and (2) Scarcity. That’s why people would popup tents outside the buildings days in advance to get what they knew would be gone in the first 5 minutes once the doors opened. But that legend has become mostly myth now. Remember the days where they were just giving away TV’s and Xbox’s? Now the deals aren’t that much different than a regular Memorial or Father’s Day sale. And the convenience of shopping online has pushed deals to start even sooner to where you can get “Black Friday deals” starting as soon as November 1st in some stores. That’s probably why during the pandemic in 2020, many stores like Target were able to stay closed on Thanksgiving, reversing a decades-long creep earlier and earlier into Thanksgiving.

We just walked through Best Buy this weekend (first week of November mind you) and I’ve never seen so many TV’s in my life. The aisles were a fire hazard. We made a pickup order for a soundbar and it was filled in 3 minutes. I realized how they had filled it so fast after I seeing there were 30 of them within arm’s reach of the service counter.

The deals aren’t special, they last for weeks, and there’s plenty of inventory. So why am I spending all my time shopping on their apps?

#2 Time Defense: Going to the Mall

For an addicted consumer like myself, my drug of choice is updating my Christmas list. Reorganizing it constantly to get the right number of things in the perfect order that says, “There are several things you can choose from, depending on your budget. But if you go in together, here’s my favorite things right at the top.” Then I’m constantly wondering “Did I put too many things on the list? Too few? Enough different price options? Will they know what I actually want?!?! “ There’s nothing like pre-spending other people’s money for yourself.

To combat this, I’m bringing back a long-forgotten tradition through channeling my inner Robin Sparkles… “Let’s go to the mall!” We used to pile in a car, hitup a ton of stores, then come home several hours later. It was a commitment, but then we were done. And it was kind of fun. I decided to do the the same thing this year, without leaving my couch.

A few weeks ago during a Colts game (which they were probably losing), I took a couple hours to work on my list, giving myself some time to be selfish and peruse for myself. Added, subtracted, prioritized. It was fun. Then once the game was over (which they inevitably lost, I’m not bitter), I closed my laptop and ended my “shopping trip.” Now every time I’m tempted to open my phone to checkout Target’s Deal Days section or reconsider items on the list, I remind myself, “I’ve already gone to the mall.”

#3 Worst-Case Scenario: Remove the Apps

This has been my go-to in times where I’m really feeling the itch and I’ve hit page 30 of Amazon’s holiday deals without realizing it. When I don’t know if I can control those scrolling urges, it’s time to delete the apps to break the fever.

A couple years ago during the Prime Day Deals week, I completely deleted the Amazon app from my phone until it was over. That was helpful since it only lasted a few days. You might not be able to make that work well since the holiday season is so long now, and eventually you’ll need to buy normal things like groceries and diapers. But considering this option reminds me that I’m ultimately in charge and can stop this game if I want to.

#4 The Best Defense is a Good Offense: Give.

No one wants to live in a strait jacket for weeks during this festive time, cowering in a bunker waiting for the marketing storm to blow over. What positive action can I take? Well, if what I’m trying to squash is a preoccupied, selfish, consumeristic nature, then the opposite of that is obvious… to be generous to other people.

I can easily take the time I was going to spend shopping on me to think of the needs around me that I could fill. Find cool giving stories to share, work on these blog posts or the study I’m doing with my dad, serve other people in the community, research nonprofits doing great work, and of course give things away. There’s no end to the possibilities of generosity, just the amount of time and energy we are willing to give to it. And I’ve been routinely starving myself at this time every year.

These are the things I’m doing to guard myself this season. Hopefully you might be able to use some of them to protect yoursefl from the dark wizards around, and especially within. Constant Vigilance!

1 thought on “Practicing “Self-Defense” on Black Friday”

  1. Pingback: Giving Tuesday (the GOOD fake Holiday). And Did My Black Friday Plan Work? - God is a Giver

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