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While most people have heard of Black Friday, few people know about Buy Nothing Day. This takes place on the same day as Black Friday (sometimes the day after), and is a day of protest against consumerism. Over the years, it has evolved to also include an environmental message. Those who subscribe to Buy Nothing Day are encouraged to consider the impact shopping, particularly on a large scale, has on the environment.
The concept is to take a break from consumption, whether this is as a public statement or as a personal experiment. And, as the Buy Nothing Day website states, the best part is it’s completely free!
If you haven’t come across the concept of Buy Nothing Day before, we’ve looked at some of the key ideas below:
Buy Nothing Day was originally created in 1992, thought up by a Canadian artist called Ted Dave. He started an anti-shopping campaign that, when picked up by the non-profit magazine Adbusters, began to gain traction.
The Adbusters website states that the day is for consumers to look at the “issue of overconsumption.” Buy Nothing Day wasn’t really a concept outside of the US and Canada for the first few decades, but has since reached a wider audience. It’s unlikely to ever reach the same level of popularity as Black Friday, but Buy Nothing Day is slowly catching on.
Black Friday has probably been around for longer than you think. The holiday really started in Philadelphia in the early 1950s. We don’t know for sure why the day was given the name ‘Black Friday’, but it’s been suggested that the term was coined by the local police department. The day after Thanksgiving, members of the public would storm the city, predominantly to shop, but shoplifting could also take place. This, along with the traffic jams across the city, could have led to the name ‘Black Friday’.
Retailers did at one point, in the late 1960s, try to change the name to ‘Big Friday’, in an attempt to make the day sound less bleak. But the original name stuck, and the term was later used as a way to describe coming back from a poor financial quarter. ‘Being in the black’ is still a term used today by marketers.
When it comes to Black Friday, there are some obvious benefits, for both the consumer and the seller. But what about the disadvantages? The issues with Black Friday are rarely addressed, unless there has been a particular incident where people have been hurt. And as the trend is moving more towards online sales, there tend to be less issues.
So what problems are there? One of the main disadvantages of Black Friday is that people tend to overspend. They’ll buy things they wouldn’t have otherwise. And because some retailers artificially increase their prices just before Black Friday, these consumers believe they’re getting a better saving than they are.
It’s also worth noting that smaller businesses can’t always compete with larger brands in terms of Black Friday sales. The benefits of the sales, such as companies getting a good percentage of their yearly income on Black Friday, are therefore not equal for all brands.
Finder have stated that the average amount a UK shopper will spend on Black Friday sales is £275. And it will come as no surprise that Gen Z are the most likely to take part in Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping. Clearly, this event is beneficial to the economy, even if it does come with some issues.
According to the Buy Nothing Day website, the way you participate is by not participating. Doing nothing means you’re not taking part in the rampant consumerism of Black Friday, and if you’re able to commit to buying more responsibly moving forward, this can help the environment too.
The idea is to get people thinking about how much they spend, and cut back on this. This can in turn change attitudes regarding things like single use packaging and fast fashion. Hopefully, in time, we can affect the throw away culture many countries have.
Just like its consumer driven counterpart, Buy Nothing Day comes with advantages and disadvantages. Let’s start with the negatives. Perhaps the most obvious one is that, although it’s good to get people thinking about their spending habits, it’s only one day. Not purchasing anything on that day won’t necessarily change people’s views in general. And in terms of global consumerism, Buy Nothing Day is just a drop in the ocean, regardless of how many people take part.
Another limitation of Buy Nothing Day is that a country’s economy is driven by mass spending. So encouraging individuals to stop purchasing items isn’t really a sustainable method of protest.
When it comes to the positive aspects of Buy Nothing Day, it does mean people are considering how much they’re spending on unnecessary products. We do often spend needlessly, and it can become a bit of a compulsion. It’s good to encourage people to budget and use their money wisely.
The act of protest furthermore demonstrates that material objects won’t make you happy. Black Friday sales may be tempting, but your life probably won’t change after you’ve bagged yourself a bargain! Ultimately, it’s up to you whether you participate in either Black Friday or Buy Nothing Day, and your responsibility to consider the financial ramifications.