Constructive Ways To Spend Your Money On Black Friday Instead Of Buying Stuff

I hate Black Friday for a lot of reasons: Because it so neatly encapsulates the total delusion of consumer culture; because most of the things you can get deals on are completely unnecessary; because I’m not a huge proponent of any sort of fanaticism but especially fanaticism over spending money; because it forces retail employees to work hours they should be spending with their families at the risk of being fired; because it provides such a stark contrast between mobs our culture accepts (mobs spending money) and mobs it doesn’t (protesters fighting injustice). I also hate it because the people who claim there’s a “war on Christmas” as a Christian holiday are often the same people who are proponents of Black Friday, a day that reduces Christmas to a secularized consumer holiday, because it’s good for the economy or something. I hate it because it entrenches consumer goods as status symbols. I hate it because it points out how many of us Americans are living in poverty, how desperate we are to provide our children with a normal, capitalist American lifestyle, and how easy it is for giant corporations to pull our strings.

Adbusters, the same organization that created Occupy Wall Street, has been running the Buy Nothing Day campaign on Black Friday in America for the last 17 years. Now, the Justice for Mike Brown Leadership Coalition is calling for Black Americans to boycott Black Friday in order to exercise their economic power.

This is a pretty prime time in history to choose to spend your money in such a way that it benefits other human beings, not corporations that exploit other human beings (hello, K-Mart, Wal-Mart, Target). Here are some ideas for every kind of shopper:

  • Book Lovers: Donate your money to the Ferguson Public Library. The FPL is staying open while schools and other services are shut down, providing a safe space for residents (librarians are awesome).
  • Food Lovers: Donate to Food Not Bombs. Food Not Bombs is a really dynamic movement: They collect food that would have been discarded from bakeries, grocery stores, and restaurants, and gives it to people in poverty, striking workers, and protesters. It’s an anti-hunger, anti-waste, and pro-peace movement.
  • Music Lovers: Donate to Women In Music, an organization dedicated to supporting, cultivating, and recognizing the talents of women in all areas of the music industry.
  • Fashion Lovers: Donate to The Princess Project, The Glass Slipper Project, or another prom dress charity in your region. They provide prom dresses to girls who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford them.
  • Health Nuts: Donate to Doctors Without Borders, who are currently fighting cholera in Haiti and Ebola in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.
  • Travelers: Donate to Women for Women International, an organization that trains marginalized women in trades so that they can manage their own businesses, as well as connecting them with support networks. They currently work in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Kosovo, Nigeria, Rwanda, and South Sudan.
  • Artsy People: Donate to 826National, an organization that teaches children writing and storytelling skills.
  • Animal Lovers: Donate to WildAid, an organization that seeks to end the illegal wildlife trade. They’re concerned especially about animals like elephants, which are killed for ivory; tigers, which are killed for their pelts; and rhinos, which are killed for their horns.
  • Outdoorsy People: Donate to Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the organization responsible for conserving and maintaining all 2,000 miles of the Appalachian Trail. They also provide support to hikers and educational services.
  • Total Nerds: Donate to the Smithsonian Institution, the largest network of free museums in America, covering 20 museums in Washington, DC and New York.

And if I’ve left anyone out, check out Charity Navigator for rundowns of charities and their efficacy and efficiency. If you could spend $200 on consumer goods on Black Friday, why not stay home and spend $20 on a charity instead?

[Think Progress]
[International Business Times]

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