Okay, so I made fun of the fact that Black Friday was out-trending Thanksgiving on Twitter, and indicated that this is an example of our national priorities. But I'm reading a lot of Black Friday hate on liberal blogs, and it's causing the contrarian in me to act out. So I'm going to argue in favor of Black Friday, which I never really thought was that awful. Part of it was my first job was retail, working for my mom's clothing store. Black Friday—as is true in most retail—was the make it or break it day for my mom's small business. While I hate corporate capitalism, I can't help but think of my mom trying to make work a small business selling affordable but fashionable clothing to a community that had no other access to that sort of thing. (Seriously, we bought a lot of our clothes through mail order catalogs, which you can't try on.) So I can't hate it. So while I appreciate Caperton's piece about alternatives to Black Friday, I have to dissent. Spend money, if you got it! Just do it the right way.
1) Shop on Etsy. This is where Caperton and I agree. Ideally, you should shop in your local shops and minimize the greenhouse gases expended by buying goods, but if you can't do that, at least pump money into the economy the best way possible by buying from small business owners. Many people on Etsy may not identify as small business owners, but more as craft people, but they are indeed small business owners. The best of them, like Surly Amy (whose pi ring I wear constantly), do manage to make it a full time job. But even if they don't, a dollar spent on a small business goes right back into our economy, spent on rent or food or more consumer spending. In contrast, a dollar spent at Best Buy just increases corporate profits during an era when those bastards are getting enough of our dough. The best part is that Etsy always has what you need. Seriously, twice in the past month I had specific needs not filled by local stores or Amazon, but when I turned to Etsy, they had exactly what I wanted. Once, it was a pair of old-fashioned ear muffs, which I want because you can wear them in the cold without fucking up your hair. No one else had them, but someone on Etsy was making them. The other time, well, I can't tell you because my mom reads this blog and it's her Christmas gift. But I can say that, just as with my white furry ear muffs, it's exactly what she wants. And I couldn't find it anywhere else.
2) Take a friend to a show. Seriously, support local music. Even if it's not a local band—and I appreciate being wary of just seeing some random show that might suck—go to a club that isn't cavernous and see a cool band that you like. Take a friend. Bonus points if you're introducing them to a new band. The only thing I ask is that the band be on an indie label and the club be locally owned. You're paying the right people to do the right thing. The sad fact of the matter is that our music industry is collapsing and afraid to invest in new talent. Indie labels have to step up and fill the gap or we really won't have new and interesting music. Right now, bands make most of their money on touring, and so it's not enough to buy their record. Put on your cool shoes, grab a friend, and see a show. You'll be happier for it. If you don't know new bands, find some MP3 blogs and find them. Or the local alt weekly. Or, if you're out of options, Pitchfork. To find out when new bands are playing near you, upload your iTunes to Sonic Living, which, for a music fan, is the best thing that ever happened.
3) Buy vintage and get it altered. A lot of people fear vintage clothing because it's slightly off looking or maybe doesn't fit right. But I will tell you, as the fashion whore that I am, that vintage clothes are, even with alterations, the best deal ever on clothes. You get something unique and generally well-constructed. (It survived well enough to be resold.) I often buy a matronly looking long dress or a skirt for $10-$15 (sometimes less) and get it hemmed above the knee for a $20 alteration, and bam! Sexy minidress for $30-$35, which is well below what that would cost even in the cheapest fast fashion place. And it'll last, and since it's a piece that's chosen to be vintage and not trendy, no worries about it falling out of fashion in a season. If you're good at scouring garage sales, you can often even go cheaper. Learning your way around a packet of Rite Dye or, even, god bless you, learning to sew? Even better. (If anyone is willing to teach me to sew, I'm all ears.) Making clothes from scratch is surprisingly too expensive these days. But altering used clothes is ridiculously cheap. Bonus: it's environmentally sensitive. Check out New Dress A Day for inspiration. Make the whole process festive by inviting a friend and sharing scouring/alteration skills. Get a cool new outfit for holiday parties. I'm already excited about wearing a skirt purchased for $3 from a garage sale, dyed red, and readjusted in the waist to fit me right.
4) Don't hand-make gifts people don't want. This is where Caperton and I disagree strongly. I know my third wave feminist card is getting revoked for this, but I'm not big on knitting. Most knitted goods are things people don't want. Unless you're really good, most of the scarves, hats, and god forbid, sweaters you make will be endured rather than enjoyed. Caperton seems to think it's amusing to have someone pretend to love your gift, and I suppose for the knitting posse it is, but I have a flaw in my character that makes me want people to really enjoy things I give them. I really wish sewing had taken off with feminists instead of knitting, because it's a genuinely useful skill that I wish someone would teach me. If someone offers to hem all your clothes for a year, now that's a gift. An ugly sweater you won't wear is not. Plus, I object to the idea that knitting a gift for someone is cost-effective. I've been in yarn shops. That stuff is expensive. You're fooling no one. Make them a mix CD if you're trying to be thrifty.
5) Perishable goods are surprisingly awesome. Some of the best gifts I got have been perishable goods. Not like food baskets, which are fine for people whose tastes are hard to guess, but carefully chosen examples of something I love to consume. I think there's a tendency to disregard perishable goods as gifts for those we really love, because we want to give them something that will make them think of us every time they use it. But in the book Stumbling on Happiness, Daniel Gilbert notes research shows that money spent on experiences rather than goods tends to make us happier. It has a lot to do with our memories and how we create them, but read the book for an in-depth analysis. Suffice it to say, if you create a happy memory for someone by buying them a nice bottle of their favorite liquor or a block of their favorite expensive cheese, they will actually have stronger positive associations with you than if you'd bought them a more durable object they perhaps love less. If you know someone has a particular taste for something, getting them a nice version always goes well. And a bottle of nice Scotch, for instance, is often cheaper than the more durable good you would have bought.