There’s also the fact retailers have been expanding the shopping frenzy well into Thanksgiving evening, which is obnoxious enough for many people to boycott the event altogether.
If you’re looking to avoid this sad joke of a “holiday,” here are five cheap or free ideas offered by your fellow Black Friday haters…
1. Holiday craft fairs
Cities and counties across the country offer holiday craft fairs or markets as an alternative to mall madness. Des Moines has a pop-up market day, the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities in Colorado hosts a “calm, civilized alternative” to Black Friday, and in Brewer, Maine, you can attend the 40th Annual Thanksgiving Arts and Crafts show hosted by the United Maine Craftsmen. There’s even a bluegrass festival in South Carolina during Black Friday weekend.
2. Visit a state park
Last year, state parks in Virginia organized a campaign to “turn Black Friday green.”
“With traffic tie-ups, packed stores, horror stories of stampeding people when the doors open, and now major chains actually opening on Thanksgiving to get a jump on Black Friday, we decided that what people really need is the peace and quiet of nature instead of lines and craziness,” says Nancy Heltman, the state parks visitor services director.
Virginia parks offer hay rides and Christmas stories, trail hiking, geocaching, holiday craft-making, and a Festival of Trees. All the events except for the hayride are free, and you just have to pay for parking.
Even if you don’t live in Virginia, check out the National Park Service Registry to find a park near you, and call to ask if they have any special events for Black Friday.
3. Browse the stacks, not the racks
Some libraries offer Black Friday Book sales, where you can buy secondhand books for a fraction of a fraction of the prices you’d pay at Barnes and Noble. They may have buy one book, get one free deals, or even let you stuff a duffel bag with as many books as you can for two bucks. Some do the same with CDs and DVDs.
The proceeds usually go to charity or back into the community, so this is also guilt-free shopping if you’re worried about sponsoring corporate profit machines.
4. Get a family meal you don’t have to cook
It’s not just retailers who offer deals — restaurants do too. These kinds of deals aren’t advertised as heavily or early as the Black Friday ads, but here are some we’ve seen before…
- Red Lobster offered a free Maine Lobster Tail with the purchase of an adult dinner entree for all of Black Friday last year.
- LongHorn Steakhouse offered a buy one lunch, get the second half off from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Chili’s had a deal where kids could eat free with the purchase of an adult entree.
- Sonic served half-off breakfast burritos all day in 2012.
No official word yet on whether these deals still exist for 2014, but it’s usually a good idea to “like” your favorite restaurants on Facebook or follow them on Twitter so you can be notified if they have Black Friday discounts.
5. Buy locally
Another way to shop guilt-free and stress-free is to keep it limited to locally owned stores.
Little Boxes, a Portland shopping initiative, is an “alternative to the hubbub of big box stores.” Portland residents are encouraged to spend the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving searching for gifts from independently-owned shops, and you can download an app to make your shopping experience easier.
If you don’t live in Portland, Small Business Saturday is a national alternative to Black Friday madness. Although, ironically, it’s sponsored by American Express.