Black Friday: Conscious consumerism

4 min.

Black Friday marks the start of the holiday shopping season. Here are some ideas for consuming responsibly this year.

It’s a fact: Holiday shoppers are off to an earlier start! For a long time, December generated the highest revenue for retailers compared to the other months of the year. But according to Statistics Canada, from 2006 to 2014, retail sales for November rose from 8.4% to 8.5%. Then came the dip in December sales, from 9.9% to 9.3%. These changes are directly related to Black Friday since they coincide exactly with the period around the event.1

While we can take advantage of tantalizing deals, Black Friday does not make us immune to the odd impulse buy. So, sticking to a list of what we and our loved ones actually need is very useful.

If you are used to following this type of list for your groceries, making one for electronic devices, household appliances or last-minute trips is even more fitting. “The good old technique of making a budget fully applies to Black Friday,”2 says Sylvie de Bellefeuille, a lawyer and budget advisor at Option Consommateurs. The key question to ask yourself remains the same: “Do I really need this?”

Redefining gift giving

There are other ways to spoil those you love while sticking to your budget and even saving big.

When it comes to gifts, think of the three R’s; the first R is for “Reduce”: giving one meaningful gift rather than a whole host of gifts will often touch the heart of the person you love more deeply. In the same way, gifting someone with an experience such as a special outing instead of an object, for example, will often extend that joyful feeling into the next year.

It could also be a long-term gift. For example, some people offer a child a Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP), or make a donation to a cause dear to the heart of their loved one.

In an interview with Radio-Canada, Caroline Boivin, a tenured marketing professor at Université de Sherbrooke, reminds us that conscious consumerism has multiple faces. “There is the consumption of products that are good or bad for the environment or the society, but there’s also reducing consumption. Consuming less can also be considered conscious consumerism.”

The second R is for “Reuse”. Be creative and give an object that you already own, or one that you’ve made or remade for a loved one a second life.

The same goes for wrapping paper: You can reuse colourful magazine pages, old calendars, scarves or even reduce at the source by hiding an unwrapped gift at the end of a treasure hunt.

As for the third R, it’s well known: Recycle. Think about the life cycle of objects and, as much as possible, buy materials that are recycled or that can be easily recycled.

December is also the time for food drives. When winter sets in, electricity bills are high and winter wardrobes are in need of refreshing, collectively offering a small, useful gift or a food basket can make a huge difference in the month.

That being said, don’t forget the intangible: Offering kind words and thoughts is always appreciated. When it comes to greeting cards, electronic cards are very common and inexpensive. They are an increasingly popular choice for the average person.

But if you do go for paper cards sent by mail, choose cards printed on recycled paper, or ones that support a charity. There are also cards made of paper containing seeds that you could plant the following summer. Bear in mind that gifts aren’t a must. Stay within your budget and your reality. In these sometimes-challenging economic times, it is understandable to not be able to give to organizations or to your family. This is reality for lots of people.

To offset this, you can offer your time, a little homemade creation, or cook a great meal together. We all lived through the pandemic: Human connection is priceless.

Read our article How you can get involved in the community, which contains simple, affordable ideas to pay it forward!

Redefining the Christmas countdown

From the beginning of December, we start thinking about advent calendars. An idea that’s currently trending is the reverse advent calendar, where you give instead of receiving. Set out a box for you or your kids to put things in periodically that you no longer need that could be useful for others. Then, on December 25, you can donate them.

It could also be thoughts or offers to help. All in all, it’s a great way to infuse generosity and altruism into your daily life.

Without taking on this daily commitment, you can fill a bin or a box to give to organizations like Réno-Jouets. By giving your items a second life, you’ll be killing two birds with one stone: You’ll demonstrate to your children the pleasure of paying it forward, and have a tidy room as a bonus!

Lastly, if you have guests or are yourself a guest over the next few weeks, choose energy-efficient decorations, creative outdoor activities and reusable cutlery. In some cases, helping with the dishes may be welcome!

Because when it comes down to it, giving is even more fun than receiving. And giving of yourself is as great as giving a gift.

1 Le Quotidien — Vendredi fou : un examen détaillé (

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