10 Alternatives to Spending on Black Friday

Last Updated: 6/23/2021
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‘Tis the season for the holidays — and holiday spending. With Thanksgiving and Black Friday just around the corner, you may be gearing up to get all of your holiday shopping done as you cash in on holiday sales.

On the other hand, maybe you’re a little apprehensive about joining the Black Friday rush this year, whether in-store or online. With COVID-19 cases spiking again in the U.S., staying home on the biggest shopping day of the year is a wise choice for your mental and physical health.

You can steer clear of the Black Friday online shopping blitz, too. With lots of sites offering Cyber Monday deals or month-long promotions, you can opt out of the Black Friday frenzy without paying full price for the items on your shopping list. Skipping the post-Thanksgiving shopping ritual also gives you a chance to focus on more budget-friendly activities and gift ideas that put you in the holiday spirit without putting your finances in the red.

Here are some Black Friday alternatives to consider:

1. Try Out Some Holiday Craft Projects

Children enjoy their work on holiday crafts
Yuganov Konstantin / Shutterstock

Everyone knows the holiday season starts the day after Thanksgiving, so why not get in the spirit with some crafting? Making your own felt trees or cheerful snowmen to hang around your home is a great way to avoid the crowds and save money while doing something fun. You can even practice making some homemade ornaments to send friends and family this year, which they’ll especially appreciate if COVID means you’ll be spending the holidays apart. Check out the crafty inspiration on Pinterest for thousands of nifty and unique ideas.

2. Decorate Your Space for the Holidays

A father and his small children decorate for the holidays
Olesia Bilkei / Shutterstock

Maybe crafting isn’t your thing. In that case, you can pick up some decorations before Black Friday and spend the day turning your home into a winter wonderland. Brick-and-mortar and online stores are already chock-full of holiday finery. Never underestimate how much a few strands of twinkle lights, some snowmen and a playlist of your favorite holiday tunes can boost your mood. Decorating is a great way to focus on the festive without spending lots of money or fighting the crowds for deals.

3. Brainstorm a Homespun Gift List

A woman knits a gift for a friend
AboutLife / Shutterstock

When it comes to gifts, buying the hot new thing isn’t always the best way to show your love. And with COVID still on everyone’s minds, something that reminds your loved ones that you’re thinking of them will mean the most.

There’s never been a better year to put a personal touch on your gift-giving efforts. Rather than rushing out to score Black Friday deals, make yourself a cup of hot chocolate and brainstorm some meaningful, handmade gifts you can give. If you’re handy with knitting needles, your friends and family would probably love a cool scarf or beanie you designed and knit yourself. Maybe you make the best photo collages — and who couldn’t use a reminder of happier, simpler times this year? This is another place where Pinterest can give you a boost.

Handmade gifts are also a great option if you lost your job this year and are trying to get back on your feet financially. The last thing your loved ones would want is for you to go into debt just to buy them a gift. Going the homespun route is personal and pragmatic.

4. Beat the Crowds by Shopping Locally, Just Not on Black Friday

A woman is shown arranging items in a small, local boutique
Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock

If you’re reluctant to brave the box stores, stay home on Black Friday and explore some shopping alternatives in the following weeks. Visit local boutiques, art galleries, record stores and luxury home goods stores in your town to find unique gifts for your family and friends. Not only will they love that you bought something thoughtful and unexpected, but you’ll also be supporting local businesses that could use the boost more than ever in 2020.

5. Buy From Smaller Sellers Instead of Big Box Stores

An artist creates a painting
Pixel-Shot / Shutterstock

Amazon, Target, Best Buy and the other big brands might have the most eye-catching deals, but there are alternative ways to spend on Black Friday. Check out Etsy shops or Patreon pages for unique items from small sellers. You can find all kinds of artists, musicians, woodworkers, jewelry makers and other vendors on these sites, and buying from them means you’re supporting independent shops and artisans. Chances are you’ll find deals on Etsy during Black Friday weekend as well, so you’ll still have an opportunity to save money.

6. Make Donations in Loved Ones’ Names

A woman makes a donation using her computer
Rawpixel.com / Shutterstock

The holidays are a great time to give back, so consider skipping the stores altogether in favor of making a donation in your loved ones’ names. You can make a big donation to a single charity that is significant to you and your family, or you can make small contributions to different organizations based on each friend or family member’s personal priorities. Either way, you’ll be making an impact and honoring your loved ones’ values.

7. Volunteer

A volunteer delivers groceries to an older couple
Aliaksandra Post / Shutterstock

What better way to miss the consumerist crush than to give your time to a worthy cause? Check in with local charities in your area to see what their greatest needs are. If you’re concerned about COVID-19, organizations may need help with administrative tasks or sorting donations. Local animal shelters could probably use a hand as well, whether with walking dogs or other essential tasks. You may even decide to become a regular volunteer, as many charities need assistance throughout the year.

8. Bake Some Holiday Goodies

A mother and her son make a pie in the kitchen
Lordn / Shutterstock

Assuming you’re not sick of treats after the Thanksgiving food fest, (as if that’s possible), why not do some holiday baking on Black Friday instead of shopping? You can whip up your favorite festive treats to munch on at home, or you can bake cookies to send out as early holiday gifts. If you’ve got friends in town who aren’t able to travel to visit their families this year due to COVID-19, dropping off a plate of goodies may brighten their spirits. Baking for friends and family is a great way to stick to your budget during the holidays while spreading joy.

9. Plan Future Travel Adventures

A couple look at a map and plan a trip
goodluz / Shutterstock

Instead of spending money on Black Friday sales, spend some time daydreaming on Airbnb or scoping out flights to the places that top your bucket list. If you’re planning to travel during the holidays, spend some time mapping out your trip and creating a budget for it. That’ll get you in the travel mindset and help you save money in the process.

10. Spend Time Outside

A family goes on a nature hike
Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock

In 2015, the outdoors brand REI launched its OptOutside campaign by closing its stores on Black Friday and paying employees for the hours they would have worked. Whether you typically shop with REI or not, you can take some inspiration from the campaign and spend some time in nature instead of shopping on Black Friday. Take a walk around your neighborhood, eat leftovers around a fire pit or explore a local park or nature trail. Whatever you do, you’ll likely make new memories and feel refreshed.

Deciding not to shop on Black Friday doesn’t mean giving up holiday gift-giving or other traditions. Exploring alternatives allows you to be more intentional about how you kick off the holiday season, and with COVID-19 still a threat, you can avoid the crowds and stay safe during the busiest shopping period of the year.

About the Author

Casey Morris is a finance and tech journalist covering personal finance for MoneyGeek. She has written for Forbes Asia, The Christian Science Monitor, The Washington Post and a number of finance publications and institutions. Morris is a graduate of Columbia Journalism School.