Escape From Black Friday

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Entering Target early Friday morning, I spotted a row of poles that had been staged in front of the cash registers. These were the kind of poles used to hold up cloth tape for guiding long queues, but it was early enough that it took me a few moments to connect the dots. Fortunately, I did in time to alter part of my plans for the day: I realized that the poles had been staged to corral the expected heavy traffic for Black Friday, a day I blissfully ignore most years, and had entirely forgotten about this year. I'd planned to work for a while after the errand, then go out on a few other errands later. One of those errands would have been a shopping trip. So I expanded the morning run to Target to include most of what I intended to buy later and put off some of the other purchases and all of the other errands.

Later on, I ran across a gem of an editorial by Suzanne Lucas on "Why You Should Work on Black Friday," which nicely parallels my own thinking about that day and similar ones. She ticks off five things, the last of which made me smile in satisfaction at the couple of hours I'd saved by lingering at Target:

Use your vacation for something other than fighting crowds.

While Americans tend to waste vacation days by not taking them at all, taking one to go to the store seems silly. If your company is open on Black Friday, don't waste a vacation day on it -- use those for something fun. If you want to use the vacation day to shop, use it sometime in December when it's not as crowded and there are still plenty of deals out there. [format edits, bold in original]
Regarding the shopping advice, having two young kids in St. Louis taught me an extreme version of the same thing that can be applied year-round. For a time, Little Man's sleeping schedule was off by a few hours from Pumpkin's. He'd wake up around 6:00 (and often even earlier) and she'd sleep in with Mrs. Van Horn. Since I couldn't use this time to write, I would often use part of it for other things, like shopping. Each Sunday, I'd take him with me to a 24-hour Walmart right after he woke up and knock off the week's grocery shopping while the others slept. This didn't just free up some time later: I noticed that the store and the roads leading to it were all much less crowded. The time I needed for the trip itself was about halved.

The saying "Time is money," is only half-true. Time is actually much worse than money: You can replace money, but the best you can do with time is learn to use it much more efficiently. Unless you really love shopping or somehow find crowds invigorating, Black Friday is a crock.

-- CAV


Jennifer Snow said...

Since you can hire people to do chores for you, saving you time, money can actually replace time (to a certain extent).

I figure my money is there to SAVE me hassles.

Gus Van Horn said...

Same point, really. (And it applies even when you buy THINGS with it, via comparative advantage.) You'll never get any lost time back, but you can become far, far more efficient with the time you do have left.

Jennifer Snow said...

Bastiat actually articulates this entire idea really really well.