Every year, around the end of November, without hesitation or delay, my email inbox begins to fill up with messages about different sales and promotions.
I admit that shopping a sale can be very tempting, especially when you see something being offered at massively slashed prices. Sales are also helpful in looking for gifts for my loved ones and food for my cats.
However, as alluring as a discounted item might be during this time, I try my hardest to refrain from purchasing unnecessary things.
I am not here to shame those who chase a good deal because I believe people should take advantage of buying stuff at a good price, but – and this is crucial – only if they need it.
So yes, buy nappies for your child or litter for your pets if there’s a sale on, but do also seriously consider whether you really need (and have space for) a full-body massage chair, a television screen that’s a few inches bigger than your perfectly good old one or the latest iPhone. Mindful buying needs to be practised all year round, but perhaps more so over this one weekend.
Unfortunately, events such as Black Friday and other sales day have run amok in the past couple of years and led to a culture of unnecessary overconsumption.
I remember my early experience of Black Friday, when I was a university student in the US. Back then, the concept played out as a simple in-store promotion, advertised as an activity to be done after Thanksgiving dinner, offering “extravagant” shopping deals to be had by those who were willing to go out and get them.
These days, more of these sales take place online with many retailers advertising special offers on the day (or even a week or month in the lead-up), making it easier than ever for people around the world to jump on the buying bandwagon.
Yet it all feels a bit phony. As a recent study by UK consumer group Which? found, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, despite their reputation, are not the best times to shop, with many items available at the same price or even cheaper at other times of the year.
When there are discounts to be had – even on things people may not need – there is always that temptation to have it, that thrill of having scored a good deal. Just think of how many things you wouldn’t have bought if they weren’t marketed as having a reduced price.
In a world that seems obsessed with all things latest and newest, it takes real restraint to not overindulge on these “special” shopping days, but restraint is what is needed, especially considering the harmful effects overconsumption has had on our planet.
Clothing and electronics are reportedly the most popular purchases, yet are also some of the most damaging.
According to a Green Alliance report, 80 per cent of electronics and clothing, plus their plastic packaging, end up in landfill or incinerators, or in low-quality recycling given their short lifespan.
Environmental effects aside, I also feel guilty for being able to shop online for trivial things even as the Israel-Gaza war wages on, knowing how many people are living without basic necessities. Rather than spend money on something materialistic (probably something I don’t really need or that won't last me very long), this year I have decided to donate to a good cause instead.
I know these special shopping sale days are likely to stick around for the foreseeable future, but a recent report I came across offers some hope that the world is becoming wiser to the dangers of such impulse purchases.
The Joyful Frugality report, published this week by Havas Middle East, states there has been a shift in the region. Findings suggested that 81 per cent shoppers in the UAE and 91 per cent in Saudi Arabia (what the report terms “prosumers”) have expressed a desire to live in a more frugal world. The majority also prioritised needs over excess, opting for a more sustainable future through mindful shopping, which goes to show that there is a chance that someday these sales will no longer have such influence.
As the world seemingly changes its stance on sustainability and focuses on rehabilitating the planet, my hope is that if people must continue to shop, they do so mindfully. After all, we may not be able to banish Black Friday entirely, but we can change the way we respond to it through our shopping habits.