The 100% Off Black Friday Sale

steelyardThe season of magic is upon us.

Right around now, most consumers are laying plans to intensify their spending frenzy for the final month of the year. After all, what better way to celebrate the holidays and the accompanying temporary freedom from work, with additional financial bondage to that very job?

Since you and I generally don’t participate in the games of the retail industry, I thought we could celebrate US Thanksgiving and its spendy neighbor Black Friday in a different way: by renewing our vows to lead a more meaningful, vigorous, innovative, and generally awesome life. Badass Friday is what we could call it, and it should be an annual tradition.

Gifts and Traditions

Around this time of year, I start getting emails from thoughtful readers with questions about the holidays: “What does the MMM family do about the Christmas gift exchange tradition? What about birthdays and other holidays?”

The answer to this one is just what you’d expect from Mr. Money Mustache: We skip the whole retail aspect of it entirely. In the wise words of Grandpa Money Mustache: “A Simpler Christmas is a Grander Christmas“, and you can read more about it in the holiday MMM Classic entitled Happy Buy Nothing Day.

Little MM tends to make his own gifts for giving: these handy notebooks for his parents were big hits.

Little MM tends to make his own gifts for giving: these handy notebooks for his parents were big hits.

In our old age, we’ve become much more interested in using surplus cash to help others. We have committed not to inflate our own lifestyle beyond its already-cozy level, and also believe in letting our son earn his own way to financial independence when he grows up, rather than leaving a large estate. This should leave several million dollars free throughout our lifetimes to do other things, and I basically follow the ideals of the Gates Foundation* when it comes to efficient charity. Other favorites include Charity Navigator, DonorsChoose.org, and GiveWell.org.

But we’re still big on tradition in our family. Not the traditions prescribed in ancient texts and scrolls, but generally sillier ones we invent ourselves and carry on just because they are fun.

Every Friday, the arrival of the weekend is celebrated with Family Movie Night. Every meal, even breakfast, is served by candlelight. And self-imposed blackouts are frequent: besides our our ongoing freedom from TV (a tradition which started in 1999), we also have a weekly No Computer Day, and even occasional No Electricity Nights. That last one came about two years ago, when I received a power failure for my birthday and we all enjoyed it:

Mr. Money Mustache Receives the Gift of Hardship for his Birthday

Preparation for a New Season

For the roughly 60% of MMM readers who live in Northern climates, winter means cooler weather and a time when those of weak constitution turn to automobile travel and indoor recreation. Not the Mustachians: we simply brush up on our winter survival skills and apply them with renewed gusto:

How to Ride your Bike All Winter – and Love it

MMM Challenge: Try Getting your Groceries with a Bike Trailer

First Understand, Then Destroy, Your Home Heating Bill

The Oil Well You Can Keep in Your Pants

So Happy Thanksgiving to all, when we will give thanks for all the good things that we have, and equal thanks to all the unnecessary ones we don’t crave.


*The Gates Foundation: The ruthlessly efficient businessman applies infinite wealth and intellect towards the problem of saving the world. In a nutshell: our biggest problem is too many humans, because of the famines, wars, and environmental problems that happen when you greatly exceed the productive capacity of the planet. Solve this, and all the other problems start to solve themselves. The solution is to give us the strength to reproduce less. Most of the population growth currently comes from the poorest countries. But quite counter-intuitively, the way to reduce the birth rate in these countries is to improve health, prosperity, and education. See the amazing (and short) video called “The River of Myths” for why this works.

  • Alix November 30, 2013, 8:13 am

    I spent yesterday determined not to spend a dime. So I took a brisk three-mile walk, enjoyed a hot shower, then spent a couple of hours investigating the forums on this site, which are truly awesome. Puttered around the house, then headed to my mom’s for leftovers and several games of Pick-Up Sticks, which, though a “kids” game, is a lot more interesting and challenging than it sounds.

    My family is mostly divided on the giving presents issue, so for right now we’re giving gifts but keeping the price and the overall number low — so unlike the old days! But I think everyone enjoys their gifts more this way. I know I do; while as a Mustachian I’ve only got a bit of stubble growing, I’ve become quite the minimalist over the past few years so I love the idea of not bringing tons of extra stuff into the house.

    And as several posters have commented before me, I’m thankful for this blog! Just discovered it this year. And, while I’m way too old to think about “early” retirement, it’s really helped me think more about saving and my finances in general, all to the good. So thanks, MMM! And happy holidays to all the Mustachians out there!

  • David November 30, 2013, 8:17 am

    Well, the one thing I am going to indulge in on Black Friday is upgrading my Apple products. Got my new iPad Air and don’t regret spending the money at all. :) Other than that I’m pretty thrifty and frisky in cold weather.

    Hmmm…I wonder why the majority of mustachians are from colder climes? I think the cold weather helps us to reflect more with brisk air and cozy indoor times with family, friends and books.

    • Andreas December 1, 2013, 3:14 am

      On this topic, I have a story to share. I also have upgraded an Apple product, only not by replacing it. It’s an old Macbook from 2007, and it was starting to show its age. Instead of replacing it with a new or used computer, I bought an SSD for ca. $80, swapped it out (easy to do), and now it runs like new again. I’m looking forward to using that thing until it disintegrates!

  • Christine November 30, 2013, 8:22 am

    We don’t have Black Friday up in Canada.. but we still get some of those sales online.. its a far reaching shop crazy day!

  • Leslie November 30, 2013, 9:49 am

    We don’t shop for anything for Christmas except for a tree and food. Our tradition is to make hot chocolate, decorate the tree, and then watch the PBS version of “Tru.” I also enjoy re-reading Truman Capote’s “A Christmas Memory” about the tradition that he and his cousin started. They made bourbon-laced fruit cakes for their whole small town. They saved pennies the whole year to buy the ingredients that they locally sourced. It reminds me that tradition is important even if you have to make up your own.

  • joy November 30, 2013, 10:52 am

    Hiya, after reading your post of biking through the winter, I’m eager to figure out a way to bike more often especially in the cold. My bigger obstacle is lack of bike lanes and oblivious drivers. Any suggestions on how to get over the fear of being hit? I live outside of Houston where there is rarely a shoulder and never a bike lane and many texters/talkers/eaters/make-up appliers and otherwise distracted drivers. thanks!

    • Tallgirl1204 December 1, 2013, 12:18 am

      Joy, I’ll take a whack at this. The first thing is to see if there is a route that helps you avoid the busiest streets. I do not bicycle home on the same streets that I would drive on. A few blocks out of the way allow me to avoid the main crush of traffic.

      I do bicycle TO work on the same route I drive. This leads me to the second point: timing is everything. When I ride to work, I go about 45 minutes before rush hour starts to build, and the light traffic makes me feel safer.

      Thirdly, I use my red flashing rear light night and day. I wear bright clothing too.

      All this said, if you live in the narrow winding roads of Some mountainous towns, I’m not sure how to mitigate that. Good luck!

      • joy December 1, 2013, 5:44 am

        thanks Tallgirl – I’ll play with the different route possibilities and especially the timing.

  • Insourcelife November 30, 2013, 11:40 am

    Actually I find that this is a good time of the year to partake in a bit of consumerism. I spend very little on clothes usually. My sneakers are worn out due to walking all the time (during lunches at work, after work with our kid) so I picked up a new pair for cheap online with free shipping to home during yesterday’s sale. Found a great deal on a pair of jeans to replace the ones that I wore out. No BS like driving and standing in lines. If you actually need something now is a great time to get it. Emphasis on need.

    • Becky December 1, 2013, 5:05 am

      I agree with this. I tend to keep a running list of things that have worn out/broken/been used up… (of practical items like basic clothing, household items, even food staples) and then watch for sales to replace them. If that sale happens to be part of Black Friday, I won’t dismiss it – but I also won’t get up at a crazy hour to fight the crowds, either! What’s best is when I can find an item I’ve been looking for online and with free shipping, so I don’t even have to leave the house!

  • OptimusFrugal November 30, 2013, 12:28 pm

    I made it almost the whole day. Then my neighbor came by with the free LED bulb he got over at batteries plus. I couldn’t resist. So I went over there, but it was too late. All gone.

  • Andrew Smith November 30, 2013, 3:30 pm

    MMM, another great post. I had a 100% sale this Black Friday, but my dear frau is a little more resistant. I’ll sell the dream! Freedom, baby! And we could move back to Colorado even!

    I just recently got turned on to this blog from another source and I have enjoyed every word. In the space of a month, you have helped me to see that there is a possibility to “retire” in ten years maybe even less.

    Just today, I received a $100 gratuity for a service I did. I had just read, “which would rather have, a hundred bucks or 5 bucks forever?” And there it is in my hand a crisp new $100 bill which just a month ago I would have blown with abandon. Not this time. I want my $5 forever.

    There’s a bunch of other stuff I’d like to say but not in such a public forum. Let me just put it this way. Thanks. You’ve pushed me further into a counter-cultural position to make fun of the car clowns on my 1.5 mile walk to work. And keep it up and I’ll write back in a year when we saved our first $25k.

  • Amelia November 30, 2013, 3:54 pm

    Last year we fell prey to a bit of consumerism disguised as a holiday with the family. We fell deep into the hell know as air travel and emerged the other side with more credit card debit and having missed a day of work due to a cancelled flight. This was on top of what we had already paid for the tickets and presents we bought for the family. Not this year! We are doing a very simple Christmas and I am really looking forward to it.

  • Tom Street December 1, 2013, 7:58 am

    One of the first comments I heard after they opened Hwy 34 to Estes Park was from a local Estes Parkian who said she was so happy that she could now go to Sam’s Club. Having the road closed has been somewhat of a blessing as we now realize that there is very little reason for us to go to any of the towns in the valley. I am not detracting from the real suffering elicited by the flood but shopping at Sam’s Club would not be on my list of priorities.

    We don’t have Black Friday up here in Estes Park but the primary focus of all politicians is to get as many people as possible clogging the roads to come up here to shop, dine, and stay. I get it but it is a bit over the top and represents a massive expenditure of carbon.

    Shopping is about releasing endorphins or natural opiates if you will. People will tear each other apart for access to those opiates. There are other ways to get access. That is the key.

  • Doug December 1, 2013, 10:15 am

    Yes, as Alicia said above, Black Friday has really caught on in Canada. Is that Niagara Falls, Ontario or Niagara Falls, New York? You can’t tell by looking at shopping malls as they are just as busy on both sides of the border. A lot of people are out looking for bargains. One thing I wonder, why isn’t there the same kind of buying enthusiasm when stocks are on sale?

  • Børge December 1, 2013, 2:47 pm

    I’m unsure if you suggest substituting candles for electric light for financial or environmental reasons, but I did a few calculations on the subject.

    Let’s say we run 4 of our 7,5w LED light bulbs. That’s approximately our light source on a random evening. If we start at 6pm and go to bed around midnight that’s 6 hours or 0,180kWh. Electricity is expeeensive here, at 2.41DKK or ~0.439USD per kWh, which makes $0.079 for a full evening.

    A bag of 36 tealights from IKEA costs $2.74 or $0.076 a piece. Since a typical tealight burns for 4 hours, that would be $0.114 for the evening. Of course I’d need a lot more candles to light up our living room but we are already in the read. Sure, the LED lights also burn out, but they should last for around 20,000 – 30,000 hours and they don’t require that I buy lighters or matches.

    Besides, a typical burning candles emits more harmful particles than a burning cigarette. Candles are cozy and christmasy but they are not good for your indoor climate :-)

    • Mr. Money Mustache December 1, 2013, 6:22 pm

      You are definitely right Børge.. I did not mean to imply that the candles are any sort of frugality gesture – they are a cozy romance / family time feature like a campfire. Totally impractical from a purely rational perspective but very nice and still almost free. You are also right about the pollution – an open flame in your house is not a good idea on an ongoing basis, but for 30 minutes during a meal in our cavernous house, I figure it is a negligible amount of smoke.

    • phred December 3, 2013, 12:09 pm

      The last bag of tea-lights I bought cost me 50 cents. I helped the charity thrift in town by doing it.
      Yeah, some candles really pollute. The wick has a center of lead to help it stay upright. The candle burns; the lead vaporizes; you breathe it in and come down with Mad Hatter’s disease. You then go shopping on Black Friday, Cyber Monday and end in debt for the next 12 months.

      • phred December 3, 2013, 12:10 pm

        Oh, that’s for mercury. You still go off the tracks with your spending as lead takes away any math ability you may have had

  • Nicole December 1, 2013, 8:31 pm

    Another great article with more helpful ideas to try – thank you! I like that you mention giving to efficient charities and appreciate the links to the sites you use to help you search for those most efficient. I would agree that Charity Navigator is a great place to search, but I would also include checking out Better Business Bureau as Charity Navigator only lists organizations that have $500k+. That leaves out a lot of smaller grassroots organizations who are just as much if not more so in need of financial assistance and are likely quite efficient as they don’t have as much funding and they know how to make it work on a shoestring. I happen to be employed by one of those small ones so I’m a bit partial. :)

    Keep up the great work!

  • Snor December 1, 2013, 11:07 pm

    If you want to ‘give’ someone the gift of charity, get them some credit at http://www.kiva.org. It’s the best way I’ve found for helping out and empowering people in developing countries. It’s also a reusable gift, since you don’t give your money to someone, but lend it out. And it feels very personal, since you can decide exactly to whom you want to lend your money.

    It’s my favourite charity by far :).

  • CTY December 2, 2013, 1:04 am

    I am relatively new this site and must say that this article & its comments struck a cord with me on many levels, We (my husband & I) took advantage of your 100% off Black Friday sale this year, and hope to take advantage next year too. However, I also wanted to say that like many other sales, Black Friday sales are a large part of what helped us become debt free and allowed us to retire early (husband before 45, me before 36). Our jobs were modest, I worked as a SAHM & part-time retail; my husband was a city bus driver (we are living proof that you don’t need a hefty income or an advanced education to be financially independent) We never spoke to others about our goals; our family, friends 7 co-workers were all shocked when we quit work & retired 3,000 miles away to the west coast.
    Can’t wait to read through all of your articles.

  • MoneyAhoy December 2, 2013, 5:18 am

    I hope everyone here had a great Thanksgiving!

    While so many other blogs are talking about how to find the best Black Friday deals, I knew that MMM would come through with something on the next level – skipping BF all together!

    I’m happy to report that I was able to follow in MMM’s footsteps and resist the lure of Black Friday shopping in its entirety – it feels great to cleanse myself of all the retail brainwashing!!!

  • Elyse December 2, 2013, 6:15 am

    I usually do not go BF shopping, but my friends do. I went with them this year (my second time going, so I knew how it went). I was amazed at the people that were just doing electronics research. Very few people I met were actually buying anything. I did wind up buying a shirt, but that was because I thought it looked like chainmail and I had honestly not seen that shirt anywhere else before.

    My friends had lists of things that they needed for their houses (new TV, appliances, etc) rather than for gifts. They had done the research and found what stores had actual deals and which didn’t. They had been waiting for months to get the best deals on things they were going to buy anyways.

    The people paying ridiculous amounts for little to no reason need a reality check. But some people do put in the research to buy things at a discount that will last them years.

  • Aunt Becky December 2, 2013, 3:01 pm

    What is your first picture of? I really like the space theme going on.

  • Andy Arenson December 2, 2013, 3:27 pm

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. I’ve been quite inspired from reading your blog. Have been riding my bike since the spring. Looking forward to my first winter. I’ve already been surprised at how easy it’s been to adapt to colder weather. In some ways, in fact, the cold is easier. In the summer I had to bring a towel and a spare shirt everywhere.

  • jserwin02 December 8, 2013, 9:47 am

    OK, it’s been bugging me. Time to confess. I did it. I shopped on Black Friday. I promised I wouldn’t. But……(insert complaintypants face punch)…..It’s all Jacob’s fault (over at ERE)!

    I was bored. A little lonely. I started reading some of the older posts and ran across one by Jacob where he advocates rotation of one’s bicycle tires (front to back not round and round). So, I dragged out my ahem….well ridden (read: older than dirt but still functional) commuter road bike and looked at the tires. In the process, I saw a seriously deep chip/hole right at the edge between the surface that runs on the road and the sidewall.

    So…and here comes the confession….I logged on to Amazon and hit the “buy” button for a new Schwalbe tire. It came last week and is now installed.

    The old tire now hangs over the compressor with care, in hopes that one day it will become a spare. (sorry, couldn’t resist!)

  • Jeff December 11, 2013, 12:41 pm

    This year I’ve told all my relatives that I won’t be opening gifts. I told them I’ll assume it’s a donation to a charity. If it’s a light gift I’ll assume it’s clothing and take it to the good will. If it’s heavy I’ll assume it’s food and take it to the grocery store and drop it in their food drive bin.

  • SpeedReader March 6, 2014, 8:44 pm

    My family called a moratorium on Christmas spending between adult siblings the year we all gave each other gift cards — some to the same places! It was a hilarious moment of recognizing wasteful spending.

  • EarningAndLearning June 16, 2017, 5:07 pm

    Another great post MMM, which I’ve forwarded to a few family members — I’m starting my campaign to seriously cut down on the number of expensive, plastic Christmas gifts we give the kids in the family (my niece and nephews). The present opening & consumption on that day is jaw-dropping to say the least. The words embarrassing & disgusting also come to mind. It’s June, so I’ve got a couple months to convert a few of them to Mustachianism & start some new traditions.

    PS I LOVE the idea of No Electricity Night – I can picture a fun picnic-style dinner around the family room low table, with candles all around! Definitely gonna adopt that one!


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