Friday November 23 is “Black Friday,” the day sales begin and people shop till they drop for whatever they haven’t got.  But thousands call it “Buy Nothing Day.”  They think this day has been hijacked by commercial forces (as Christmas has). The British Columbia-based organization, Adbusters, initiated this, noting that the average U. S. and Canadian dweller “consumes five times more than a Mexican, 10 times more than a Chinese person, and 30 times more than a person from India. . . Give it a rest.”

So instead of a shopping day, it could be a day to:

  • have nothing on your calendar so you’re open to see what God will bring chill out (Sabbath)
  • reflect on the great (or recover from the not-so-great) celebration the previous day
  • hang out with family or friends
  • catch up with yourself
  • do something you’ve wanted to do but had to put off
  • do something useless like looking at old pictures
  • have a space of margin to exhale and breathe
  • ride your bike or hike a trail that’s not close by
  • reread all the things you underlined in the best book you’ve ever read—and then sit and ponder what you read
  • sit by the fire

Such a day could form your soul, just a little bit. Why?  Because Buy Nothing Day is a practice of the discipline of simplicity, specifically frugality.  Like all disciplines of abstinence, it helps us look at ourselves:  What am I like when I don’t get what I automatically want?  Can I be content?  As I’ve asked in Abundant Simplicity, how might I raise my standard of loving rather than my standard of living?

What am I giving up to participate in Buy Nothing Day? Besides credit card debt, I’m letting go of shopping as a  way to fill a void, to entertain myself, to kill time or to acquire something that will impress someone else.  What am I gaining?  For one day, I’ll live simply, spending time with people instead of spending money on them. Who knows? Maybe it will lead to a more peaceful and selfless sort of holiday season.

If you do this (or do it for part of the day), please look within and ask: What drives me to want to buy stuff?  Owning more? Looking better? Impressing others? Or am I just bored? Am I willing to “be still and know . . .”?

Buy Nothing Day isn’t just about you. It moves us toward becoming responsible, generous citizens. Capitalism needs morality to survive or it will disintegrate into unchecked greed.  Morality involves thinking about how my behavior affects others (love).  If I can forego obtaining things I think I have to have today, I’m less likely to be pushy tomorrow.  It may retrain me a little bit to stop driving too closely to the person in front of me, grabbing the last turkey on sale that the woman on Social Security was reaching for, or talking loudly on a cell phone in a public place. It will be easier to slow down and care about others.

Join the Conversation

If you try it, please respond with your thoughts about how it went and what you sensed about yourself.


Jan Johnson:
Jan Johnson is the author of twenty books including Invitation to the Jesus Life and Abundant Simplicity and a thousand articles and Bible studies. She speaks at retreats and conferences, and teaches (adjunct) at Azusa Pacific University and Hope International University. Also a spiritual director, Jan holds a D. Min. in Ignatian Spirituality and Spiritual Direction. She lives with her husband in Simi Valley, California. You can visit her at  
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