Black Friday Special: 11 Ways to Find Inner Calm on the Biggest Shopping Day of the Year

Make Black Friday your own with these totally free ideas for how to spend the day without an iota of buyers' remorse.
Black Friday illustration by Kelsey Niziolek
Illustration by Kelsey Niziolek

The shift from Thanksgiving to Black Friday can be brutal. Hours after gathering with family and friends in gratitude for all that we have, we join the apocalyptic frenzy of Black Friday to battle strangers for the last Instant Pot. And it turns out bargain hunters are no joke, with 10 related deaths and 111 injuries on Black Friday since 2006.

It’s no wonder the number of online shoppers is increasing—why risk your life when you can buy that flat-screen TV from your couch? In 2017, online shoppers spent a record $5 billion on Black Friday while foot traffic to brick and mortar stores saw a slight decrease of less than one percent. This year should be no different with overall holiday shopping sales expected to increase by four percent. And that includes sales on Thanksgiving day, as retailers open their doors on what was once a family holiday in order to drive sales.


If the mass consumerism and sprawl of Black Friday makes you sick, give it the bird and spend your day doing something that doesn’t involve fighting complete strangers at Walmart or logging hours on your laptop buying stuff you don’t need. These 11 anti-Black Friday ideas allow you to make the day your own without spending a single dollar.

Try a free trial of a meditation app

Woman meditating at home Photo by Getty Images / RyanJLane

Photo by Getty Images / RyanJLane

Between office parties and an overdose of family time, the holidays can be stressful. And since Thanksgiving and Black Friday mark the beginning of the holiday season, there’s no better time to add meditation to your daily routine.

You can try a free, seven-day trial of Calm Premium or Aura, but both apps also have limited free content—from meditations to sleep aids—that you can access without being charged. Headspace also offers free meditations, but their 30-day trial will get you through the end of December so you can maintain your center in the midst of the financial and social stresses headed your way.

Get in touch with your creative self

Black Friday is the perfect time to settle in with that short story you’ve been wanting to finish or the Harmonica for Dummies book you’ve been meaning to crack. Even if you’re not artsy, there’s nothing quite like “sticking it to the man” by forgoing Black Friday to brainstorm handmade gift ideas.

Rather than dumping unneeded plastic junk on those you love, spend the day making DIY body scrubs for your friends or getting down the knitting basics in order to make a plush cat for your niece. These coasters made from tiles and scrapbook paper are perfect for new homeowners and this no-knit koozie is the no-brainer, catch-all gift, since anyone who likes coffee and/or beer will can put it to use. (Plus, it repurposes old sweaters.)


Go on a free culture binge

Rather than binging on more crap, take the opportunity to immerse yourself in culture. From the Getty Center in Los Angeles to Washington DC’s National Gallery of Art, there are hundreds of free museums and art galleries across the country. You’re almost guaranteed to experience shorter lines and fewer people as Walmart and Amazon entertain the hoards.

Meal prep using Thanksgiving leftovers

It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without leftovers, but even the biggest turkey sandwich fanatics can’t consume everything. Rather than dumping the remains, spend the day repurposing leftovers into meals you can eat all week.

This recipe for turkey vegetable soup with stuffing dumplings will use up leftover turkey (and the bones!) and make use of that congealed stuffing sitting in your fridge. These potato cakes make use of leftover mashed potatoes and those last spoonfuls of peas and Brussels sprouts.

Make a holiday budget

Consumers are expected to spend more than $1,000 over the holidays on gifts, food, decorations, flowers and greeting cards, according to the National Retail Federation. Many will end up paying off the bill well into 2019. To avoid falling into that camp, come up with a list of everyone you want to get gifts for, then tally up holiday travel costs and little things like hostess gifts. Once you’ve got an idea of how much you’ll likely spend this holiday season, give your savings account a close look to see where you stand.

If you’re going to spend more than you have in your bank account today, reevaluate the importance of that new holiday dress, consider giving homemade gifts, or make a pact with a friend to do something free and fun together like going to a tree lighting or holiday show together instead of exchanging gifts this year. If things are still tight or you need a little cash to buy hot chocolate afterward, find hidden money by finally using those rewards you’ve accumulated on your credit card.


Go look at trees

Whether it’s at a park in the middle of the city or a national park in the middle of nowhere, being in nature leads to improved physical and mental health. Spend the day hiking, walking, or running in your nearest green space. Not only is it free, but it will help you prepare for the stress-inducing, waistline-expanding nature of the holiday season.

Get rid of crap, feel like a boss

You know that to-do list you never actually have time for? Dedicate the day to checking things off the list and let the getting-shit-done high wash over you. Organize your sock drawer, put those loose photos in frames and nail them to the wall, and clean out your closet. If your home is a wreck, dedicate the day to cleaning and decluttering just one room.

Bonus points if you donate unwanted items. Not only could you make someone’s holiday brighter, but you might be entitled to a tax break.

Take a free fitness class

A yoga or Pilates class doesn’t have to cost $18. Google free classes in your city or use our guide to find free activities. Stop by a nearby gym and sign up for a free trial. Anytime Fitness, CorePower Yoga, Pure Barre, and Crunch Fitness all have free one-week trials and offer group classes.

If you can’t find a free class or gym membership in your city, try a free online class like Yoga with Adriene or challenge yourself to one of Kayla Itsine’s free Beachbody workouts.


Use your excess food and day off to do good

Not every family or individual has the good fortune of holiday excess. Rather than consuming and buying things you don’t need, donate your time to a nearby homeless shelter. If nothing else, take those unopened cans of cranberry sauce and corn to your local food bank.

Challenge yourself with a zero-dollar day

If you’re like us and love all things free, this challenge will feel more like fun than a chore. Your mission: Go out and enjoy the day with the intention of spending $0. Bundle up and take a Thanksgiving leftover picnic to the park or walk your city and take in the Black Friday madness from afar. In the evening, do a movie night with friends or hibernate at home and start a free trial of that entertainment streaming service you can’t afford but want to try. (Just remember to cancel it before your trial ends to avoid the monthly charge.)

Binge on holiday movies and music—then start decorating!

Thanksgiving kicks off the holiday season providing the perfect excuse to binge-watch those holiday movies that only feel relevant once a year (think Love Actually, Home Alone, Miracle on 34th Street). If you really want to get after it, stream cheesy holiday music on Spotify and evoke your inner elf by pulling out decorations and creating a holiday card list.