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alternatives to black fridayIt’s always struck me as rather odd that immediately after a day of giving thanks for the richness we have in our lives (a holiday that even a Brit like I can appreciate), why do we need to go out and buy more?

Unlike most holidays, Black Friday doesn’t have a rich history – it was invented by retailers to take advantage of consumers – to clear out old stock, feed off the excitement of shopper frenzy, and generally shift as much stuff as possible, in as little time as possible. This year rather than buying yet another useless plastic gadget destined for the trash heap, I’d really like it if we could consider some alternatives to black .

Purchase Better Quality Next Time

Without wishing to make too broad of a generalisation, many of the gadgets being sold at rock bottom prices on Black Friday are being sold off for a reason. Good products sell throughout the year and don’t need to be discounted heavily during the sales. If you find something that is obviously far too cheap, then perhaps ask yourself about the quality of the item and how long it’s likely to last you.

I find it helps to think about how you would feel if you had to dump all your old gadgets and appliances in your own backyard when the time came to replace them. Would you still want a new one every year, just because it’s so cheap and you could afford to? Of course, we live in a society where we don’t have to actually deal with our own trash, but I can promise you that someone in the world certainly does, and it’s absolutely disgusting. This is Guiyu in China:

alternatives to black friday

This is one of the reasons I choose Apple computers (cue screams of fanboy… whatever). I’m not going to pretend they’re manufactured in a particularly environmentally friendly way – but they certainly last longer, as well as having a strong second-hand market demand even for 3-4 year old models. Consequently less of them actually end up in the dump. The same simply cannot be said for most PCs, especially laptops. Pile ‘em high and sell ‘em cheap seems to be the motto there.

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alternatives to black friday shopping

Re-Purpose Your Old Hardware

This is something we’re passionate about at MakeUseOf, and the simple truth is that unless you’re gaming even for gaming, the need to constantly upgrade hardware is all in your mind.

Instead of buying new, just breathe a new lease of life into your existing PC. If Windows is running a bit slow, think about installing Linux. Chances are you don’t really need much more than a decent browser if you’re a keen users of Gmail, Google Docs and various other cloud apps. If you have an ageing laptop, there’s lots of lightweight Linux distros XFCE: Your Lightweight, Speedy, Fully-Fledged Linux Desktop XFCE: Your Lightweight, Speedy, Fully-Fledged Linux Desktop As far as Linux goes, customization is king. Not only that, but the customization options are so great it might make your head spin. I have previously mentioned the differences between the major desktop environments... Read More that can turn it into a more-than-capable netbook Bodhi Linux Is Beautiful & Works On Very Old Computers [Linux] Bodhi Linux Is Beautiful & Works On Very Old Computers [Linux] Try a lightweight, beautiful Linux distro that works on very old hardware. Bodhi Linux can run on processors with only 300 mhz so imagine how well it will work on your machine. With the Enlightenment desktop... Read More , otherwise a vanilla Ubuntu install Ubuntu 10.04 - An Extremely Simple Operating System [Linux] Ubuntu 10.04 - An Extremely Simple Operating System [Linux] Read More should be good.

alternatives to black friday shopping

Our free eBook guide – Old Computer, New Life with Ubuntu Linux is the best place to start. Download it, avoid the crowds on Black Friday and stay home instead!

Perhaps you’ve been thinking about getting a new TV or PVR – but that old PC and the free XBox Media Center XBMC 10 "Dharma" - A Mature, Feature-Rich Cross-Platform Media Centre XBMC 10 "Dharma" - A Mature, Feature-Rich Cross-Platform Media Centre Read More installed (or some of these alternatives 5 Great Linux Media Center Distributions To Transform Your TV 5 Great Linux Media Center Distributions To Transform Your TV Read More ) would be far more functional, and you can even run an emulator of your old Nintendo favourites.

Still not convinced? Check out our top 10 uses for old computers Top 10 Cool Uses For Old Computers And Laptops Top 10 Cool Uses For Old Computers And Laptops Read More article then – I’m sure you’ll find something!

Cloud Computing – Even For Gaming

If you’re interested in the latest games and have a decent Internet connection, consider trying the OnLive cloud gaming service The OnLive Cloud Gaming Revolution - A Faster, Easier Way To Game The OnLive Cloud Gaming Revolution - A Faster, Easier Way To Game OnLive is a cloud gaming service that presents a truly unique way to access your favorite games. No longer are you forced to constantly upgrade - instead, you run the games in the cloud, and... Read More , where the game is run on a remote server and the video streamed to your PC. They have a subscription model for unlimited access to a vast array of older games, as well as a lot of recent games at retail price, not to mention multiplayer games and a ridiculously generous 30 minute demo time. It’s free to play the demos and you needn’t supply a credit card, so why not try it out today on your older hardware, before trying to justify that new computer on gaming needs alone?

alternatives to black friday shopping

Raid The Local Recycling Centre

I don’t know if this is true in the USA, but here in Great Britain, a lot of perfectly good computing equipment gets dumped at the local trash/recycling centre, so if you have a really ancient PC then it might be worth trying to salvage one from there instead. Check your local FreeCycle 5 Places To Find Free Clothes Online So You Don't Have To Go Naked 5 Places To Find Free Clothes Online So You Don't Have To Go Naked It's a scary world out there, and the best way to go through it is by wearing clothes. Sure, there are a few exceptions to this statement, but we'll leave those alone... However, you may... Read More too. If you can grab a few, it’s a great way to learn about putting together a PC from bits and pieces.

University IT departments can also be a good source – I still have a few fantastic LCD monitors I rescued from Kyoto University.

Go Offline & Find Something More Fulfilling

There are other things in life than computer games and tech, and some of them are a lot more fulfilling. If you don’t want to feel buyer’s remorse this year when you realise that gadget is actually worthless, yet still feel the need to buy something – might I suggest a good board game?

Unlike computer games, board games are great for getting people around a table, communicating, and encouraging logical thinking. The Wii might shut your kid up for hours, but I doubt it’s doing their communication skills any good.

How about getting into real-life pen and paper style role-play gaming instead of SkyRim? The latest Dungeons and Dragons (4th edition) is even easier than ever to get into (and even feels a lot like a computer game, funnily enough).

alternatives to black friday

Anyway, I’m not trying to tell you how you should spend your money this holiday season. I’m just saying that there are alternatives to black Friday, and that grabbing a tech bargain on the latest gadget is not the ultimate goal of life. Technology should be a means to an end, not the end itself.

Comments, rants, praise – all welcome.  You know where to put them.

Image Credit: NatalieDee

  1. John Jiang
    November 29, 2011 at 5:28 am

    Regarding toward the subject of purchasing better quality, I was shopping on Amazon for watches and there are huge drastic decrease from the original price. People called the product being in the "Grey Market", where the product won't be sold in U.S stores and exported from foreign countries.

    Is that any different from mass-production or claims that the product prove no value?

    • James Bruce
      November 30, 2011 at 8:50 am

      Hi John. Grey Market just means that the product isn't being subjected to the same price hiking that brands will add in certain countries. ie, prices are set by what consumers can afford. So when a company buys those products in a country where everyone is poor - and hence items are cheaper - then they can make a profit by reselling them in a rich country. They're likely still mass produced in exactly the same way, and the product is probably the same. I say 'probably' because of course there's always the possibility it's a fake - but I very much doubt amazon would be caught selling fakes, and they're often caught at the time of import. 

  2. Dave LeClair
    November 24, 2011 at 5:26 am

    How have I not seen that video before? It might be one of the greatest things I have ever seen. Thank you James for posting this, now I hate you slightly less. :)

  3. jlm11
    November 24, 2011 at 12:23 am

    My "new" computer was a gaming rig built 4+ years ago by a friend for his wife, and when they wanted something newer, we picked this one up off of them.  Has more than enough power for us using Linux, and with Wine I can even play a few games if I want.  My laptops were new in 2003 and 2006, and they are both still plenty useful if you don't mind needing to be plugged in most of the time.  I am running macpup and archbang on them respectively, and although I want a tablet, I can wait until I can get exactly what I want.

    I haven't played D&D in years but would find it far preferable to the whole "black friday" thing.  I don't have to go to work, but you won't find me in any store.  I'll be sleeping in and playing Arkham City!

    • James Bruce
      November 25, 2011 at 9:58 am

      Good to hear it jlm. I wonder about this perfect tablet though - you waiting around for ipad3?

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