Black Friday alternatives: Small Business Saturday & Giftly

Is it me, or has Black Friday gotten a little bit out of control? Traditionally the start of the holiday shopping season—and by association, the day on which retailers historically started to make a profit, hence the name—Black Friday is now about midnight store openings, insane crowds, and, in some unfortunate cases, trampling and riots. Now, I am not one to turn away from a bargain, but is schlepping out to the mall at 2 a.m. to buy your loved ones $40 cashmere sweaters and $199 plasma TVs really in the spirit of the season? The last few years, MW & I have spent Black Friday playing Wii with our nephews, and a few hours of family bonding over Rock Band and Mario Kart are worth more to me than any door-buster. Plus, as The Shophound helpfully points out, you've got a month until Christmas, so why hurry?

One shopping endeavor I can definitely get behind is Small Business Saturday, an American Express–sponsored event that, you guessed it, encourages you to patronize locally owned businesses. Meant as an alternative to the big-box-focused Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, now in its second year, serves to remind us that when we all shop small, it makes a big impact. You can become a fan on Facebook to find participating businesses near you, and if you have an American Express card (seriously, the best credit card ever), you can register to receive a $25 statement credit when you use your card at a small business. Added bonus: You won't have to fight the crowds at the mall, or even go to a mall period.

Another way to stick it to the Man shop consciously is to send a Giftly to everyone on your list. In case you missed my post last month, Giftly is a new site that allows you to create a virtual gift card for up to three locations of your choice, and since you can use it anywhere, it's a great opportunity to support local businesses! The site has a ton of fun gift suggestions, with more to come in the following weeks, but I have a personal predilection for Splurge-Worthy Shopping, which the lovely people at Giftly have created just for me, er, you. Really, it's for my favorite three stores in NYC (those are my "Quip Tips" at left), and while I spend half my time telling you about sample sales, these are the rare places at which I will gladly pay full price for something special—and I think any New Yorker would be happy to do likewise. But speaking of deals, starting tomorrow, every Wednesday is Giftly Wednesday, and when you spend $20 or more, you'll get $20 toward your next purchase. Because if you're anything like me, your real Christmas shopping happens in the middle of the week, at work, on your lunch break. Perfect timing, no?

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