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Family Life

Fun Alternatives to Black Friday Shopping

Ianni Le

Many of us are on tight budgets this year. Others may not want to venture into brick-and-mortar stores for the traditional Black Friday shopathon, and for some Black Friday shopping has never held much appeal.

Good news: There are lots of fun things you can do with your Friday off instead.

Family Cook-Off

Challenge #1: Stage a family Food Network-style throwdown with your Thanksgiving leftovers. See who can make the most creative dish, or who can turn the biggest assortment of leftover items into something absolutely delicious.

Get competitive (appoint a judge, don your aprons, set a timer!) and relish the time together in the kitchen. You're sure to make a mess, and laugh a ton.

Challenge #2: Have each member of the household come up with a dish for someone else to cook without a recipe. Keep the details vague — maybe just provide a list of ingredients (no Thanksgiving leftovers this time) — so it stays interesting and there's room for imagination and improvisation. It’s a surefire way to mix up dinner time and have everyone contribute to the cooking!

Virtual Volunteering

Look for volunteer opportunities to do from the safety and comfort of your own home! There are many websites that you can use to filter volunteer work to find a commitment that best suits you and your schedule.

Catchafire is a website specializing in online volunteer projects. You can find options with a wide range of timelines, from an hour or two to a few weeks!

For more ways to volunteer (including a few that double as personal learning opportunities), check out this list of volunteer resources from

Alternatively, get the family together to make a list of charities you’d like to contribute to this holiday season. Your donations can be in honor or in memory of loved ones, and they make great gifts for people on your list who don’t have specific gift requests. In 2020 more than ever, local non-profits can really use our support.

Give Back to Your Community

With the weather getting colder, it’s a perfect time to gather donations for your local homeless shelter. You could start a warm sock drive in your neighborhood and collect new socks to distribute to people who may be living outdoors without regular shelter, or find some winter clothes to donate as well.

Your household can also spend some time putting together toiletry kits or simple gift bags to distribute. Include anything from winter accessories to ready-to-eat canned meals with pop tops, and make a positive difference to someone who really needs it.

Walking Tours

Spend some time putting together a self-guided walking tour for you and your household in your own town or a nearby city. Map out locations family members will enjoy, whether it’s public art, architecture or historic buildings. If you need guidance, visit the website of local historic societies or check out this self-guided tour index to see if they have a guide for a city near you.

If you’re looking for something quick and easy, why not take a trip to a local pond, lake or stream for a little bird watching? It’s the perfect season as many species are migrating. If there is a wild bird food and supply store in town, they'll be able to point you in the right direction and your local chapter of the National Audubon Society will also have resources.

Maybe you do want to check a few gifts off your list...

Make yourself a cup of hot cocoa or cider and settle down to browse Black Friday deals online. CollegiateParent's Holiday Hub has the perfect gift ideas for your student, plus fun holiday blogs, playlists and even a holiday Pinterest board!

Relish the break from the usual Black Friday scene, and take this year as an opportunity to have a more relaxed holiday season. Unwind and enjoy quality time with your loved ones — after all, that's what the holidays are really all about.

Ianni Le is a freelance writer and content creator. She attended the University of Colorado at Boulder, graduating with a degree in Media Design and English Literature. Ianni grew up in Shanghai, China and enjoys her dogs, books and food equally.

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