shopping in the darkLast night I watched the latest episode of Life, which described a murder shortly before a mall opens on Black Friday. The detectives are standing in the path of shoppers who flood the mall at 6 a.m. and all any fiscally sensible person can ask herself is: why? At least, that's what I ask myself, and I'm not alone: so does Jeffrey Strain at MainStreet.

He tells the "Money Sapping Secrets of Black Friday Sales" and gives several reasons why you shouldn't. First: You don't need any of this stuff. (My thinking exactly.) Second: You can use the time you save waiting in line for hours to get the best deals to save yourself money! Without all the aching feet and strained shoulders! Genius. His next several reasons are basically, You're not getting the deal you think you're getting. Supplies are limited. Seasoned "professional" Black Friday shoppers will get the good stuff first. You'll buy things that you weren't shopping for in the first place. You'll neglect opportunity costs and other costs (gas to get to that great mall, a late breakfast at a pricey mall restaurant to cure your shopping munchies, batteries and accessories, etc.) when you figure your savings.

I've got another reason: true happiness cannot be found by a good bout of swapping cash for goods, no matter how many times you see it dramatized on those television commercials. Instead of making family traditions around shopping on Thanksgiving weekend, why not make a family tradition around reading a book, or playing checkers. (Make sure it's a book or a game you already own!) Or better yet, extend the season of gratitude by doing something nice to someone who's been good to you all year. I'm planning to go visit my favorite farmer and tell her how grateful I am that she's changing the world one chicken at a time.

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