Black Friday Haul | A Minimalist’s Nightmare

The holiday sale season has officially kicked off in the USA with Thanksgiving and Black Friday. As we head into December, I will be creating content about the relationship between holiday ritual and consumption, and how as minimalists, we can challenge this.

Before we get too far, I would like to clarify that I am not against shopping, or buying things at discount, in general. What this post and the videos below are about is people buying excessively, and seeing rampant consumption as something to aspire to.

IMG_5597IMG_5595Go outside, kids!

As someone who has never made a habit of watching haul videos, or Black Friday haul videos in particular, I was curious to see what happens in such a video.

Below are two videos I have made in reaction to some popular Black Friday haul videos.


After watching this series of haul videos, I have noticed some commonalities in how this style of content is presented. In this sense, there are developed ‘conventions’ to videos within the haul ‘genre’. If a media text is formulated and repeated over and over again, it is usually because it has proven to have good results for its creator. What does this mean? It means that these videos are not simply reflections of a specific person’s wacky shopping adventures, they are intentionally created media products, that are intended to attract a specific audience. 


The thumbnails of these videos are extremely colourful, with the words ‘Black Friday haul’ clearly emphasised. They feature the faces of either one or two young females (most often),  with shocked or surprised expressions. They also feature a number of shopping bags, sometimes with brands obviously showing.


The titles contain the words ‘Black Friday’ in clear capitals, and they often also contain some sort of an adjective that implies how ‘crazy’ the haul was. Sometimes they feature brand names, or some sort of indication of the price paid. I’m assuming the videos that seem the ‘craziest’ get the most attention.


The videos I watched started off with a short montage of the ‘crazy’ events that occur during the progress of the video, generally implying the whole things was a ‘fun adventure’. The YouTuber will then present themselves surrounded by shopping bags, describing just how tired they are from shopping so hard. The video will often feature the creator’s friends. It will typically have some sort of a try on. The purchases made are usually characterised as ‘dirt cheap’, and there is a kind of pride in revealing the ‘bargains’ obtained.


  • A vast majority of the videos I watched were created by teen aged females, some as young as twelve years old. This surprised me, as I assumed that haul videos were most likely to be made by women in their 20s, because this is who we consider to have the expendable income.
  • I’m assuming that the audience for these videos would be at a similar age to the creators. The thumbnails certainly looked like they were designed to attract younger viewers.
  • A vast majority of the comments sections seem to be supportive of the activities in the video, and in many cases showed extreme excitement for shopping, and an aspiration to be like the creator.
  • There was no acknowledgement of the production methods behind the items purchased, showing little concern for sustainability or the ethics surrounding their manufacture. In fact, the products featured were completely detached from any sort of a manufacturing process whatsoever.
  • There was limited interest in the quality of the items purchased, including information about the materials used to manufacture them.
  • The videos showed little regard for economic disparity in the audience, with the tone of the creator generally assuming that the audience would have the same economic circumstances that they do.
  • In some cases there was mild ‘embarrassment’ at the consumption, but it was all forgiven with the ‘quirky’ characterisation of the adventures that were part of the consumption.
  • The videos fetishised the purchases as trophies.

Recurring messages to the (mostly young female) audience

  • When you buy on sale you are ‘saving money’.
  • Consistent consumption of material things is the norm.
  • Consistent consumption of material things is something to aspire to.
  • Being attractive equals purchasing things.
  • Being attractive equals having a large variety of things to choose from.
  • Being accepted means engaging in the social consumption of material things.
  • The act of shopping is a bonding experience.
  • The act of shopping is an enjoyable ‘pastime’ or ‘hobby’.
  • The source of material things is not important.
  • The longevity of material things is not important.
  • The fate of our material things is not something to worry about, now, or ever.
  • Money is made to be spent.
  • If you don’t have money for this kind of activity, you are excluded.


We have a problem.

I hate to sound like I’m a million years old, but I have to say that material consumption has really escalated since I was a teenager in the 90’s. If it sounds like there is a big generation gap, it’s because there is. I honestly feel that teen values have changed since I was a kid.

Mainstream culture seemed different in the 90s. I distinctly remember two episodes of influential teen targeted series, Full House, and Beverly Hills, 90210, featuring narratives where the middle class teen female protagonists were enchanted with some sort of an expensive material purchase. Through the episodes, both females had to learn the value of money, and not to place value on material things. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think Brenda Walsh went out and got herself a job to save up for those $100 patchwork jeans, and in the end decided the money wasn’t worth it, and upcycled a pair of old jeans in the style she desired. It sounds corny and moralistic, I know, just like that character on Dawson’s Creek who basically died after drinking some alcohol, but these fables were embedded in the mainstream subconscious of that time.


In addition, while technically subcultures, the rock and grunge movements in the early 90s really encouraged a negativity toward consumerism, and glamorised second hand items as adornment of the real ‘individual’. Everyone knows that Kurt and Courtney went second hand shopping. Who didn’t want to be unique?

The message I received as a teenager certainly was not ‘go to H&M and Forever 21 and see how many things you can get for $500’. There was a general respect for material things, in the sense that they actually had ‘value’. Things were not throw away items.

To be fair, fast fashion was only really beginning to develop at that time, and our values are shaped in part by our constraints. This means that the values of these young females and their audience are most likely influenced by the availability of fast fashion. The extent of the availability probably makes it seem like a totally normal and acceptable part of life, much like the unrelenting lips of a Jenner.

I’m not sure if you can relate, but when I was a teenager, even if I had wanted to, I would not have been able to find the exact items I desired in my size and in my city.  Internet shopping did not exist. Also, I had no money, because my parents insisted that I focused on my school work rather than getting a job, and gave me enough pocket money to appease my processed carb and cheese addiction, which is where the extent of my desires stretched to. 

When I finally was interested in shopping, I had no choice but to save my pocket money, make logical shopping decisions, and purchase secondhand if I wanted something more ‘unique’.

Sound familiar? Chances are, that if you were a child before the 2000s, you were probably brought up with some form of minimalist values.

I am concerned that these sorts of messages about material things are no longer in the mainstream, but lost to the weird obscure corners of the internet, where you and I, with our ‘subcultural’ ideas, hide.

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  1. I feel you! I used to be the gal who got UK at 4am to shop til I dropped, and now that makes me feel nauseous. Now, I get excited about repairing my own clothes, and seeing how long my LBD can last and still be stylish! 😉 Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi there, thank you so much for a great, insightful post. I was also dismayed at the tone surrounding a lot of these Black Friday ‘haul’ videos and feel that some of them have quite an uncomfortable undertone, exactly as you have described. My years as a teen were quite similar to yours, with new clothes being a rare treat and something to be saved up for. I know I sound like I’m 100, but things have changed a lot! I don’t know if I’d like to be a teenager now – the world looks very different. Lxx


    1. Thanks for your comment, Lol. I agree, I would hate to be a teenager now. They are honestly growing up in a very different world, with unprecedented use of technology and some really disturbing role models. I think being a teenager now must be much more of a stressful and confusing experience. A lot of these kids try to mimic what they see, but the kids who have less must have a lot more of a lonely experience. ❤️


  3. My thoughts exactly! By the way, I was watching your Haul reaction video the other day and got an ad for Mango right before it started.. I guess it makes sense that the algorithm sees ‘Black Friday’ or ‘haul’ in the title and decides this is the ad to pair the video with, but we can at least take solace in the fact that your target audience knows better than to fall for that. You’ve taught us well 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post. You are so right, times have changed since we were kids. I am 39 and grew up in rural New Zealand and my experience was similar to yours. Now as an adult living in Canada I cannot believe the difference and I have definitely fallen prey to the consumerist culture myself in the past. This year I have been experimenting with delayed gratification with regard to my purchases. I did take advantage of the Black Friday sales to add a couple of pieces to my capsule wardrobe that I had been considering for a long time. Previously I would have bought the item without much thought.
    Thank you for your content as it has and continues to help me on my journey back to a simpler life.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Oh my goodness I love you so much. I am with you. This is a disturbing trend. My colleagues from LatAm used to love to shop when they would come to Miami, and I just couldn’t understand it. But they loved it. I am as horrified by it as you are. Black Friday is an unfortunate outgrowth of our consumerist culture. Thanks for what you do and the cultural critique you offer. This is exactly why I follow you. Cheers.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m a private tutor and I’ve seen my fair share of BOTH teenage boys and girls screaming and throwing tantrums whenever their parents do not allow them to buy something online.Lenient parents who give their children their credit card details have almost no control over their children’s spending (of their credit)! Not surprised if the target audience are the kids of the rich (or seemingly rich).

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I think about the effect that the consumerism of so called influencers has on young people a lot. You are so right about us growing up in a different world. On the rare occasion that my parents could afford to buy me an item of clothing I loved, like Levis, I adored them and felt special every time I wore them.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’m in Australia, and this is the 2nd year that I have been aware of Black Friday – not a thing here really until last year. It feels obscene to me. Shop for the sake of shopping. I have teens and am trying to teach them the whole thing of saving, and buying consciously…so far so good, but the media is against this thinking.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I may really be a million years old (54…) but really?! Sooo sad.
    My daughters (34, 28, 23) aren‘t this bad and one is truly minimalist and save-y, but I do fear for my grandkids (granddaughters 7 & 2, grandsons 10 & 4) and the world they‘re growing up in :(((

    Liked by 1 person

  10. The generation gap is real and it is kind of scary what goes along with it. Especially for young girls and women growing up in a culture full of photoshopped images and instant gratification. From a feminist perspective we are going backwards at the moment- girls are reduced to giggling shopping monsters, get turorials to totally change their face with make-up, workout tips to please a certain ideal at the moment.
    I grew up with a (as in I had one, bought from birthday money) beloved Levi’s 501…I wore it, until it literally fell off my butt. And then my mom showed me how to sew a contrast fabric into those areas to save it and I had a new jeans. Memories…

    P.S.: I found your blog by accident, I really love your thoughtful entries and videos on youtube.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Spot on!! I have two girls under 4 and am already thinking about how I can raise them to be frugal in a consumerist society but also not make them feel left out from trends their friends are buying, because the social pressure is just as bad as the consumerism and they go hand-in-hand.


  12. Yes a million times!!! It’s really concerning the values that are being put out there, especially towards women and girls. Black Friday is such a disappointment, and now it usually starts on Thursday when families are still gathered together for Thanksgiving. Thank you for this post and videos!!


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