As you may know, I come from a family of modest means. We also have a competitive streak, which can turn shopping into a contact sport. At family gatherings, our conversation centers far more around how much we saved on something than how much we spent on something. We're Calvinist enough to view conspicuous consumption as a rather tawdry sin. (Or maybe those poor folk just don't know how to shop.) Seriously - my father brags that for many years, his hobby was scouring auctions to set up housekeeping for three children (and I can state that my first apartment was decorated with solid wood furniture - not a milk crate or particleboard bookcase in sight) and many a family tale revolves around the finer points of haggling. The running joke is that the motto of our thrifty clan should be "Never pay retail!" We're just too darn cheap to get it translated into Latin.
All this said, I still don't see the point of camping out in front of Wal-Mart to buy a 50-inch plasma TV at four a.m. Think about who/what is up at that time of the night. Muggers and owls. Anyone else is pretty much prey. No, thank you - I'll stay snuggled under the covers (closeout price and and irregular, but I defy you to find the flaw) until the coffeemaker (30% off) kicks on at a reasonable hour. I'll then stuff my feet into my leopard-print slippers (10% off; I really wanted them so I got them despite nearly paying retail) and shuffle to the kitchen to get the milk out of the fridge (25% off, scratch 'n' dent sale).
See, to me, Black Friday is the consumer equivalent of New Year's Eve, which is amateur night. True talent (a fully-spurred Discount Knight) smiles, sips a second cup of coffee, and saunters out around 9:00. Sure, the 50-inch plasma TVs are gone by then, but did you really need one in the first place?
Didn't think so.
So take the money you saved by not getting hysterical over the techno-gizmos and divide it into two piles. With one, do whatever you want. But use the other to help someone else out. Send it to the local food bank or take a couple of "angels" off a tree set up for needy kids (and adults) this holiday season. Or send it to the Central Asia Institute, which devotes donations to building schools (primarily for girls) in Pakistan. Or send it to Heifer International, which lives out the adage of "teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." If those don't float your boat, find another worthy cause - there are plenty out there.
Then count your blessings that you're the one sending the donation instead of the one fervently praying that someone else does.