How do you gift?
Do you start looking for inspiration months ahead of the holidays and build a careful list?
Or are you a gonzo gifter, blitzing shops, Amazon, and gift guides at the last minute?
Whatever your style, one of the very best things about holiday shopping is the time-honored tradition of self-gifting.
Be honest: Who hasn’t picked up one or two choice items for themselves in the midst of shopping for friends and loved ones?
Some of my friends admit to it, but guiltily, like the holidays are just about selfless generosity. I reject that. I argue the holidays are actually one of the best times to shop for yourself. What’s my reasoning?
First, it’s efficient: you’re already browsing and will probably come across an item, service, or experience without any dedicated effort.
Second, the holiday shopping months feature the biggest deals and discounts of the year on lots of things that are not only perfect gifts, but that we wear or use in our own lives. When you zoom out and get passed the idea that you're ‘supposed' to be shopping for other people, you realize it's prudent spending by nabbing a few deals for yourself along the way.
Self-gifting should be about those functional goods and services that will make a huge improvement in your life, especially if they’re a bit of an investment because they'll be the cheapest they are all year.
1. Upgrade Your Underwear
Underwear is a highly personal item and it can get expensive, which makes it perfect for self-gifting. Besides, what guy wants to ask his mom for underwear at Christmas?
Underwear is the most important part of your wardrobe most people never see, and that means it’s easy to neglect. But that doesn’t mean you should.
Comfortable, durable underwear that still retain their fabric elasticity equals all day comfort because they won’t bunch, scrunch or sag like a pair past its prime.
Quality drawers also bestow the confidence you get knowing your intimate regions are well represented, sartorially-speaking, if your date (or relationship!) is going well.
Let’s get realistic: How many pairs of tired, frayed, overstretched-at-the-waistband undies that should only be kept for emergency laundry day, do you have in your daily rotation at the moment? If the answer is more than one, it’s time to cull the herd and upgrade.
Upgrading, however, can be painful. Unless you’re a cleanliness maniac – or have an $800 laundry-folding robot – you need 10+ pairs to see you through a typical week of work, gym, and sleep. The number rises if you practice the 2-a-day rule: fresh pair in the morning and a fresh pair after a workout. Upgrading your entire stock gets expensive.
On Black Friday and during the holiday months, underwear is one of the last things you may think about buying, but that's a missed opportunity – you can find premium brands at heavy discounts.
2. The Deepest Discount on Nicer Brands That Rarely Go On Sale
Some brands – ahem Gap, J.Crew – build their whole P&L around deep sales throughout the year, but lots of love-to-have brands only offer one sale per year. And that sale most likely happens during Black Friday and the holidays.
Brands like Schott, Tanner Goods, Corridor, Taylor Stitch, and many mom-and-pop style brands offer their best sales during Black Friday…why would you not add-to-cart if you've been eyeing something for awhile?
While it is possible to get some items from some brands at deeper discounts other than during the holidays, that's usually relegated to clearance sales, meaning the chance of getting something in the size and color you want is a tense roll of the dice.
3. Hobbies You Love
If you're anything like me, you find it hard spending money on hobbies you actually love. Sure, paying $100 for work pants, of course. Paying an extra $5 for the healthier brand, I get it. Paying $500 for a course that will advance my skills or career, wise investment.
But when it comes to those things I love doing just because I love doing them, it's always such a wishy-washy should I or shouldn't I.
For me, I love composing music in my down time. I do it irregularly and I have no interest in pursing it beyond that. While I do enjoy it – $500 for a new legato strings library…that's a tough sell.
However, Black Friday and the holidays are when you are most likely to get these hobby items on sale, whether that's athletic gear, music gear, beer-making gear, or basket-weaving gear. With, sigh, adult responsibilities, it's hard to justify the cost throughout the rest of the year and many of these things are just too expensive to be able to ask for as gifts.
If you're going to buy it ever, Black Friday is the day to do it. Consider this permission to invest in something you enjoy.
4. New Styles You're Curious About But Not All In On
For me, one of the biggest bottlenecks in evolving my personal style is not wanting to overpay for something I don't end up wearing. But, the answer can't be only buy styles your sure of, otherwise you'll just be buying and wearing the same thing forever.
Regardless of where you come down on specific trends, the reality is, on a long enough timeline, fits, patterns, colors, and combos come and go. The Primer philosophy is two fold: Anchor your style in a more enduring aesthetic; and pay wisely for things you're experimenting with. There will rarely be a better time than Black Friday to pay less than you would for a better quality garment.
5. Big Ticket Items
Even with brands that offer relatively regular sales throughout the year, you almost always run into the dreaded fine print: “exclusions”.
Bigger ticket pulls like leather jackets, nice denim (and even not so nice denim), wool dress pants, and others, are often excluded from a run-of-the-mill weekend sale.
But on Black Friday, most retailers offer straight cuts store or site-wide. That means if you have a favorite pair of higher-priced chinos that rarely go on sale, Black Friday weekend is the prudent time to get the second color you've been needing.
6. Proper Running Shoes
Do you have the right athletic shoes for your biomechanics and fitness application?
Unless your answer is something like, “I’m a heel-striker with moderate pronation who feels best in a medium-supportive shoe,” probably not.
Improper shoe fit, overwear, and poor shoe construction is a leading cause of running injuries. The same is true of cross-training and gym applications. How many times have you seen a guy on the treadmill in Chuck Taylors? His knees won’t be thanking him at 50.
Luckily, the science of shoe fit and build materials has come a long way. The majority of shoes have a max lifespan of about 500 miles, which is easy to log even if you’re not a dedicated runner. And any signs of excessive wear – or joint aches and pains – mean its time to trade them in.
So for this pair, invest the time and cash in a pair of running shoes that’s best for your body and activity.
Most dedicated running stores have the equipment to perform gait analysis, determine if yours is neutral, pronating, or supinating, and recommend the right kind of trainer for your biomechanics.
They can also break down the different tiers of shoe, and looking at dedicated running shoe brands like Brooks, Mizuno, New Balance, and Asics will add a bit to the price but a lot to the quality. The trick to saving on running shoes is that…they're all kind of ugly anyway. Buy what works for your body, even if that model is a couple of seasons old, on Black Friday clearance, and looks like something Steve Jobs wore to work.
7. Find Out Your Ancestry (And More)
23andMe pioneered at-home genetic testing kits and in the process picked up a lot of buzz – so much so there’s a sub-genre of Youtube videos featuring people revealing their ancestry.
Apart from the (potentially) surprising and definitely interesting insights into your heritage, springing for the in-depth Health & Wellness package opens up a whole suite of useful information.
23andMe offers 10+ reports on genetic health risks (like Parkinson’s), if you’re a carrier for conditions (like Hereditary Hearing Loss), and “fun ones,” like your biological tendency for unibrow-ism.
It’s the perfect balance of insightful and practical – you have a conversation piece for the holiday meal and data you can use to plan your healthcare for decades to come.
It is so reliably on sale during Black Friday and the holidays, you'd be crazy to buy it any other time of year.
8. Stock Up On Sweaters
You've no doubt received many a sweater over the years as holiday gifts.
You may have assumed it was because Aunt Dorothy or your college girlfriend or whoever was trying upgrade your closet or improve your style.
But that's not the real reason.
In the run up to the holidays, sweaters are discounted more than any other time during the year. You can easily find well made knits for under $50, and if you're being a diligent self-gifter while you're out making your holiday shopping rounds, you can even find cashmere sweaters at the lowest you'll see them. Retailers bank on last-minute shoppers settling on a sweater in a stressed panic – it's a safe and unassuming gift for every single member of the family.
So don't feel guilty when none of the 5 sweaters in your bag are for anyone else but you. Know you're getting the best deal of the year.