Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Silliness of Buy Nothing Day

It’s coming. Only one more day: Black Friday. And its bizarro twin: Buy Nothing Day.

I always get a kick out of BND and even more so, how much effort organizations like Adbusters throw at it. “A” for effort, but frankly it falls short. Trying to raise the red flag of over-consumption one day out of the year is pointless. For me, it’s like America Recycles Day. It’s like trying to stop an out of control freight train with some kite string, duct tape, and three-hour-old chewing gum. Sorry MacGyver.

Humans consume. Western, developed societies gorge. Mmmm, consumer gluttony at its finest. The pace is unsustainable; we all know that. Yet, we go on trucking, feeding (filling) the desire (void) for more (an escape).

What I really get a kick out of is all this talk about stimulus packages. What’s the cure-all for this financial version of pandemic bird flu? A check from Uncle Sam. Spend your way out of what ills you. But heck, if the federal government is feeding their debt machine, why shouldn’t you and while you’re at it, fill your life/homes with more stuff? I do not want to be around when the Federal Debt Reaper comes-a-knockin'...

So let’s take a step back and reconsider a more prudent approach to over-consumption and pointless, superficial spending. While we need to dial back the Stuff Meter on all fronts throughout the year (and I think I’ll be talking about this more with time), there are some more apropos things given the season:

Just (Don’t) Do It. Cherish quality time with friends and family; catch up with them; talk, laugh, and maybe even cry if you want. It’s each other, not the stuff we give, that people really want down deep inside.

Stick to Your Core. If you’re going to spend the money anyway, avoid the headache and hassle of buying all those little things for the extended family and friends. They don’t want or need it (and we all acknowledge this on some level, don’t we?). Consider pooling that money instead and donating it to a worthwhile charity. Then give all those people a card letting them know you did just that. We’ve done that for the past few years and people really like it.

Suggest the Same to Friends. You could be blatant and just drop the message in an email, but there’s a new, more cordial way to ask friends and family to donate what they might spend on you. Redefine Christmas is a site that connects you (and your loved ones) to over 1.5 million charities that could use your money to help others.

Go Homemade or Local. You just can’t beat this one. If you can do it yourself, even better. Sara (my wife) loves to cook so we’ve done cookies, treats, flavored oils, etc. in the past. She is handy with the sewing machine too, so one year we gave everyone pajama bottoms. Sure, not everyone has the time or talent to do that, but consider supporting one of our local merchants in town for your gift needs. You’ll feel even better supporting our local economy.

Honestly, I don’t know about you, but we’re taking a hard look at everything we spend money on and looking at ways to keep everything simple. But you know what, we’re not feeling deprived. It’s all about attitude and getting back to what’s really important. And our kids – they don’t know the difference. They are just happy playing with each other and us. Excessive want of material things is a learned behavior.

I like to think that the silver lining to our current economic free-fall will be the way it causes us to once again look inward, slow down, and get back to more of the basics; be more frugal in our daily consumption; and balance out the need vs. want factor. One small (but important) step at a time.

(Image Source: Adbusters)

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