Monday, November 24, 2008

Buy Nothing Day

Popular legend has it that the day after Thanksgiving, “Black Friday,” is the busiest shopping day of the year. Anti-consumerist activists have for some years been designating this day “Buy Nothing Day.” This is a day not to go to the mall, not to add to the balance on your credit cards, but rather to start thinking about how to spend this holiday season giving the gift of love, of self, rather than of material goods.

This year, of course, we’re in recession, so is it irresponsible to “Buy Nothing” when the economy depends so much on consumer spending? Well, as Juliet Schor points out in this post on the Center for a New American Dream website, it was financial shenanigans and the housing bubble that caused the problem. For an economic recovery, the pump will need to be primed at a level high above the average consumer.

In addition, many Americans are in hock up to their ears with credit card and mortgage debt, and the wiser option at this stage is to cut down on purchases, pay down debt, and increase the rate of savings, which hovers around zero for Americans. (According to Consumer Reports, in 2006, 23% of shoppers were still carrying holiday-related credit card debt the following March.)

Remember that the cost of every purchase includes not just the price of the item but the price to advertise it, ship it, package it and dispose of it when it breaks down. Much of this cost is in oil, something to think about in this time of global climate change.

And most importantly, real meaning and purpose cannot be found in the mall, or in the exchange of material goods. Real purpose can only be found in human connection, in time spent with friends and loved ones, in volunteering – generally giving the gift, not of stuff, but of self. And that’s the gift that keeps on giving.

(Of course, Jews who observe Shabbat know that “Buy Nothing Day” comes every week!)

1 comment:

Pokeberry Mary said...

I totally agree. It seems silly to me to fix the economy by getting even deeper in debt for dumb stuff. I've never been a mall gal. I do think its time to start stocking up on baking supplies though! This begins the best time of year to buy things like an extra turkey, flour, sugar, chocolate etc. People will use food and it hardly ever ends up in a rummage sale after the holidays.