During this season of Black Friday, and holiday sales, I’d like to offer some thoughts on an alternative-Not Buying It. Ways to change your behavior so that you can take a step back from consumer culture. This topic has interested me for years and authors and bloggers keep coming up with new ways to…buy nothing. Most recently in 2015, outdoor retailer REI decided to close on Black Friday, pay their employees for the day, and encourage all of us to #OptOutside .
2001 After 9-11, President Bush is rumored to have said just go shopping-he really didn’t say it that way; his statement was more highfalutin’-he suggested ‘continued participation and confidence in our economy.’ It was Mayor Giuliani who actually said go to restaurants and go shopping-on Sept 12th. Then the American public was practicing patriotism at the mall, and the ball games….and then the bubble happened…
2006 was when a funny piece in the Atlantic by the writer and actress Sandra Tsing Loh, was published. It was called Cheap Thrills: American Women in Financial Jeopardy. It was about women and money, Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA’s) and shopping. Tsing Loh wrote about her friend Carolyn, who wanted to lose weight and proceeded to lose 12.5 pounds in three months. She also lost a lot from her wallet. Fees and food from Jenny Craig, some nice running shoes-only $100, a new haircut, a gym membership at $40/month etc. And last but not least, the new $300 distressed jeans in two sizes down-only $300.
It cost her $196.50 per pound.
I can distress anyone’s jeans for less than $300, just sayin’. By the way, by her own admission, Tsing Loh comes from a very cheap immigrant family-her sister once gave her a library book for Christmas with a time limit on it for return.
2006 Judith Levine in her book, Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping, links her shopping memories to Sept 11th as well-“Buy that big screen TV or the terrorists will have won!”
2008: Remember September 15th 2008 when Senator McCain was feeling Presidential and said “the fundamentals of our economy are basically fine, despite tremendous turmoil…just before Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy. Recession and many people have struggled with their finances-fair, fowl or fun money. Still are-According to Al Lewis’s Emporium WSJ column, the people wrote in to say two words: We’re broke.
“We want to maintain our financial strength, not transfer it to the mass market retailers.”
— “I already own 50 neckties, three cars, four TVs, etc. Why should I blow money on Chinese junk at Target and Wal-Mart when I can save money for retirement?”
2008-2010 For many of us, the Great Recession changed our buying habits, albeit involuntarily. However, there have been many enlightening stories written in the last 15 years about people’s voluntary changes in their relationship with consumer culture, stuff and even patriotism. Before that it was Voluntary Simplicity, a movement pioneered by authors Cecile Andrews , Janet Luhrs, and Duane Elgin, among others.
In summary, whether you reduce your things down to 100 for a year, (2012 link to TedX video from author Dave Bruno) or some other number, go cold turkey like Judith Levine and her husband did for one year, stop spending $200/pound to lose weight or some other self-improvement scheme, try something new this holiday season. Maybe you have gotten very good at substitutions (library for bookstore) (brand declines-Nordstrom to Macy’s to Marshall’s to thrifting) You can observe Buy Nothing Day on Black Friday – and on Thanksgiving.
You and your family could even introduce these ideas around the Thanksgiving table for some lively conversations. I’d love to hear how that works!
- 11/16/2013 Shopping Log, Or the First Anti-Shopping Log (extremecheapness.wordpress.com)
- Thanksgiving shopping ruffles Facebook readers (pressrepublican.com)