Friday, November 20, 2009

Buy Nothing Day

Well, as "Black Friday" approaches yet again, I'll once again mention that November 27 is "Buy Nothing Day" as well. There's a movement to de-emphasize our roles as "consumers" and return to being "people" and not taking part in the spending frenzy of "Black Friday" is a big part of that. Of course, with the economy in the shape it's in, buying something to help retailers and producers get out of the red and into the black seems vaguely patriotic, as the breathless reports of sales and "consumer confidence" will set the tone for the rest of the holiday season, and the economic attitude for the year ahead. It's like a Hollywood blockbuster... if it doesn't have a massive "opening weekend" then it's considered a failure. So, I guess decide for yourself: resist the urge to be defined by how much you spend, or be part of jumpstarting the economy.

A new book takes it a step further... Scroogenomics by Joel Waldfogel proposes that people stop purchasing holiday gifts, or gifts of any kind, because in general, people don't value gifts as much as it costs the giver to purchase them. Only about 25% as much as was spent. So if two friends each buy $100 gifts for the other, chances are, they'll value what they received at about $25, whereas if they'd spent that money on themselves, they would each value what they bought at $100, or possibly more. Little kids get hooked on ripping open packages, and like getting toys and such, so you have a fighting chance that they'll value what you buy them. But teens to adults to seniors, not so much. Many people already have way too much stuff as it is. This makes a lot of sense to me, actually, as being one who's tough to buy for -- to the point of feeling guilty if I get a gift that I don't like, but that the giver obviously spent a good deal of money to buy.

Waldfogel suggests buying gift cards instead of actual gifts, but that's not guaranteed either. A comedian (I can't recall) said something like "a gift card isn't a gift -- it's an errand. You're telling that person to go the the store you choose, and spend time finding something they want because you were too lazy to do it yourself." Plus, the recipient usually can't find something for exactly $25, so they either leave money on the card, or have to spend a little of their own on the purchase.

So, maybe the answer is to give the gift of yourself. Rather than spending time and money buying some "gift item" and shipping it off to a friend, sit down and write them an actual letter, or make plans to get together, or make a commitment to yourself that you'll talk on the phone with them more regularly. It could really be the gift that keeps on giving.

The shot is the gifted Hayley, from about 2 years ago. Sounds like she may be getting back into modeling once again!


Michael said...

Enjoy your work.

If you have to buy gifts then buy locally. Not chains or franchise but local. Most of the money spent there is returned to the local economy. Less than a third with a chain or franchise. Nothing is returned if you by on the web.

Lin said...

It's rare I meet a like-minded soul when it comes to this (highly controversial) subject. We are in complete agreement though! And yes, I will certainly be observing "Buy Nothing" day :-)