Ah…Black Friday! Does it seem strange to anyone else that we celebrate consumerism the day after we remember all the things we have to be thankful for? It almost seems like a slap in the face, doesn’t it?
I like to talk about consumerism, and how we as a family are moving away from it. But, I’d be the first to admit that we are in no way immune from it. In fact, the unfortunate truth is we are a part of it, it surrounds us, and it is difficult to escape. We are not 100% self-sufficient, therefore when I speak on the topic I do so not as one on the outside looking in but as one on the inside.
How do I define consumerism? Consumerism is the antithesis of production. It’s equating happiness with material possessions. It’s buying stuff in hopes of finding peace and solving problems. It’s working, earning, and spending more and more in order to achieve a status sold to us by the culture.
Consumerism, is “good for the economy”. However, it’s unsustainable for the family as it places us into the bondage of consumption and debt pushing our dreams of self-sufficency further way.
It all seems to highten during the holidays, lead by a big Black Friday kick-off. It’s like super scary, mass hystaria! I realize that not everyone will go deeply into debt over the course of these next few weeks. Some people are careful to save throughout the year for this spending spree. But what for? So that everyone ends up with a massive amount of stuff that they don’t need! Even children, who just love opening presents more than anyone, don’t have time to even enjoy all of their new toys! My children, by many other U.S. household standards, don’t really have that much but they have more than most of the other children in the world; and, they are struggling this year to come up with a wish list.
So where do we go from here? We resist spending and save. See how simple that is (wink). Or at least we can try finding other ways to give gifts. I have mentioned before, that this often means changes to traditions and discussions with friends and family. It means doing things different and going against popular culture. But, if you’ve been walking this frugally sustainable life for any period of time you know that this just goes with the territory.
We CAN resist and save! All it takes is a realization that this season is not about buying things.
The Response…Your Response.
So what is this season about? I want to hear from you. Let’s start a comment frenzy! In an effort to encourage and inspire one another, answer any of these questions in the comment section below:
- What does this time of year mean to you?
- How will you celebrate in new ways?
- Are there discussions that need to take place with friends and family
- What will you do to reduce corporate consumption?
- Do you have money-saving tips to share with others who may be stuggling?
I am only buying from local businesses this year and from local crafters. Some of my gifts to the teens are pieces to make their gift and teach them to be crafty and tend to their own needs. I also am not buying food from the national chain markets. We have an employee owned food store and a year round farmers co-op so there is fresh food for our table. It is a small foot print but it is a start.
I couldn't agree more! We are reducing our 'gift giving' dramatically! We will also be making alot of our own gifts this year.
We struggle with the same issue. The world says buy and we try and shield ourselves from that same message. This time of year means staying AWAY from the malls and big box stores and instead giving our Christmas money to someone who needs it. This is hard for children. My money saving tip? Make a budget and stick to it. Life is so much better when your stuff doesn't own you.
You've hit the proverbial nail on the head. It has made me nauseous the past few years to see how the media and society in general is so fixated on material things. Thanksgiving has been trumped by Black Friday more and more each year. This year was finally extreme enough for numerous retail outlets to pull employees away from their loved ones so the stores could open on Thanksgiving afternoon/evening. I know some stores have been doing this for years, but this year took it to new heights all for the purpose of increasing revenue. I have 2 teenage boys and it has become more and more difficult each year for them to decide what they wanted for Christmas. I've explained to them it's because they have everything they NEED. Anything else is just excessive. Too many holiday discussions these days center around the quantity of gifts instead of the quality time spent with family/friends or the services you could be giving back to the community. People may feel awkward having a discussion with family/friends about foregoing gifts this year in exchange for something more meaningful, but the discussions need to happen if the is any hope for change in our future.
Agreed! Unfortunately I was in a different place last year. 80% of my Christmas shoppinf for this year was done before 2010 ended. I went to the after sales. I know have a TON of gifts in the top of our garage. Meant for certain people, but really could be for anyone. NEXT year, we are buying nothing. ALL our gifts will be made by the kids and I.
Combatting this is really hard because the in-laws go a little gift crazy. Period. It will be a fun and exciting year of teaching the kids (and us) about meaning and from the heart.
We are planning on most (hopefully ALL!) of our gifts this year to be made by us or purchased second hand. I've realized there isn't much that I can do about what our families give us but we can make more conscious choices about what we give them. I've also learned to let go of the guilt I used to have about donating gifts I will never like or use. I try and make requests from family of stuff I will actually like and use since it has to be new. Strangely, both of our parents are pretty against second hand stores.
Gifts this year will consist of thrifted books for the little ones (with a video of me reading them for the extra special ones!), homemade mustard, homemade vanilla extract, homemade lotion and deodorant, and homemade orangecello (like limoncello but with oranges). We have most of the ingredients for this stuff on hand already.
If you're crafty-like, check out http://www.purlbee.com/ for lots of awesome tutorials! I'm planning on making a few things from this site if I still have the time!
Also, I'm really grateful to have such wonderful friends in my life. A good friend recently had a birthday and I bought her gift second hand. When she opened it up she loved it and her first comment was "You better not have bought this new!!" She knows me better than that. 🙂 So, when my biological family gets me down over things like consumerism I always turn to my family of which I've chosen to be a part. It never fails to encourage and cheer me up!
Christmas is first and foremost about remembering Christ for our family. We try to focus on what he taught us. peace and Love. We like to do homemade gifts, and I start that process months in advance and try to finish it all by the second week of december so the rest of the month can be spent with my family, we try to do something everyday to celebrate the season. This year we are doing the Christmas book countdown. We try to keep the focus off of gifts and shopping, we try to keep the focus on family togetherness and just extending the thanksgiving spirit into giving and love and then onto self reflection and goals for the new year. Gifts are a very small part of the season for our family and by taking them away from the focus we are able to keep on our budget.
I am also trying my best to avoid all big box stores this year and am making or buying gifts from local small buisnesses or crafty types on etsy. I also had a hard time coming up with gift ideas this year! I feel that I have so much when others have so little, and I really don't NEED anything. This time of the year means to me the love of family, getting together and seeing those you don't see the rest of the year, counting your blessings, and remembering those who aren't lucky enough to have what you have and giving time or money to help them. Thank you for a wonderful post, I love to read everything you write.
I did not go Black Friday shopping this year. I've only gone 2 other times and it was kinda fun. I went with a girlfriend. This year, though, there was nothing that I needed. Plus, my teen aged son now works at Wal-Mart. He had to work overnight and actually should be home any minute. When he got to work at 9:00, he texted me and said "If you're planning to come, lines are already forming." …….Good Grief!!
On facebook, a friend said that she had been punched in the face……Yeah, there's some Christmas spirit!
Last year in line at Target, a college girl had been to Wal-Mart to get some of the $3 appliances. She's in college and needed them and at that price. She told of an elderly lady in line in front of her also to get the inexpensive appliances. Women were literally grabbing them out of their hands!!
And I just want to say, "Seriously???? Is this what Christmas means to you??? You're willing to literally fight over $3 crockpots?? They're only $9 on a regular day!!"
Its disgusting and I honestly was worried about my son's safety for having to work in it. And he's a black belt!
I read a lovely story a few years ago about a family that limited their entire Christmas spending, the family as a whole, to less than $100. That included not only gifts but decorations and food as well. They said it was the best Christmas ever. I would like to adopt that in my family as well.
I've been slowly challenging myself to craft gifts for this time of year. Of course my year was frantic so I am now working on crocheting little purses for my nieces. Did I mention this is HOW I am learning to crochet?
Other than that, I am working harder on buying from either local craftspeople or friends, or buying quality stuff secondhand. I'd rather give the money to people than chains.
Incidentally I am going to be sharing this post shortly on my fb page.
Tracey Davis says
It's all true, Andrea! I write about this very topic myself. The easy part for us is to avoid the spending within our own family. It gets trickier with friends and extended family who still equate this holiday time with stuff, stuff, and more stuff. Our solution so far has been to give consumables. Food, soaps, lotions, etc. Recent years have meant home made gifts for local people and commercial consumables for those far away. An added bonus for us is the money we've saved with this thoughtful spending and giving. The time is well worth the effort, too, when we can control the ingredients in the food we make.
Thanks for the post. Enjoy your Thanksgiving.
Jenni @ RainyDayGardener says
After spending years working in retail, I have no desire to join the madness of Black Friday so it's not difficult for me to stay home and get some shut eye 🙂 My husband and I have had conversations in the past with relatives we don't see that often but were still exchanging gifts with…well gift cards. We talked about it being a pointless exchange of money because we didn't know what the other household would want or use and now, just send a holiday greeting card. More family members are slowly coming around to the idea of shopping at small businesses, buying second hand or making gifts, like my husband and I do. It's hard to go against the grain of popular culture, and it is stressful to have some members of our family disapprove of our methods but we feel that it's necessary to stand up for our values.
We had to laugh yesterday as we passed close to 1000 people waiting in line at Best Buy. This year I have made an effort to make my own gifts and get the kids used toys at garage sales and stuff.
Stacy Makes Cents says
I couldn't agree with you more. 🙂 We try to make at least half of our gifts….and we also try to make sure that most gifts are useful and not just something to dust…..because really, who wants to dust??
Deborah Jean at Dandelion House says
We aren't fans of Black Friday madness either. The things we are exchanging don't come from Walmart…. they come from the Heart! Great post!
Teresa Arsenault says
Christmas is a time to reflect on the Gift of Christ and to enter into the spirit of giving. I like to give gifts and I like to receive them as well. But going into debt to do so is something I am no longer willing to do.
I keep a shelf and a box in my closet for storing gifts as I purchase them at discounted prices throughout the year. Some may gasp in shock, but I do some of my shopping at yard sales during the summer. For instance, I purchased a mint condition pink metal bunkbed set for dolls, with bedding, for $5 this summer. I bought a new set of twin dolls to go with the bunk beds and this is going to be a joint gift for the small daughters of our friends.
I also collect gifts for baby showers in the same manner. I am very particular about buying from yard sales, though. I have gotten things that are brand new and still in the store packaging or price tags still attached.
Our household has a yearly tradition of doing a grocery shop for our local food bank. Last year we ran out of time and just made a cash donation. It wasn't as much fun.
When our children were little, we used to let them pick out gifts for the Salvation Army Christmas tree in our local mall. It was fun to let them place their gifts under the big tree and know they were helping a child in need.
This year we have decided to not exchange gifts within our household of 3 adults. Maybe we will indulge ourselves a little bit. We might just do stockings.
Anyway, each year we focus more on giving to the poor, the less we seem to desire spending money on ourselves. It just seems less important.
Amen, Amen, Amen. I have NEVER shopped on Black Friday or Day After Christmas. Thanks for your wonderful words of wisdom today. I loved your post on consumerism. It's a sermon that needs to be preached consistently.
ragamuffin yogini says
We only give gifts on Birthdays and focus on family meals and spending time together on the other holidays. The hardest part is making folks understand that we don't give gifts and the second hardest part was owning it…by that I mean that for awhile it was uncomfortable receiving when you weren't giving, but that has eased as it we have made it known that we don't give gifts.
Funky Junk Interiors says
Well, it's apparently the season of giving. What to give is the real question isn't it?
I freely buy the things I can't make or find, such as computer equipment or phones that I need for work and recreation. As for the other stuff, I tend to find what I need a thrift stores for the most part and make what I want.
It sure doesn't hurt to be creative! But we do need some of those deals to get the things we need as well.
I guess we just have to really figure out WHAT we need and what we want.
Andrea K. H. Agüin says
I'll celebrate giving by giving things that come from my heart and not a pocketbook. All of my gifts will be hand made, which means thinking ahead a lot more and thinking a lot more about why it is I'm giving things to the people I love. Mostly I don't want my kids to grow up with expectations that I will never be able to fulfill, nor want to. I want them to enjoy simple handmade things, not things made from plastic molds and chemicals that ruin the planet and have no creating thinking or learning power. I'm really excited with the gifts I've been working on. I did go out and spend yesterday, at the craft store. Because being frugal means that it's smart to buy the things you need when they are affordeable. Unfortunately its a small way of contributing to the massive confusion that it this pointless non-holiday.
Wow, I have never thought about the largest day of consumerism following on the heels of Thanksgiving before. That's crazy. As far as our saving tips go: My family simply doesn't go crazy with gifts – that's not the reason we celebrate anyhow. We don't spend money we don't have. And, I like to make gifts for others.
last year instead of giving our adult siblings gifts we gave them each an invitation to dinner. We chose dining out (because that's something we rarely do) but it could be done with an invitation too. Even if you are close to your family sometimes setting aside the time to get together is harder than actually doing it. We are seriously considering that again this year. We loved that special time!
[email protected] Began In A Garden says
Christmas is, and always will be, about the birth of Jesus Christ, the Savior. And boy, does Black Friday show us just how much we need Him!!
And since God has been so generous in giving us the Gift of His Son, we try to be generous in giving to others, not necessarily family/friends, but to those who truly are in need.
We started out this year by serving up a community feast at our church for Thanksgiving. Next, we took ornaments from the Angel Tree, to get gifts for those who are in need this season. In December we will go to Charlotte to help process shoe boxes for Samaritan's Purse's Operation Christmas Child. These boxes will then be shipped overseas for distribution to needy children. I'm not sure what else we will do this year, we will just keep our eyes and hearts open to God's leading.
Have a Blessed Christmas Everyone!
I am a big believer in shopping local, buying American made, quality over quantity, and quality over the deal. My family knows, and we've had enough conversations that it's inspired them to think about the who/where/what/why of any purchase now too. We've changed a lot about our holiday celebrations. We try to focus more on the experience than on the things. I still like to decorate, shop, and give. But I enjoy it more now that I put thought into all each aspect, instead of just joining into the frenzy for the best deal. Thanks for this timely post – I appreciate it!
I appreciate your thoughts on consumerism. I agree very wholeheartedly!
Our family has tried to always be very careful in our celebration of Christmas that it NOT be based on consumerism and commercialism- however that is something we still have to be careful about and watch out for. Here are some of the things that we do to try to limit the consumerism:
-We only exchange gifts within our immediate family. We do send out operation Christmas child boxes and sometimes give a gift here or there but never is it done with the supposition that we will get something in return. Thankfully that is something that happened pretty easily and was mutually agreeable with the grandparents and other extended family.
-In our family we limit the amount of gifts to what can fit inside a Christmas stocking. If it doesn't fit it can't be given on that day.
-We try to give gifts that we have made as much as possible. (and much of the time that is made from something that we upcycled)
This might sound pretty sparse to some people but it works pretty well for us (though as I said- we are still trying to watch to make sure we don't just "buy something" in order to give a gift. I want to work harder to make every gift given to be meaningful and well thought out and not just end up being more junk to clutter our home)- our 4 kids think Christmas is wonderful even though they get much less than most.
As far as Money saving tips- I have been hosting a carnival at my blog every Tuesday where we talk about homemade (and generally very frugal!) gifts and decorations and such. I encourage others to share a link for ideas that they have as well.
Nicole Maki says
Our advent practices had gotten way out of hand – too many trips to the movies, new games, big surprises etc. So this year I decided to enjoy what we already have a little bit more. My kids are teens now so I wrapped up 24 of their favorite games (including decks of cards for poker, speed etc.) and during December we'll be unwrapping one each day and playing together as a family. You wouldn't believe how excited they are about toys that have been gathering dust on our shelf for years. My husband and I can't wait to open them either.
This is just one area where we are reducing and using what we already have but it's a start in the right direction.
Christmas is about the birth of Christ and about family for us. Not about the mall.
I blogged about our advent plans if you're interested:
For the past eleven years or so, we have read an Advent book by Arnold Ytree called Jotham's Journey. It is a sweet story to read every night during Advent. He has two other stories writtne from two other characters' points of view, and he has a newer book out for Lent. If you are serious about putting Christ in Christmas and putting off commercialism and entertainment that does not focus on the meaning of Christmas, these books are wonderful. We have given several for gifts to friends with children and have started these families on their own Advent-honoring traditions.,
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