As the infamous Black Friday approaches, each day my inbox becomes more and more clogged with deals, steals and must-have-or-you-will-most-definitely-die gift ideas.
J.Crew, The Loft, Pacers, The Clymb, you name it—and they are sending me some kind of promotional email regarding the upcoming “holiday.” While I am certainly a fan of saving money, I am not a fan of spending money on frivolous things just to “save” money.
I’m not intentionally trying to be a Negative Nancy or Debbie Downer, but over the past few months I have had a bit of an awakening of sorts. As I deepen my yoga practice, I am able to more clearly and objectively see the underlying motivation behind behaviors that I once deemed “normal.”
One of these behaviors is gift-giving. While I LOVE making my family and friends feel adored. I find that 9 times out of 10, the gift-giving process is a stressful and unrewarding experience.
I spend months trying to think of the “perfect” gift, get frustrated at my lack of creativity and then spend entirely too much money on some random bath and body products at the mall. The receiver loses. I lose. And the only winner is whatever corporation skillfully conned me into thinking that their special holiday product would be just the ticket!
When I think back to some of the best gifts I ever gave, they weren’t elaborately expensive pieces of jewelry or fancy electronics, they were tiny but meaningful things—things that I knew would bring absolute joy to the recipient, not because of the price tag, but because they knew that I really understood them. And conversely, when I think about the greatest gift I have ever received, it wasn’t anything that could be found in a store. It was something as simple as a photograph, given with the love and adoration that only someone who knew me best could provide.
But those gifts are rare.
By in large, most of the gifts I have received have eventually either been given away, thrown away or lost. Every time, I pack up to leave a place, I find boxes and boxes of material things that I never use. They just keep following me around from place to place.
During my most recent move, I started to think about all of the hundreds of dollars that had been wasted. On what? To see me smile? Or was it simply to fill a social obligation?
There are so many people who don’t even have their basic needs met, yet here we are exchanging gifts that we will pack up into boxes and move around the country. It just doesn’t add up.
And sure, it IS the thought behind the gift that counts. I appreciate all the gifts I have received, not because of the gift itself, but because the gift-giver cared enough about me to put forth the effort. So if that is true, then why the gift at all? Why isn’t the thought enough?
I may be biased, but personally, I feel one of the best gifts you can give this holiday season is the gift of conscious consumerism.
Spread the message: Let the thought be enough. Give the gift of love by spending time and paying attention to those you care about. I promise they will appreciate that act a million times more than a back massager and a pair of new slippers.
To really kick that good ol’ American consumerism habit, please take the time to ask yourself the following questions before making a purchase this holiday season:
What is my motivation for making this purchase?
If you are making the purchase to fulfill a social obligation, put it back.
If you are making the purchase to give yourself a peace of mind, put it back.
If you are making the purchase solely because the other person gave you a gift, put it back.
If you are making the purchase simply because you find enjoyment in spending money, please, by all means, PUT IT BACK.
How confident am I that the person for which I’m purchasing this gift, would be pleased by receiving it?
If the answer is anything less than 95%, put it back.
Is this gift going to increase the overall satisfaction of said individual’s mental or physical well-being?
If the answer is no, put it back.
Is this gift promoting environmental sustainability?
If the answer is no, put it back.
Remember, every purchase you make sends a message. The money you spend represents a stamp of approval for the companies with which you choose to do business.
Please do your homework and place that stamp of approval with companies that love our planet and its inhabitants.
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Editor: Paige Vignola