Do you really want to be jostled by crowds in a big-box store, elbowing other shoppers aside to procure more cheap stuff made in China?
Is this how you want to live your life—saying grace and giving thanks one day, and racing through store aisles snatching up child’s toys the next?
Try this for a change: Buy nothing.
Buy Nothing Day is the brainchild of Adbusters, the same people behind Occupy Wall Street, and is scheduled each year on the day after Thanksgiving. You know, Black Friday (the busiest shopping day of the year) the day the Christmas-themed Muzak gets cranked to 11, the day people launch into a spending frenzy.
“Until we challenge the entrenched values of capitalism…we’re not going to be able to fix the gigantic psycho-financial-eco crisis of our times,” says Adbusters.
It’s a psycho-crisis all right, and this time it’s personal.
I’ve attempted to respect Buy Nothing Day for several years now.
I say “attempted” because it’s one thing to read a magazine’s anti-consumerist manifesto, and quite another to put it into practice for a day. And I use the word “respect” because this isn’t about waiting until, say, December 24th to buy peppermint soap for your sister. It’s about stepping back from the cancerous consumerist extravaganza that is the American Way—taking a hard look at one’s own participation in it, and making conscious choices from there.
For me, “Buy Nothing” means just that, leaving my cash and credit card in my wallet, and my wallet in my purse—closing the SquareWallet App on my phone, moving my mouse away from Buy It Now on eBay, away from 1-Click on Amazon, away from PayPal on Etsy.
It means spending no money at all, for an entire day—harder than you think.
No Gingerbread Soy Latte on the way to work. No popping into the grocery store for organic spinach and brown rice on the way back home.
This might seem extreme. After all, most of us have jobs to go to, and must put gas in the car. We have mouths to feed, starting with our own, and must put food on the table. However, this is not a call for people to begin hitchhiking and dumpster diving. And it’s not about saving money either—although that can be a bonus.
It’s about being mindful of where my money goes.
Maybe it’s about saving my soul?
Buy Nothing Day made me more aware of the daily trickle (or flood) of spending. Once I started paying attention, I noticed that I spent money somewhat mindlessly nearly every day on one thing or another. Usually, on stuff I wanted but didn’t really need.
That’s when I came across this photograph and tucked it in my wallet, next to the greenbacks:
Yeah, it’s hard to have a tiny child with an accusatory look on his pinched, wizened face watch you pull out some Washingtons for a candy bar. That’s why I keep it there. Not to stay thin, but to keep myself conscious of what I’m spending those Washingtons on.
No one really needs a Gingerbread Soy Latte.
How ‘bout a year?
Judith Levine curbed her spending by foregoing the purchase of lattes, and most everything else, for an entire year (in New York City, no less!). Read all about it in her book Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping. May I suggest checking it out from your local library?
Americans are not the only ultra-capitalists of the world.
I was recently in Beijing, China, and seized the opportunity to see the Great Wall. It was impressively huge and amazing, a marvel of engineering. And it was also a tourist trap, complete with stalls full of cheap souvenirs made in (where else?) China.
After surviving the gauntlet of vendors shoving stuffed pandas in my face while shouting, “One dollar! One dollar!”, I came to this conclusion: the Chinese political system may be Communist, but beneath every Chairman Mao jacket beats the heart of a die hard Capitalist.
(Full disclosure: I bought a stuffed panda for my mom. And puerh tea for myself. I’m not a saint.)
Now, can we take a day off from all that?
How ‘bout Friday?
Like elephant journal on Facebook
Assistant Editor: Laura Ashworth/Editor: Bryonie Wise
Image: adbusters.org & Jenny Beatty