Monday, November 19, 2012

Black Friday & Lessons in Simplicity

This post is particularly geared for those of you who are attempting to live a more simple life.  It's often challenging to work on a simple life around the holidays, while the rest of the world goes into a spending frenzy.

Ahh, the madness of Black Friday/Cyber Monday!!!  I must admit, last year I participated in Black Friday.  In previous years, I had avoided it like the plague, imagining elbows being thrown over some great "deal" and the air permeating greedy and desperation.  In an effort to avoid some of this, I shopped later in the morning and fortunately I don't pay attention to what's "hot" for the year.  My plan was to first make a list, then look at the sales online, then pick a couple stores I thought would have some items on my list on sale.

Honestly, the best part was that my husband was happy to watch the kids for half of the day while I was able to shop in peace...alone.  In addition, I enjoyed coming home to report that I had purchased many items off my list.  My favorite "score"  was my daughter's ice skates that she "had to have" at something like 30% off.

This year, I won't be participating and I'm not sure I will again. I'm absolutely not judging anyone who is going out this year.  I actually feel like some of my stereotypes about shoppers that day and all the hype has dissipated a bit, and now don't feel like I'm really missing out on anything. Good luck!

I am, however, intentionally avoiding these days to shop. I find two primary pitfalls of this whole "Black Friday/Cyber Monday" events.  First of all, I think we are often tempted to buy things just because they are such a good deal. I'm familiar with that initial feeling of that deal.  But do we really NEED this product?  By purchasing something you wouldn't have normally purchased, even if it is a good deal, you might end up spending more money overall. In addition, you have gained more possessions to clutter your home.  From a simplicity standpoint, making impulse purchases like these cloud our spiritual well-being.  Instead, we should be looking to purchase items intentionally for their usefulness or beauty in mind.  If you think back to impulse purchases you've made in the past, have you honestly used these items regularly?  Have any of these items been gathering dust in your cabinets, basements, or been sold off cheap in a yard sale? Maybe some have been winners, some not. How many broke after being used only a few times? My point is to try to encourage you to think ahead of what you really need and steer away from those impulse items.

My second issue is about how this "holiday" tends to corrupt our culture overall.  Do you think that supporting these box stores like Walmart who have these rock bottom prices, mandating that their employees come in on Thanksgiving, are really contributing to the better good?  When you are choosing to support businesses like this on these holidays, in encourages them to continue to do this.  In fact, next year they want to make more profit and will come up with a strategy to do so.  In the meantime, the small businesses who choose to stay home and be with family, who absolutely can't compete with those prices, and who value fair wages are the big losers.

What happens when we choose the box stores?  The Walmarts stick around (or abandon cities when they aren't making enough profit), and the small businesses close up shop.  Then those business owners whom you love to visit and know who you by your name (and love your precious little baby you are holding while shopping) will be something you remember that used to be around.  "Oh I loved that store."  "Oh the owner, Mary, was so sweet and friendly."  Can you think of some small businesses or boutiques you used to enjoy going inside?

Here's a scenario:  The box store's bakery is probably a couple dollars cheaper, tastes pretty good, and is open 24 hrs. It's an easy purchase, especially if you are shopping for other items in their store. Let me ask you this- Do you feel different when you walk inside your local bakery shop, breathe in the wonderful smells, and actually see the owner of that business greeting you with a smile on their face?  I know I do.  I sometimes walk out feeling a million dollars when I know I am supporting a specific person in my community who has put love into what they are producing and appreciates my business.

Have you also started to notice that the media and these big stores with huge marketing dollars are adding on days for shop in their store?  Now we have extended hours in the middle of the night and you now can come on Thursday, the actual day we have traditionally stayed home to give thanks with our family.  Those family members and friends of yours who work in retail might not be joining your family dinner soon, and might not be able to just relax and spend time with family.  What's next?  Is this going to become a week long event?  I've had a hard enough time going into stores with Christmas music playing and all the fall decorations taken down.  I was even in a store the day after Halloween and they were pushing Christmas already.  Sheesh!

Final thoughts on simplicity and the upcoming holiday (I know this has been lengthy!).  Please consider less "toys" and "stuff" for your kiddos this holiday. If you have fewer, high-quality items and also trying to pick ones that you know your kids will play with over and over again, this will make your holiday experience richer for your kids and you.  Your wallet (and budget) won't even know the difference.


Jen Starks, Owner

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