The Occupy Wall Street movement and a high unemployment rate have changed the way people are thinking about consumerism. Many are leaving their banks in favor of credit unions while others plan to shop locally and avoid big box retailers this holiday season.
“I tend to avoid big box stores all year round, not just during the holidays,” said SLCC student Rebecca Shelton. “I don’t like the atmosphere of the big box stores. I tend to get really overwhelmed by all the people and all of the choices. I also feel that a lot of what is offered at the bigger stores tends to be fairly low quality and generic. A lot of these items are made cheaply and aren’t intended to last, so I don’t see the point in spending my money on cheaply made products.
My family is very artistic, so quite often we will exchange homemade gifts. I prefer to make and exchange homemade gifts. I feel that it means so much more when someone takes the time to make you something they think you will enjoy instead of just giving a gift card or picking up some random gift, simply because there is pressure to give presents during the holidays.”
Saving money, supporting local businesses, giving back to the community and leaving less of an impact on the environment are all reasons that many people want to do something a little different this holiday season. By foregoing malls, parking lots and the frenzy of Black Friday, many people are choosing a less stressful way to give gifts this year.
“Sitting around the dinner table out at the farm last Thanksgiving, the subject of what to do about Christmas came up,” wrote Brian Smith in the Environment News Service. “How would we organize a family gathering now that we kids are grown and scattered across the state? Whose house would we use? How would we deal with the whole gift-giving thing?”
“Everyone seemed completely unenthusiastic about engaging in another orgy of shopping and crowds and waste,” Smith continued. “There was the sense of duty of course: to tradition, to the nation. The TV newscaster claimed that the very health of the US economy depended upon our generous holiday spending. Christmas consumerism is patriotic. Don’t think about it too much, just shut up and shop.”
Smith’s family echoes a lot of the growing sentiments around the country. Families want a more meaningful way to celebrate the holidays. His family set certain rules for gift-giving which centered around reducing, re-using and recycling, such as giving a gift that is handmade or something that was previously owned.
“We all saved a ton of money. We had a lot more fun. We never even stepped foot in a mall or felt the crush of the holiday traffic. We contributed nothing to the local landfill. And best of all, we knew the presents we gave and received had all come from the heart,” he concluded.
Many people are boycotting big companies this holiday season in favor of contributing back to their communities and shopping locally.
“I do like to spend my money for toys with Tutoring Toy instead of hitting the big boxes or the net, because not only are they local, the owners are friends,” said Geneva Lawrence, a local shopper. “I prefer to spend my money in ways that feed the people I know, or at least the people I live with in this community. It sometimes means I pay more for the items I want. That’s okay with me. I’ll buy fewer things but make the ones I do purchase count.”
There are organizations such as Adbusters, The Center for the New American Dream and Buy Nothing Christmas (BNC) that help people find new and alternative ways of Christmas spending. BNC began in North America in 2001 as a way to try to de-commercialize Christmas. BNC centers its message on making and celebrating Christmas rather than buying one. BNC works in conjunction with Adbusters on an event called Buy Nothing Day in which stores are boycotted on Black Friday.
“We are all going to have to buy some things,” states BNC’s website. “When you do buy things, we encourage you to remember principles like buying locally, fairly-traded, environmentally friendly packaging, recycling or re-using, buying things that last, and so on. The main aim of this campaign is not to save money (although that can be a side benefit), it’s not to slow down the pace of Christmas (although that can be a side benefit), it is to challenge our over-consumptive lifestyle and how it affects global disparities and the earth. So, even though you might buy a few things at Christmas, it’s important to think in these global economic terms.”
There is also a growing movement called Small Business Saturday as a way to support your local businesses the day after Black Friday. Businesses such as American Express are seeing the importance of small businesses and want to get in on the action of shopping small.
“The 2nd annual Small Business Saturday is a day dedicated to supporting small businesses on one of the busiest shopping weekends of the year,” states the Small Business Saturday website. “On November 26, we’re asking millions of people to shop small at their favorite local stores and help fuel the economy. When we all shop small, it will be huge.”