consumerism

I'm Skipping Black Friday

You know what today is, right? BLACK FRIDAY! It’s practically an official holiday in the US. For many people, the day after Thanksgiving plunges us into a fever pitch of gift-buying and budget-breaking. And whether you love or hate gift buying and giving, I’m willing to bet it’s a source of stress either way.

A couple of years ago, I decided this kind of pressure wasn’t serving me or my family. This year I’m taking advantage of the holiday weekend to spend quality time with my husband instead of worrying about a holiday that is over a month away. So, in the spirit of trying something new, here are a few quick ideas for how to avoid the online shopping cart or the shopping mall parking ramp today.

  1. Homemade Spice Mixes: What do taco seasoning, italian seasoning and pumpkin pie spice all have in common? Well, not much, but they’re all blends of different spices. When you gather the ingredients of these blends, combine them, throw them in a jar, label and gift them, then you’re a hero! Google “homemade spice blends” or try this list of recipes.

  2. Homemade Mustard: Who doesn’t love mustard?! Okay, well, kids perhaps. But I would love to receive a gift like this. Here is a recipe I’ve been meaning to try out for sometime.

  3. Custom Herbal Tea Blends: If you’ve ever looked at the ingredients of your favorite herbal tea, you’ve probably noticed several recognizable (and some unrecognizable) herbs. If you have access to a grocery store or a coop with a good bulk section, you’re likely to find many of these herbs or teas in loose leaf form. Alternatively, it’s easier than ever to order them online. (One responsible source is Mountain Rose Herbs.) Just be sure to label the blend in case the recipient needs to avoid certain herbs due to pregnancy or other health constraints.

  4. For Kids: Never underestimate the power of re-gifting. If your child is old enough, consider some items you’re not using anymore in the garage—an old hammer, a wheelbarrow you wanted to replace anyway, a tire they can use to build a garden or home for their lego creations. Maybe you have a few wild sweaters and old ties that could be gifted for the dress-up bin. And never, ever forget about the magic of a big, empty box. Or a lot of boxes. You could even make a day of decorating the boxes with your children, then use them to build a fort.

  5. For your pets: it’s adorable to watch pets open gifts, it really is. But if you’re trying to save money, just skip it this year. If you love it when your dog rips open a package, then smear some peanut butter in the bottom of a paper bag, roll up the top, and invite your pup to go to town. And gather around (giving Fido plenty of room to work out the puzzle), because I guarantee this will be 10 minutes of hilarity.


This is meant to be a fun, perhaps useful, list, but I definitely acknowledge that making your own gifts can be stressful too! And while it’s fun to think about how to avoid overspending, it’s also important to acknowledge that we live in a culture that encourages consumerism and materialism. Maybe you’re so over mindless spending that you’re ready to make a larger investment in something that lasts, like your health, daily habits, and sense of ease. If so, I’m here for you.

Investing V. Spending: What's the Difference?

I have made some very poor decisions in my life. Particularly in terms of money. In my past, I smoked, drank too much, took trips I couldn’t afford. More recently, I’d spend money on trendy workout clothes, self-help books, massages, visits to the chiropractor. (Self-care is one thing, and very important, but I’d get massages to “relax” while continuing to live my life on overdrive. This did not pan out.) Just yesterday, I purchased a fancy decaf latte because I felt stressed.

Spending

This kind of emotional spending isn’t just my problem. It’s a cultural issue. We’ve learned that buying something will make us feel better, and it does… momentarily. Our brains release dopamine when we’re rewarded, even if we reward ourselves. Pretty soon, we’re caught in a feedback loop with no end. Feel Bad > Buy Something > Feel Excitement > Feel Nothing > Feel Bad > … and so on.

We do all kinds of mindless spending to prop ourselves up. Whether it’s that gingerbread latte because we deserve a treat, new clothes because we feel bad about our looks, or a case of wine because it’s a good deal—we are masters at justifying spending. But if you totaled up all the treats and deals, you’ll probably find that you have little to show for all that money spent except for momentary gratification. We call this a “victim mindset.” You feel assaulted by stress, chaos and worry, so you react to the emotions and treat yourself to feel better. And what’s left after the treat and the flash of gratification? The underlying problem, of course.

Investing

Investing is different than spending in that investing yields long-term positive returns. Typically, making an investment costs a lot up front, whether money or time or both. And that always feels terrifying. But investing is about more than feeling good in the moment. It’s a way to feel better, live more fully, and fulfill your potential in the long run. Someone who makes investments is someone with a “responsibility mindset.” This means admitting that there is a problem and a pattern, and making a proactive choice to address the issue.

How do you know what to invest in? Start with your values. Investing in what is important to you will enrich your life. But what ARE your values? If you give it a little thought, you probably already know the answer. Listen here, and I’ll guide you through an easy process to help you identify them. Once you’ve identified what’s important to you, you may realize that your spending habits have not been lining up with your values. That’s when it’s time to take responsibility. It’s time make a change.

Infinite Returns

You may be used to thinking about investing as money you put in stocks or mutual funds, or in your 401K. That’s an investment in your financial future that will pay you a return in your golden years. Now, think about the return on your investment in self-care. What if you added up all the money and time you are spending to make you feel better—lattes, clothes, girls’ night out, et cetera—and compared it to the return? Would you say that it’s really paying off? Are you getting the benefit that you truly need and desire?

If you do the accounting and find that the real outcome you want is not worth the expense, it’s time to solve the underlying problems that the consumerism and indulgences are trying to solve. When you align your time and money with your values and invest in what your body, mind, and spirit really need to feel healthy and strong, you will see returns quickly. And what’s even more amazing is that those returns continue to grow as you experience a vibrant body, a wise mind, and true joy in your life.

This is a truly counter-cultural shift. You’ll need support to make this shift from spending to investing in yourself. Find a buddy, or a whole community of others who are are also investing in themselves. You’ll go farther faster when you share the ups and downs of this journey.

Invest in yourself now and receive infinite returns both in the short- and long-term.