"Self-gifting" and the buying-stuff holiday: Just don't do it

Categories: Breeality Bites

This face means shopping feels good, right?
My family doesn't exchange Christmas gifts anymore. A few years ago, we decided to stop the madness -- shopping cost too much, took up too much time and didn't seem to serve anyone in a positive way. I've never been much of a gifter to begin with, partially because I don't have a lot of money, but also because buying my loved ones things they will probably hate/throw in the trash/never take out of the package seems dumb and wasteful.

But we live in a culture of stuff, adorning ourselves with things that are supposed to express who we are and tell the world how much money we make (and in turn, tell the world what we think other people think we are worth). Our stuff-obsessed culture is just as much about buying stuff as it is about having stuff -- the deal or discount or sale through which we acquired the gift item is just as important as the gift itself. Between the day after Halloween and Christmas Eve, our stuff-buying is at a twitchy, addictive high -- we are buying, buying, buying with no end in sight. And often, we are buying stuff for ourselves in a strange phenomenon that has been coined "self-gifting."

See also:
- I'm an idiot, and other misconceptions about retail employees
- Cleaning house: Goodbye crap, hello freedom!
- The real story behind "Black Friday"

When I heard the term "self-gifting" last week on NPR, I almost spit my coffee all over my steering wheel. We're really to a point now where buying things for ourselves -- especially during the "gift-giving" holiday season -- has its own term? Shouldn't it just be called "I'm so selfish I had to take advantage of this discount on a thing I didn't need because I wanted to buy myself more crap?"

I know, I'm being unfairly negative toward this lovingly embraced lifestyle of consumption: Just because I had a personal revelation about how I didn't need or want all of my "stuff" anymore doesn't mean the rest of the world has changed its view. But why should we be buying ourselves things during this time of the year at all?

Black Friday used to describe the day when companies hoped to make a profit through a bump in early holiday shopping. But now it feels like Black Friday has become an obligation for consumers: We are supposed to live for this day of deals, stay up all night preparing to shop until we puke, and feel every emotion associated with shopping until we can't feel anymore. In turn, our insane shopping habits are then to blame for making salespeople leave family gatherings on Thanksgiving, all so they could and sell us stuff before the official Black Friday holiday of stuff even began.

At least, that's what this freaky "I live for the insanity of a perceived deal" Kmart commercial said to me last week:

I know. The economy is still in the shitter and we salespeople (I am one too, technically) need all of the hours we can get. We all need work and we all need to get paid, so we can pay our bills and buy groceries. But what if we as consumers just stopped buying all that stuff -- especially for ourselves -- and instead looked at what we really needed, or reexamined what it was we desired? Even as I type this, it seems like a very lofty goal.

I am lucky in that, when I am not selling T-shirts at the mall, I get to write about the world around me. In turn, I get to go places, see concerts and shows and do fun stuff as a part of this job -- and often, I have the opportunity to take someone with me. Those experiences are the gifts I give to the people I love, not just because I can afford it that way, but because I would rather spend time with someone than give them something. I know, it sounds less cool than buying a loved one a piece of plastic. But trust me, sometimes listening to your friend talk has more value than an ill-fitting sweater.

So this holiday season, instead of buying friends and family (and yourself) stuff that will at some point end up in the trash, why not make a date to spend time together? I swear, it will make you feel better than the super-cute, super-cheap, door-busting jacket you bought for your sister (and one for yourself) on Black Friday. Just try it.

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I wholeheartedly disagree with this article. 

Full Disclosure, I am asmall business retailer - and you can imagine what the holidays mean tome and my family...but what does it mean to yours? 

Fact One: Retailers are the leading force in economic recoveries....Consumer spending makes up more than 70 percent of the economy, and it usually drives growth during economic recoveries.”—“Consumers Give Boost to Economy,” New York Times, May 1Read more: http://www.fee.org/the_freeman/detail/consumer-spending-drives-the-economy#ixzz2DSy74Oa9

Fact Two: Retailers create a whole heck of a lot of jobs42 Million jobs as a matter of fact*. And 1 in 4 jobs in the US is directly related to retail.*Retail supports 41,620,604 jobs in the U.S., source http://www.retailmeansjobs.comConsumer spending makes up more than 70 percent of the economy, and it usually drives growth during economic recoveries.”—“Consumers Give Boost to Economy,”New York Times, May 1Read more: http://www.fee.org/the_freeman/detail/consumer-spending-drives-the-economy#ixzz2DSxyKa4W

Fact Three: If instead of a "No Shopping Day" - we promoted a Buy All your Gifts Locally Day ---we could help us create 800 local jobs, instead of hundreds of bankrupt store fronts.

 "Researchers found that every $100 spent at locally owned businesses contributes an additional $58 to the local economy. By comparison, $100spent at a chain store in Portland for example, yields just $33 in local economicimpact. The study concludes that, if residents of the region were toshift 10 percent of their spending from chains to locally ownedbusinesses, it would generate $127 million in additional local economicactivity and 874 new jobs."Check out this website for amazing facts of economic impact of purchasing local...http://www.ilsr.org/key-studies-walmart-and-bigbox-retail/

Every year there is a "Buy Nothing" day, or some version of "Commerce-FreeHoliday" created...but what people don't seem to think about is that kind of anti-commerce propaganda- usually generated by social media and online sources (go figure) -- have NO impact on big box stores. The person who reads and is educated and is the target for these types of non-consumerism campaigns is already probably not a big Kmart, Walmar tor Target shopper anyway. They are exactly the person that would have made or shopped locally but opts instead for a commerce-free holiday--which impacts only that cute little book store you love on the corner. 

I never want people to over-spend their means, and I think you would be hard-pressed to find a boutiquer who pushes the hard upsell. And I don't mean to take this personally, but then of course it is very personal to me, isn't it. I have never heard of a campaign to not support local or otherwise eateries (Eat Nothing Day!) I have never heard of a campaign to only read from corporate media sources (National TMZ day!) and I sure hope I will never hear a campaign against shelter animals ("Don't Adopt A Dog Day --Buy Breeds Only Day!).

Holiday traditions are important. In my family our holidays include a secret Santa, white elephant, food donation to our local food bank and adopting several families who wouldn't have a Christmas otherwise. I could tell you about the little girl that asked for "just something to hug" or the little boy who just wanted "anything in an unopened package--Ive never had one before!"

 Ihope that when people are creating new holiday traditions that theykeep the things the value close to their heart. I know for me that is community, the planet and local businesses.

 Ok, getting off the soap box, but with one more stat to throw back atacha...

Retail Establishments 65,099 in Colorado

Direct Retail Employment 501,825 in Colorado

Direct Retail Labor Income $13,615 MILLION in Colorado

Total Impact GDP $41,655 MILLION in Colorado

source: http://www.retailmeansjobs.com

PS:We are smack dab in the middle of Shop Local Week---check out this great organization to find out how you can support a local business near you!


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