Monday, November 24, 2008

ALTERNATIVE GIFT GIVING AND SPENDING IDEAS


Contrary to the big push in America by crash commercialism that suggests the more we spend the better our lives and the economy will be, I have some alternative thoughts about that idea. Let me share…..

For too long we have all bought into the myth that spending more will rescue the economy---when in fact the opposite is true, and that is, it simply creates more debt and increases default chances. There is an organization on the web, called The Center For A New American Dream that challenges the prevailing market driven mentality that 'more’ or ‘cheaper’ is better. Reading their information over the years has helped me understand the difference between quantity and quality in our overall lives and particularly, the consumer economy.

Additionally, reading a lot of CFNAD material has helped set me free from staying on board of the robotic never ending tread mill of guilt trips we are on, instilled by heavy marketing--that if we don’t buy this time of year, we are not showing our loved ones we care, or that we‘re not patriotic….or any other number of warm and cozy guilt trip sentiments. Such mentality, in my opinion, is just another way the marketers have brainwashed and have the public under a spell. Mass marketers are running our lives and we rarely stop to see how and why. They tell us what we need to live well and be happy. Excuse me, but I’d like to make that choice myself.

The great news in all that commercial chaos is there is a different way to give during this time of year, and surprisingly it does not always have to involve a lot of STUFF that will one day clutter the garage or wind up at the curb, or worse yet---the landfill! One Christmas not long ago, every gift I gave was creatively crafted from recycled materials I found around the home. Adding to that, I found many other alternative gift ideas through the CFNAD organization. For example, I bought an old small book shelf from a local-independent retailer who sold second hand items...and refinished it myself.

I always thought using wrapping paper once and pitching it was such an injustice to our natural world so I used old comic sections from newspapers to wrap other re-used gifts I purchased in the same way I described above. As you can imagine, most of the gifts were second hand--but when they came together to make the new item, the end result was something new to the recipient of the gift!. I also did favors for loved ones. I did things such as clean their carpets or wash the car--and even offered the gift of time by cooking for someone. If you have any talents that may be useful to someone, you may want to consider offering them as a gift.

It really felt good to give and to help the local independent business economy AND the environment in this way by re-using and recycling through my gift giving. This is so very opposite of conventional ways---which makes Christmas time not the ‘most wonderful time of year‘…but, the most wasteful! Those who received my gifts really appreciated me taking the time and exercising a bit of creative fun in how I chose to ‘give’ Best of all, people were happy, and it was something I did not have to go into an insurmountable amount of debt to achieve! It was such a great feeling all around to break the bonds of the conventional consumer chains.

The alternative ideas of gift giving and buying are endless and creative....and are such that actually help the local independent economy by supporting those businesses....as well as not creating insurmountable public debt. I urge people to have a glance at the CFNAD website and learn why Black Friday as we know it, is actually more destructive to the economy than it is helpful.

The moral of the story today is doing more of what matters and has meaning, instead of doing just more. The message is that sometimes less is actually more. If we are going to spend money on Friday, please try what I did for a change, if you never have….and support your local and independent neighborhood businesses as often as possible as an alternative to the big box chains. By doing so, you will help to keep neighborhood storefronts and town centers from becoming ghost towns. By doing so holds many benefits too numerous to mention---but for starters, you will likely develop new friends and connections with the merchants as well as help keep money, jobs, and taxes in the neighborhood, create more walkable and less auto-dependent communities---AND help to mend tightly the very fabric that makes up a real community of connections; people knowing and helping people!

One final note….The Center For A New American Dream will also teach you about what “BUY NOTHING” day is and how it can actually benefit the economy more than spending can --However, as I demonstrated above, if you still want to spend, ok, but try the suggested alternatives because they have a more positive impact on the local economy and environment. How about promoting a time of year when we focus on more of what matters, than simply "more" (stuff, that is) You’ll feel prouder and better, trust me!

Photo: Public Square Holiday Lights

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