As I write this the holiday, consumer combat season is in full swing. Americans are devising battle plans to waste money and time at a high rate of speed! Oh boy, here comes the holiday grouch you are thinking, but I would actually say the opposite. Every year at this time, which is starting earlier and earlier it seems like, people are stressing themselves out, and spending money they don’t have. Here are a couple stats that confirm the above:
- Most Americans have less than $1,000 saved for retirement, but they will spend $2,000 to $3,000 on gifts during the holidays, in some cases for people they barely know.
- Most Americans say they are just one or two paychecks from total financial ruin.
- If you follow the “consume everything in sight” mantra by the time you are 35 years old, there is a good chance you live the remainder of your life in perpetual debt.
Decades ago, as a poor college student fighting the crowds the day before Christmas, I had a life changing realization. I thought “why am I doing this, what is the point?” It came to me I had no real good answer. Where did this holiday bonanza of stupidity come from? While looking at the bright shiny lights of all the stores, like the Vegas strip, it became very apparent where it came from. It surely wasn’t about family or enjoying the holiday spirit. It was about companies making me feel guilty if I didn’t participate in their made-up holiday cheer to make me spend money, and as much of it as possible. Huh, well that doesn’t sound very “holiday” to me!
That is why during writing my book “The Simple Life Guide To Decluttering Your Life” I had to include a chapter about decluttering the holidays. Most things we waste money on these days is shrouded in some highly targeted marketing to make us feel guilty by not participating, or we will not be happy if we don’t buy that shiny object. A perfect example of these subtle yet effective marketing techniques are the jewelry advertising commercials that bombard your TV from October to February. The newest piece of garbage is a young guy on a date, with singers in the background singing (I’m paraphrasing) “you just met her but, show her you are serious” by purchasing her expensive jewelry! Are you kidding me have we lost our minds? The marketing is so slick–perpetuating unrealistic expectations, not to mention a clever little subliminal song in the background that will rattle around in your skull for the remainder of the holiday season.
With all the things I teach in The Simple Life, sometimes we just need to take a deep breath, take a step back, and figure out for ourselves why we participate in such events. Is it because we truly enjoy them, or is it we have been brainwashed into feeling we must participate in them? I consider the holiday shopping season to be ground-zero of our out of control consumerism mentality. As I often say we don’t have an earning problem in this country we have a spending problem, as we are the richest nation by far on the planet. So before you square off with someone you don’t know for that last Barbie Doll or other useless shiny item that has nothing to do with being happy for the holidays… take some time to think about what actually makes you happy, and not what some behemoth company that has more money than most countries tells you what you need to do to make you happy (buying their useless crap in most cases).
If the above sounds like some rational advice on simplifying your life and not stressing out during the holidays I would recommend reading my book The Simple Life Guide To Decluttering Your Life.