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Friday, 23 September 2016

Try Buying Nothing For One Year?

A fool and his money are soon to be divorced.

She Set A Trend

Michelle McGagh, the founder of London Minimalists, was featured in Radio NZ's website because she decided to buy nothing for a year. She was responding to Buy Nothing Day, a counter-movement to the big sales that retail stores throw.

Imagine having to buy nothing at all. Even if you wanted to, you've told yourself that you will not buy anything at all. And so there will not be any need to go window shopping.

But "buying nothing" doesn't mean not buying food. It doesn't mean skipping on petrol for your car. It means not buying luxuries, the little things in life that you would like to have, but can do without.

By all means, if you need something, buy it. If you're going to die (literally) when you don't buy it, then buy it.

But if you won't die from not buying it, then don't buy it. 

I think it's a great idea. I wish that I could buy nothing for one year. I bet you'd already have most of what you need, but not what you want. And that's normal.

What's wrong with mending your old clothes?

Stop comparing with others on social media

You probably have heard it before from those who like to lurk on social media. Maybe it's your spouse. Do these sound familiar?
  • "Emily's gone to Bangkok recently. How I wish we could go as well." 
  • "Jane has bought a new iPhone recently. My old clunker isn't all that great nowadays." 
  • "Janet bought a new car recently. Honey, our car seems to be rattling a little bit more than usual, eh. Safety first." 
  • "Mariah bought a new house recently. It's a great neighbourhood, and we'd be blessed to raise our kids in that new neighbourhood."
What you are hearing is the sound of envy. But they're being misled. 

First, your spouse is probably checking out her more affluent friends because they lead exciting lifestyles. Because of this, her social media feed (e.g. Facebook feed) becomes "tailored" to deliver her more news from this group of friends. The result? Her social media feed looks like the lifestyles of the rich and famous. It misleads her into thinking that it's normal.

Second, your spouse is discounting all her friends who don't update on social media. Just because they don't update that often, doesn't mean that they don't exist. But social media is always about "what's happening now". Social media feed doesn't have a "friends who haven't updated for a while" feed. And so, those who glamourize their daily escapades populate your social media timeline. And then you think that it's normal. You compare their experiences with your, and you think, "Mine is lousy..."

Third, don't forget that you're comparing with a lot of people. People who just did one thing. And that one thing is so popular that it gets commented on massively. It gets shared hundreds of times. And so it appears that it is normal. What social media timelines do is: Collate the best information, and show it to you. After all, that's part of the strategy to keep you engaged. They present to you the most popular posts. You can be sure that many of your friends' updates aren't being shown to you. Social media sees the hot posts and puts them in your timeline and shines a spotlight on them. And then you take it all in and think that it's the new normal.

If you catch yourself thinking these thoughts when going through social media, you may need help.

Social media is more glamorous show and tell, than an authentic telling of the truth. The types who want attention will post selfies with celebrities. They show themselves having massive bacchanals and huge spreads of food in classy restaurants. And they also post themselves in exotic locations with a nonchalant remark, e.g. "Hot weather here. I'm sweating." And then everybody else rains their post with remarks of awe ("Wow!") and mock jealousy ("Bojio!"). 

Don't believe the hype. And don't start getting jealous over some friends' self-promotion.

Buy Nothing Day

Here's Wikipedia's entry on Buy Nothing Day:
Buy Nothing Day (BND) is an international day of protest against consumerism. In North America, Buy Nothing Day is held on the Friday after U.S. Thanksgiving, concurrent to Black Friday (on Friday); elsewhere, it is held the following day, which is the last Saturday in November. Buy Nothing Day was founded in Vancouver by artist Ted Dave and subsequently promoted by Adbusters magazine, based in Canada.
That means it's coming up soon -- end of November.

For the good of society, I wish that "Buy Nothing Day" could permeate our universal consciousness. I know it sounds like hogwash, like someone who wanted "Peace on Earth and goodwill to all men", but if only we could send out a message that frugality, and abstaining from consumerism, is a good thing! But that's exactly the problem -- those who wish to spread this message are more likely to wince at the thought of spending money to spread the message.

Compare that with the corporations that make money when consumers buy things. They definitely want consumers to buy, for whatever reason that is deemed reasonable by the consumer. These may include:

  • Birthday, because it only happens once a year.
  • Anniversary, because it's a commemoration of something oh-so-special.
  • Thanksgiving Day, because you should be grateful.
  • Black Friday, because Christmas is coming.
  • Christmas, because it's the season to be jolly.
  • Boxing Day, because you didn't buy something for Christmas.
  • Valentine's Day, because love is in the air.
  • Anti-Valentine's Day, because you ain't got no love but you have cash.
  • Post Valentine's Day, because they have an overflow of chocolates.
  • Clearance Sales, because they have new stuff that is coming in, and the old stuff has to go.
  • Moving sales, because everything must go, before they go-go.
  • Easter Day, because the Good Lord has risen.
  • Summer Sale, because you need to enjoy the summer on the beach.
And so on and so forth.

Are you being led by others who are just as lost?

I once wrote about romantic consumerism. The chocolate makers of the early twentieth century decided to play on love as a way of driving sales. "Buy a box of chocolates", they said, "to show your true love that your love is true." And so women began demanding it, and men began giving it. The movie industry, ever keen to capture a current trend, began including it in their scripts. And so it has become reinforced, over and over.

Think back two hundred years. What happened on Valentine's Day? How did couples express their love to each other on Valentine's Day? Possibly hand in hand while walking in the park. Perhaps they would recite poems to each other. Perhaps the man would bend on a knee and pop a ring, and then propose.

Ah, yes. The diamond ring industry is also another scam. It says: "How many carats does he love you with?" Most men can afford carrots. Not every man can afford carats. And yet women fling themselves a men who buy them diamond rings because, instinctively, it represents security, and genetically, women have been programmed to mate with the strongest male of the tribe, so that her offspring are strong and able to protect her, while guaranteeing propagation of her genes. Men, on the other hand, are programmed to mate with as many women as possible, to propagate their genes as widely as possible. Hence, they have been known to use trickery to win over reluctant females.

The reader who is acquainted with children's stories sourced from Greek myths, may have heard of the pretty huntress who refused to marry any man who was not her equal. Her name was Atalanta, and she may have been one hot mama back in the day. (She's probably dust now, but let's not make an issue of that.) She issued a challenge, that if any man could beat her in a race, she would marry him... but those who failed, would have to die.

She was so beautiful that many men took up the challenge. And they lost their lives for it. Then along came a young man called Hippomenes. Young Hippo took one look at Atalanta and decided that he wanted her to be his wife. He prayed to the goddess of love, Aphrodite. (Not Venus. Aphrodite was the Greek goddess. Venus was the Roman goddess.)  He received three golden apples from Aphrodite.

And so the day came for the race, and Hippomenes ran with all his life. But he was losing to Atalanta. And so he dropped the first golden apple, and the young woman slowed down to pick it up. He ran, and she caught up. He dropped a second apple. And when she caught up again, he dropped the third. She picked up the apple. He won the race.

Find peace and serenity in life by enjoying the simple things.

The story tells us that strong and beautiful women are susceptible to the trickery of men. And strong women may lose when another woman has taught the man how to disarm her defences.

The corporations of today have focus groups, and market research experts, to tell them exactly what will sell. What the trends are. What the optimum placement of products on shelves will do for their sales. What colours, sizes, and shapes sit well with consumers. They've opened up the can of worms. And the can had a label on it called "Desire and Envy." With the opening of that can, it was like Pandora's box, spreading all over the world.

We need a Pandora's box for frugality and common sense, so that it might prevail over all parts of the world. How wonderful life would be if we could sit down and talk, instead of our latest acquisitions, how we managed to save a few dollars here and there. Instead of feelings of envy and fake smiles, feelings of happiness for their achievements and a genuine desire to learn from others. Instead of walking away and thinking, "I'm going to get something better than what he's got", walking away and thinking, "I'm going to learn to save more, and maybe ... buy nothing for a year."

So how about it? 

Try to buy nothing for a year. If you manage to do it, many people will lift their hats off to you. You will be the personal hero and inspiration for many a struggling student and single mother. The young ladies will cite your name with wonder as they remember that you, too, had struggled with the same problem of buying too much, and they will say, with steely resolve, "If she could do it, so can I!"

And if a year is too long, try a month or two first. And work your way up.

Thanks for Reading.

Here are some other pieces from me.