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Monday, November 28, 2011

Use your Money to Send a Message

The American people will spend an estimated $500 billion this holiday season. That works out to an average of $1,667 per person or $5,000 for a family of three. That's a lot of consuming. It drives up stock prices and employs people all over the world, just to facilitate our consumption.

Consuming isn't bad. We all do it and we should do it. We eat, have clothes, enjoy entertainment and activities. Those are good things and we should enjoy them. But they are not the only good things that exist.

Consuming isn't bad, but consumerism is. When the consumption of things drives us and dictates how we live, then we have a problem. Consumerism and materialism cause us to look at things before people and entice us to pay for a cheap item even when it might harm someone. Consuming doesn't have to equal consumerism any more than eating has to become gluttony (but that's another problem we face this time of year).

It's not realistic or helpful to try to eschew all consumption. We aren't made for that and we can't sustain it for long. Rather, we need to change our attitude towards consuming. Buy things that are produced locally. Buy from people you know, if possible. Find a local artist and commission a painting of your family. Attend the local craft market and buy handmade clothes or toys. Shop at a local, independent retailer instead of at a big-box store.

If we can shift just 10% of the holiday spending that will result in thousands of new jobs, in our towns with our neighbors. The reason is that locally spent money stays in the local economy. Every dollar spent at a local, independent retailer has 2 to 3 times the positive impact on the local economy as a dollar spent at a non-local retailer. The movement is known as Shift your Shopping. Are you willing to make a small shift to help your neighbors and your community?

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