October 7th.  As in fifty-one days before Thanksgiving or roughly, seven weeks, nearly two monthsEighty days before Christmas, roughly, over eleven weeks, nearly three months.

Why the countdowns?  A certain news headline grabbed me as I went through my morning routine of checking the local news and weather (on my phone of course).  “First Black Friday Ad Out,” it read.  I recalled the after-Thanksgiving dinner tradition of so many years ago.  All the men crowded around the television as it yelled scores and yards, and the men yelled back.  All the women gathered at the newspaper-covered kitchen table with notebooks and pens, making lists of all the items we would purchase in the pre-dawn hours of the next day and planning for where we would get coffee to keep ourselves awake, who would run for what and how many.  Towels, candles, pajamas, power tools and home décor—essentially a ton of crap no one needed, that we would sacrifice sleep for, on top of fighting for parking spots and spaces in long lines.  And all of this just for the sake of have a living room filled with pretty wrapped boxes awaiting the half an hour long moment they would be opened and we would all mentally crash.

My daughter sent my husband and me a report today on the “Culture of Consumerism”.  It’s true.  Shopping is a legitimate hobby and really is as much a part of our culture as the food we eat.   It is ingrained in us from the moment we are born.  I represent the first generation that grew up not knowing life without a television or a telephone. My children are the first generation born growing up not knowing life without internet or cell phones.  And now, we are entering a third generation incapable of going a single day without being bombarded with marketing and advertising by companies that spend more money finding out how to get us to psychologically respond to their marketing than they spend researching and developing the product itself.

Shopping is also at the center of our economy and sadly the top topic for today’s political debates… while the future of the planet is considered an “opinion.”   So as we skip through October and Halloween (Americans are estimated to spend around 6.9 billion dollars on Halloween in 2015, according to the National Retail Federation) and replace the ghouls and spiders with turkeys and cornucopias, here’s a few things to think about before buying in to the frenzy of a 4:00 am shopping spree-

In 1939 Thanksgiving was officially moved to the third Thursday in November in hopes that a longer Christmas shopping season would aid in Depression-era economic recovery.  Previous to 1939, Thanksgiving was celebrated on the last Thursday of November.

In 1941, Thanksgiving was moved once again to its current place on the calendar, the fourth Thursday of November, taking into account the years that November has five Thursdays.

According to Gallup, the average American will spend an average of $781 on Christmas in 2015, up 4% from 2014.

The average American credit card debt as of July 2015 is $15,863.00

And what’s the environmental and human impact of the things we buy?  If you haven’t seen “The Story of Stuff,” there’s no better time than now.  I keep a direct link for those few moments of weakness that tempt me into a big box store or shopping center.

Nothing happens overnight and the concept that our culture has it wrong on this one won’t be an easy sell.  However, I have to say not only did we survive our last year’s consumer reduction Christmas, I’m looking forward to this year’s creativity.  I have to brag though that I am absolutely positive I got the best present of all.  My husband made me a rotating compost bin out of an old metal barrel.  We decorated a live tree which is now happily adorning the front yard, and we gave our kids cash.  Our poor college student daughter and our new-career son had no problem whatsoever with the decision.

I might also mention that paying bills in January was no different than paying them in June.

Audrey L Elder

Living Life Outside the Box