I’ve been fighting it all day – the feeling that I need to be out there shopping today. Black Friday. To boot, I’ve hardly even scoured the ads, so not only am I not there in the thick of it, I don’t even know the potential deals I am missing out on. Can anyone relate to feeling that today is just too big a day to miss out on?
The crowds do not lie that I am in fact in the minority, sitting here at my dining room table instead of being at the local shopping venue as I begin typing this out. But experiencing this urge does force me to think of what is causing that feeling in the first place. In it’s simplest form the answer revolves around money – it’s a cycle that goes something like this. Major corporations are under immense pressure to bring in revenue. To meet their goals they pour thousands or millions of dollars into advertising. The message: This day is the biggest sale day of the year so you would be a fool to miss out.
What perpetuates the cycles is that people go, and people spend. Many will spend more this day than any other day of the year – and I have been there. Because of this huge exchange of dollars from consumer (you and me) to corporation, the cycle continues year after year. This years revenue fuels next year’s advertising campaigns. The more we spend, the more the companies that we are filtering our dollars toward spend to win us back.
Reading through advertising has been something I have become acutely aware of recently. What do I mean by reading through? Take the Black Friday advertising message we saw above for example…. “This day is the biggest sale day of the year.” What if instead you read it as; “We’ve placed all our eggs in one basket.” or “Without your money we won’t look good to investors on our quarterly statements.”
Reading through the promotions and commercials coming at you can help you to think more clearly. Instead of thinking what they want you to think – I am a fool for missing out – you can begin to think freely about where and how you want to spend your money. Your thinking might sound more like, “I am actually quite content not fighting the crowds today.” Or, “Have I come up with a plan of how I’m going to pay off my credit card after I’m done Christmas shopping?” Or, “Are there companies out there I would rather support than the ones with the deepest pockets to spend on telling me they are the greatest?”
Conscious & Active
This falls in line with being a conscious consumer. Or as I like to define it, being an active consumer versus a passive one. The common theme in the consumerism cycle described above is that dollars are continually being spent. What I believe we as consumers are very unaware of, but is critically true, is that our dollars = support.
The cycle continues because we support it. A visual representation is that our money feeds the cycle. Companies are starved to please shareholders and therefore starved for your own investments. They spend more money than we could ever dream of to win over your affections and keep you coming back for more. Each time we spend, even a dollar on the dollar menu at McDonald’s, we support their efforts and empower them to produce more. dollars = support.
I’m not making a plea for you to stop spending money. Rather, be active in choosing where your dollars go and the things you are supporting. I would encourage you to consider the who, what, and why.
- WHO are you supporting? Behind every company there is a face. If you are shopping at your local big box store or online, the odds of you knowing the person behind the company and product, let alone ever coming in contact with them, is very dismal. Knowing their values, philosophies, and story is limited to a brief About Us page on their website. Are these people you want to support? Hard to know. A different alternative we’ve found is shopping at small-scale, local businesses. In this, we’ve found a closer connection to our community and real people going after their dreams. Even if I spend more going this route, it has never left me feeling like my dollars haven’t been well invested. A perfect opportunity for this is supporting Small Business Saturday! You can hear more about what we learned from shopping local on our post, Put A Face On It.
- WHAT are you supporting? As you support with your money, there is almost always a secondary social cause that you are supporting. Questions like – “Are the materials for this product sustainably sourced?”, “Are the wages of the workers making this product livable?”, or “How many miles did this product have to travel to end up here?” – are all questions we like to try and ask ourselves with each purchase we make. Many companies also support causes and charities. I’m not trying to make any political statements, but many consumers might not know for instance that Bank of America, Groupon, and Starbucks each give a portion of their proceeds to Planned Parenthood. So, supporting these companies enables them to support Planned Parenthood. Whether this makes you more or less likely to purchase their products or services, we as consumers should all be more aware of the true end of where our dollars go in support.
- WHY are you supporting? Hopefully this post has caused you to think. The goal behind the best laid advertising campaigns of any company is to do the thinking for you. Think less and spend more – this is truly passive consumption. Consider the why with each purchase you make. Be active in the who, what, and why when it comes to your consumer choices. Your dollars = support. Consider that reality this holiday season and be a part of supporting the changes you want to see take place in the economy and world around you.