Yup, it’s that time of year again. Everyone’s out doing their holiday shopping. Well, everyone but me. This is our holiday tradition, and it’s becoming increasingly common for us to do our holiday shopping on Amazon. I’d love to be able to do it at local stores but that’s so incredibly hard to do. Shopping locally is a wonderful idea, in theory, but when local stores don’t offer the same goods I can get online, that’s when a line has to be drawn. Is it more important to shop local and sacrifice on products that aren’t what you’re looking for? Or is it better to order online and get what you’re actually looking for instead.
For us shopping locally isn’t even really an option. Sure, we could go to local shops and pick up a few things, but the selection we’d have would be limited to cheap things that break after very little use. I don’t see the point in that. It turns out to be a disappointment for the kids when their toys simply don’t last and it’s a waste of money in my opinion. We’d be better off spending that money on something we need instead. After all, what’s the point in cycling through endless toys that just break and clog up landfills?
I’m getting sidetracked. I really wanted to talk about Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. I know a lot of people who go crazy for these sales. They allow you to buy something for discounts sometimes as crazy as 75% off. At those rates almost everyone can afford to buy something, which is really the whole point. It’s a great way to make shopping affordable for the holiday season.
However, look at the stores with the biggest Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. They’re almost always big box stores that can take a hit from selling items below cost. Sure, they lose money, but they may gain a loyal customer. They get people in the store who may turn around and spend money on something else later because they saw it in the store while Christmas shopping. Smaller stores don’t have the advantage of being able to afford that.
Then let’s look at what’s going on with these holiday sales. Typically these sales are on goods manufactured outside of the United States and are bought at way below cost, which isn’t helping our economy at all, especially if you don’t go back to these big box stores to buy other things when you’ve got money again. Many of these stores are cutting their own costs to keep products cheap by paying their workers minimum wage and offering minimum benefits. As a result, many workers in retail jobs have to rely on government assistance in the form of food stamps or SNAP benefits. While little mom and pop shops can’t afford to do much better, at least that’s a result of the high cost of running a small business. That’s got nothing to do with a company wanting to maximize profits at the cost of their employees. In other words, holiday sales really don’t do anything to stimulate the economy, not really.
Worse still I find that a lot of people I know over-spend on their holiday budget. Instead of only buying what they can afford, they often spend a little extra just because they caught a great sale and didn’t want to miss out. Sometimes the amount they saved means they buy several additional things that they wouldn’t have bought before. Where as they would have bought each child one present before, they found two that they just couldn’t resist for one kid, and now they have to do the same for all of them.
Holiday sales aren’t in any way a sustainable process. They don’t help the economy. While I will admit I’ve taken advantage of them now and again (because I haven’t learned to be like my mother due to all the moving), I definitely don’t think buying something just because you see it as a part of a holiday sale is the best practice if you want to help kick-start the economy again.
Even with the holiday sales I keep hearing all these reports that people are spending less and less on the holidays each year. It used to be the busy season, but I’m finding fewer of my friends are going out on Black Friday shopping. People who work Black Friday are commenting that it’s less and less mobbed every year. People just have less money to spend. Even my own family, I’m not sure how we’re going to manage Christmas this year. I’m determined that we’re not going to let it slack, but we’re definitely not going to be able to afford much. As is, we’re already planning to put of Sander’s birthday until January after we’ve recovered from holiday shopping.
So, what do I suggest instead of buying a lot of deep discounted goods on holiday weekends? Well, it’s after the holidays, so I can’t really change your spending habits this year, but you might want to think about what you do next year. My mom used to pick things up all year and hide them away. We haven’t been able to do that due to lack of storage space and too much of a chance of things being exposed during a move, but we’re considering it this year. It breaks up holiday spending throughout the year. Birthday presents could be as simple as dipping into that previously purchased Christmas stash.
While I’ve got to admit it could be challenging with younger kids, especially with unschoolers, it’s a good idea in theory, though you may want to hold off on buying anything until closer to fall. We’re probably going to start our buying next year right after either we renew our lease or move. I’ve already got some great ideas on what we’re going to be picking up for the kids for Christmas next year, or at least the older two. I’ve got some decent ideas for Sander too. It’s the little guy that’s going to be the most trouble. Luca will be a year and a half by then and I don’t know what he’ll find interesting. It’s easy enough to pick all the popular baby toys, but were I to do that now I’d be in trouble. He’s very picky about things that don’t make too much noise. I can’t know if that trend will continue. I guess the younger the kid, the less planning ahead is possible. An added problem with unschoolers is the frequency their interests may change. Sure, Corde could be easy with art supplies. Beekee would be happy with sports stuff or science and gardening stuff. That doesn’t mean they won’t have some new interest that really consumes them by then.
Challenging as it is, it’s better to find a way to support local shops, American-made goods, and buy full-price if you can afford it. Of course, sometimes what a kid really wants isn’t American made, so you do what you can. Sometimes it’s really only possible to shop sales because you can’t afford full price. Sometimes what you want can’t be found at a locally owned shop. Just do what you can when you can manage. Every little bit counts.
That being said, Christmas may be lean this year, but we’re going to do what we can to make up for it by shopping earlier in the future. If we can support a local artisan, crafter, or shop, we will. It’s better than buying at deep discounts that don’t help get the economy going. It may not be much, but it’s our small way of doing our part.