None of us are immune; the simple act of buying something new feels good. New things are stimulating and comforting at the same time. Whether a new item of clothing or new cell phone, it is an important way that we interact with our material world. Even my golden retriever gets excited about a new stuffed toy.
How you spend your money, however, does matter. A purchase is an expression of who you are and what you believe in. Here are a few guidelines for responsible shopping this holiday season.
Spend your money in ways that boost relationships. Use gifting as an opportunity to strengthen your relationships and help you to feel more connected to others. The week before Christmas, it is easy to get caught up in the rush of spending. Despite what shiny signs in the mall promise, keep in mind that material things never lead to long term happiness. Over and over again, studies show that people who are more materialistic suffer higher levels of anxiety and depression.
Cultivate gratitude to counter materialism. When expectations for material things go unmet, it will increase your superficial desires and create a vicious cycle of unhappiness. It’s easy to get caught up in the rush of materialism, which has been shown to undermine happiness. Don’t allow possessions to take center stage in your life!
Keeping a gratitude journal can serve as an antidote to material impulses; this simple exercise can have a profound impact on your happiness levels. Every night, take a few minutes to write down the things you were grateful for that day. You will be surprised at how much happiness and love you already have in your life; there is nothing you can buy that will offer more joy that cultivating gratitude for what you already have.
Spread love through heartfelt letters & notes. Is there someone that has made a difference in your life and you have been meaning to carve out time to tell them? Don’t let this get away from you. Make it a priority to tell people in your life how much they mean to you. It will add joy to both of your lives! Expressing love and appreciation to others through writing is a great way to cultivate gratitude in your own life and often your kind words will have a ripple effect.
Shop local when possible. Though always more expensive, many locally-made products are of the highest quality and are an opportunity to support your local community. If you have your eye on something that is made in another country, consider whether you are supporting a foreign industry that is friendly to your country.
Ask hard questions about how items were made. Is the company that makes the product you are purchasing dedicated to environmental sustainability? Does production of the product cause harm to others or the environment? Those brightly colored scarves won’t feel as cozy if you find out that their toxic dyes polluted waterways in small towns and caused sickness to others.
Sad but true, there are many mainstream brands who still exploit labor and have children working in an unsafe factories. Take the time to trace production of your purchases and understand who you are buying from. For a list of fashion brands who are committed to socially-responsible practices, see this article from the Tiny Twig.
Instead of buying something new, repair or revitalize something that has been well loved. Get your broken camping tent repaired instead of throwing it away and buying a new one. Give your husband a gift certificate to the local bike store to tune up his bike. Paint a faded cabinet with bright, inspiring colors that make it feel like new! Search for hidden gems at the flea market and thrift stores – you’ll be surprised what cool items you can find, and they are bound to be more special and unique that anything on display at the mall.
This year, resist the temptation of shiny packaging. Purchase products that promote environmental & social good and gift experiences that will serve as bonding experiences with the people you love.