Friday, 27 November 2015

30 days in November 27...

As an antidote to Shopping Reminder Day, Black Friday and our consumption driven society today is:

Buy nothing day…

Strangely, it’s also Black Friday, and all across the buying world people are going mad trying to grab a bargain. It started out as an American thing, the day after Thanksgiving when stores slashed prices to the knuckle. Of course where America leads we follow and Black Friday is now firmly with us in the UK. The scenes in some stores last year were unbelievable, people running amok, knocking others down, snatching, grabbing and fighting, smashing the very things they wanted to purchase and all to save a few quid and the certainty of knowing that they won.

What is this compulsion to spend, often on things we don’t need or want? There was a time years ago when I might have been able to answer that. I used to love a bargain, but over the years I realised that those bargains I bought were often of little or no use to me. I once bought a hundred sets of oil paints because they were a bargain. I still have them, but most of the oils are now so dry I don’t think they’ll ever make it onto canvas. I’ve lost track of the numbers of pairs of shoes I’ve bought only to almost immediately find them uncomfortable. Even food bargains don’t appear to be the bargains you think they are at the time. We regularly clear our freezers of bargain items that we’ve forgotten to eat in time or simply didn’t fancy after all.

Can you remember the last time you spent a whole day without buying anything? I can, sometimes I can go days without buying anything at all. Of course that allows for their being food in the fridge and a well stocked wine rack, but I haven’t bought shoes for well over two years and I aim to use things until they break or completely wear away. The computer I’m typing this on is over twelve years old and kept together with sellotape and elastic bands and my phone is two years old, relatively new by my standards. I’d still be using my previous one but it literally fell to pieces in my hand one day after eight long years of service.

Of course there are things we all buy that are an ongoing cost, particularly in these technological times: wifi, phone contracts, TV licences, car transport and increasingly these things seem difficult to live without. But it wasn’t so long ago that I didn’t have any of them apart from the BBC TV licence and, as the old adage goes, I didn’t miss what I never had.

Sometimes I long for more simplicity in my life, the 'less of stuff’ life that I knew as a child. But I know that it’s far too late for me for that to ever happen. I am consumed by consumerism as most of us are, not as much as some, but enough for it to over complicate my life and make me miserable sometimes. But it's all so easy, everything is available at the click of a mouse from films and books, to groceries and gadgets. The pursuit of things doesn’t drive my life, but I still buy things I don’t need simply because I can. I know that I’m in a fortunate position to be able to do that, but maybe a bit of austerity is good for the soul.

Maybe buying nothing, or just less, is the answer.

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