As you know, today is Cyber Monday. Modern consumerism is at its yearly apex. Walmart, Amazon and similar big warehouse/online megastores tempt you with the iPad for $80 off or the 48-inch 4K television for $448. There’s the temptation that you must buy something. A little voice whispers, “You’re missing out on all of the deals.” And there is a certain truth to that. If your television is 5 years old, and you’d like a “smart” or 4K version, ‘tis the season to spend your money.
But most likely you don’t need many of these products, and you wouldn’t purchase them without these “great” deals. Consumerism defines the American holiday season. Christmas is defined by Santa’s presents, as is Hanukkah’s eight days of gifts (although few truly receive a gift every day) — quite ironic considering the moral foundations of almost every religion highlights humility and modesty.
I’m no saint. I like my holiday presents just as much as every other American, but I tend to struggle in picking out exactly what I want. This is clearly an entitled person’s problem, but the problem highlights something greater. I truly do not need anything during this time of year, but our consumer-driven society keeps telling me through advertisements, deals and savings that I should demand something.
There is a much brighter side to the holiday season. Family values — not the ones distorted by Republican politicians — are paramount. The family values I speak of simply involve spending time with one’s mother, father, brother, sister, etc. in order to connect. But this gets harder every year, as technology makes connection seem superfluous. Charitable giving is another highlight of the season. Many people will shun gifts and donate toys and money to unprivileged children. People will spend time volunteering at a soup kitchen or helping out at a homeless shelter. However, more people are likely to upload their credit card information on Amazon.com.
I fell into the Black Friday/Cyber Monday trap last week. After being asked, “What do you want for Hanukkah?” I responded, “I don’t know,” and started Googling what the best deals were. I scrolled through countless websites evaluating the pros and cons of clothing, electronics and more. But as the day progressed, I came to the realization that my life would be barely altered if I was gifted a few pairs of Bonobos chinos or the latest iPhone.
Sure, I would certainly love to receive the items, but at what cost? So much of what we buy is inflated by its “status.” There are parking spaces in New York City that cost more than homes in the Midwest.
I’m not arguing everyone should donate their holiday gifts and reject all material goods. I’m typing this article on a thousand-dollar laptop. Far be it from me to tell you how to spend your money. But before you buy the latest gadget or article of clothing, ask yourself if you’re buying it because of the discount or because you want it. Then ask if yourself if you need it.
We don’t need to equate holidays with gifts. And we don’t need to buy everything we want between November and December. Just remember: there’s always the President’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day and Columbus Day sales. Consumerism is at its peak, but it rarely falls for long. It’s really not the season of giving. Rather, it’s the season of buying.