Giving more by buying less

This Black Friday I was nowhere near a mall. I didn’t want to spend my time circling the parking lot looking for a spot to shoe-horn my car into. I had no interest in door-buster sales, Black Friday deals, or even the lowest prices of the year. I especially didn’t want to stand in long lines for dressing rooms or queue up to wait for the next available cash register.

I also won’t be sitting in front of my computer on Cyber Monday looking for online deals. There is nothing that could entice me to give up hours in my day searching the interwebs, entering my credit card information, and clicking on the PURCHASE NOW button.

Although the newspapers are stuffed with holiday shopping ads, my email inbox is full of the come hither siren calls of money-saving deals, and the shows on television have become mostly holiday consumption delivery vehicles, I choose not to participate.

Like many people in our stage of life, my husband and I are less focused in the in-come and more in the out-go. We are culling our closets, emptying drawers and cabinets, and donating, selling, and discarding our excess, unused stuff. Many of the items I at one time thought I must have are now just uncomfortable reminders of how easy it is to get wrapped up in our consumer-driven society.

With the rise of digital shopping and because brick-and-mortar retailers are offering deep discounts for an extended period of time, some say that Black Friday is slowly morphing into “Black November.” And, since retailers have trained shoppers to wait until the last minute for even deeper discounts, in reality, Black Friday may now be becoming “Black Mid-November through Christmas Eve.” Yay! More time to shop!

This year, I’ve been heartened to read stories about an increase in spending on gifts of experiences rather than things. I don’t know if this is a real trend or not, but I hope it is. Of course it wouldn’t bode well for most retailers, but I think it would be a plus if our focus as a society was less on acquiring stuff and more on enjoying our time here on Earth.

This holiday season, when you think about a buying a present for a friend or a family member, consider gifting them an experience. Perhaps they’d appreciate going out for a wonderful meal, taking a hike with you in the back country, seeing a play or attending a concert, going to a lecture, or taking a class on a subject of interest.

Sailing or kayak lessons may be the perfect gift for a friend who enjoys the water.
Sailing or kayak lessons may be the perfect gift for a friend who enjoys the water.

If not an experience, maybe a gift of kindness would be more appropriate. If someone is house-bound, you could offer to run errands or have their house cleaned. If they are care-taking, tell them that you’ll sit with their loved-one while they enjoy a much-needed afternoon off.

Although gifts like this may require a little more thought and planning by the giver, they will be much appreciated. Thoughtful, well-chosen gifts of experiences or special acts of kindness will never be forgotten back in the recipient’s closet, taking up room in a crowded drawer, or folded in a pile of stuff waiting to be donated to a resale store.