Do Workplace Gifts Force Us to Consume?


Image credit: jenniferworthen, used under Creative Commons license.

From making the case for laziness to the benefits of throwing stuff away, GetRichSlowly.org's take on frugality and personal finance often intersects with issues related to green living. A recent post is no exception, tackling the thorny question of how the frugal (or anti-consumerists) are supposed to deal with required workplace spending. Responding to a query by a spend-thrift reader who finds it annnoying to be asked to spend on every co-worker's life event—from babies to weddings—JD Roth (and his wife) point out that the same goes double for kid's fundraisers:

"Ohmygosh," Kris said when she proofed this piece for me. "You're missing the biggest problem of all: kids' fund raisers. Read-a-thons, jog-a-thons, art-a-thons. Selling cookie dough, selling wrapping paper, selling junk you don't need. Ugh. It never ends." Her solution to the constant onslaught? She's adopted a first-come, first-served policy. Plus, she only contributes to parents of grade-schoolers. "Older kids have to ask me themselves," she says. "And really, younger kids should be doing that too."

As someone who has benefited from his wife's colleagues organizing a workplace baby shower (thanks ladies!), I'm certainly not suggesting that we shouldn't ever buy gifts for our colleagues. But having never worked in a large office environment, I can see how a constant pressure to buy gifts—even for colleagues we are not close with—might harm both personal finances, and attempts to lead a simpler life.

We'd love to hear from those trying to consume less about how they deal with these issues. Do you make an exception in the interests of fitting in, find alternative ways to give, or just stand firm and insist that buying stuff isn't always necessary?

I guess I should just be thankful that TreeHugger works from a virtual office...

More on Environmentalism and Frugality
What's So Green About Saving Money? Mindfulness & Prioritization
How Throwing Stuff Away Makes You Frugal (and Green?)
Love Your Stuff: Material Possessions Are Not Evil
Why Being Lazy is Green, and Frugal Too

Tags: Consumerism | Economics | United States

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