The next two months represent the highest rate of consumption during the year, but it doesn't have to be that way.
I usually think of November and December as the 'busy season,' packed full of events nearly every weekend. But what's really behind all that busyness? Minimalist expert Joshua Becker sheds some light on this time of year that seems to affect so many people in the same way. He calls it the 'season of excess,' pointing out that Halloween kicks it all off, followed by Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas, and finally New Year's, when everyone wakes up realizing how ridiculous this all is:
The amounts of money spent on these various holidays are obscene: $8.8 billion in Halloween candy, $90 billion on Black Friday (ironically, "immediately following a day being grateful for all the things they do have"), and, of course, Christmas shopping. Becker writes,
"No wonder everybody in the country decides on January 1st they need to make changes in how they are living. Halloween through New Year’s has just equaled 64 days of excess."
"[Half] of holiday shoppers either overspend their holiday budget or do not set one at all and 28 percent of holiday shoppers enter the season still paying off debt from last year’s gift shopping."
This doesn't even mention all the physical items being purchased – the single-use plastic decorations and packaging, the fast-fashion clothing items 'needed' for a party, the gimmicky stocking stuffers and gag gifts, the cheap toys that break within a few days of receiving them, the gadgets and appliances purchased on Black Friday just because they're an irresistible deal.
Becker calls for people to reconsider how they spend these next two months and to make decisions that won't result in regret on January 1st. He approaches it from the perspective of preserving finances and not filling one's house with junk, but it's worth repeating from an environmental perspective, as well. In the face of a climate crisis, we cannot afford to keep consuming stuff in this way. Our lives must become simpler; we must learn to appreciate what we have, to make do, to be content with less.
What are some ways to achieve this?
Start by recognizing Buy Nothing Day, in place of Black Friday. Don't even go shopping; stay home instead, or go for a hike. Do the same on Cyber Monday; refuse to contribute to the rampant consumerism.
This Christmas, wear clothing that's already in your wardrobe or, if you must buy something, stick to the thrift store. Talk to your family about paring down the gift-giving. Draw names, give gifts only to kids, or mandate that all must be homemade or second-hand or plastic-free. Focus on gathering with friends and family, not exchanging stuff. Reconsider whether or not to send out a Christmas card, and all the cost and waste associated with that.
Tone down your New Year's celebrations. If you have young kids, host a family-friendly event instead of going out and paying a small fortune to a sitter. Maybe celebrate during the day instead of the night. Plan a fun activity like skating, a bonfire, hiking, or camping out.
Eat less. Drink less. Sleep more. It's entirely possible to enjoy the holiday season without pushing your body to the limit – and your bank account will thank you if you buy less booze and meat.
By all means, recognize these holidays. These are crucial, foundational celebrations that add meaning to life and deepen family bonds, but those same benefits can be felt without all the shopping that now accompanies them.