I’ve finally hobbled down the stairs this morning. I realized I'm packaged in my favorite vintage $3 mohair wrap from Neiman’s, handmade sheep-skin lined and hand painted mukluks from Black Dog Rise (bought new for $10 retailing $350), along with several vintage hankies in hand - all from Goodwill. Down with the flu for three days, I’ve been scheming. Time to lay down the gauntlet. Ready?
I challenge readers to spend NO MORE than $365 on the holidays in 2011. Celebrate the holidays for a dollar a day. Consider this a new holiday diet, a consumer diet.
For some this challenge might be an insult because it’s so easy. But I’ll bet for majority of Americans, taking on Everest blindfolded in thigh-high platform stiletto boots seems more likely.
It seems to me no one really knows how much the average American spends on the holidays. Many of us would rather stick our heads in the sand than face the hard sting of holiday expenses. Ever get hit with a snowball in the ear or face? Yikes. A cold, seasonally appropriate dope slap.
I've read figures from $600 to as high as $900, most of which is is slapped on mounting credit card debt. But, I suspect it's more than we think, especially when people are giving pricey electronic gadgets. $900 barely covers the cost of a state of the art television or laptop. Are we to assume the average American gives one gift?
Most of us have good intentions of starting out with a small budget. But the "unexpected" and last minute guilt of not giving enough gifts inevitably invites the credit card danger zone. Toss in the sleight-of-hand retail tricks retailers conjure with “buy three get the fourth 50% off” or purchases made because the shopper is just plain sick of shopping and will buy anything to end the suffering of listening to “The Twelve Days of Christmas” played to a beat that might be more appropriate at a rave. (I think that song that has the most annoying renditions. Well, that and the “Little Drummer Boy”.)
Do such figures include decorating, additional grocery expenses, packaging, and mailing fees aside from the standard gift cost? They certainly count, and it all adds up. Does the average American factor in the purchase of a holiday tree? Some trees easily sell for over $100. How about the cookie press we had to buy to make those classroom cookies? Oops! Did we bust up another mixer trying to slog through 10 pounds of cookie dough? A cookie or two on the sheet happens.
Weigh in the full cost of the holidays, and it’s no nickel and dime affair.
The sad thing about American holidays is that it’s so closely tied to the economy. Shopping figures become nightly news. Retailers plan out their year on a gland slam in the ninth. C’mon! Is that really smart? Put all your bets into just a month or two of the year?
Wouldn’t we all be better off if we invested a little more time in slowly stocking up? Wouldn’t that help build more anticipation? Would having more time to shop make for wiser purchases and result in fewer returns? Wouldn't purchases, spread throughout the year be more sustainable, both to merchants and buyers?
It’s disturbing how returning items has become accepted holiday ritual. Isn't this like re-gifting a retail item back to a store because it's nothing we want or need, especially if so little thought was put into the giving anyway?
We are, en masse, accepting the notion of paid waste during the holidays. What? Why someone would buy a “gift” knowing that it will most likely be returned makes no sense to me. But, it’s a common retail practice and many gift recipients take no offense if they receive a gift that is so unlike them it’s going back to the retailer the next day. This is a waste of time for both giver and recipient, and often a complete waste of money and the resources both natural and unnatural to make the unwanted product.
So think about the challenge. Compare it to your usual modus operandi. If you like, please refer to one of our first posts, “The 2009 Thrifting Gift Guide, A Resolution Revolution”. Perhaps then scan through “Wow! This is so… You! What’s happened to the art of giving?”
Of course it should go without saying my challenge might involve multiple treasure expeditions to thrift stores. If you need advice on converting from conventional retail to the re-use market please refer to a series of post on How to Thrift in the left column. Invest three months in a new thrifting routine, and you'll earn a pair of Snake Eyes discover your personal Flinch Point and happily say sayonara to the long lines at The Monolith Mall.
You don't need buckets of money to make the holidays enchanting. All you really need is a little shift in the way you view time, and some forethought. If you start planning for 2011 now, chances are you will spend less money and enjoy the holidays much more. If you're done before the infamous Black Friday, you'll know you've arrived, and will be much less susceptible to impulse and guilt-induced spending.
Just try think about a dollar a day holidays for now. Should you choose this economic holiday diet, you just might find it's life changing.
We'll talk logistics later.
I'll be coming up my Top Five Thrift Finds of 2010 soon.