This year festive season is round the corner and black Friday, happening soon, is the first occasion when we are all “encouraged” to “take advantage” of great deals and bargains. This year, I was looking forward to enjoying all the discounts and I had quite a number of things on my shopping list. I have a real job and a decent salary now, so I thought I would update my life with nice and expensive things after brief unemployment and 4 years of living on PhD salary.
Since March last year, I have been buying and accumulating things. I bought new clothes, supported science art independent business owners, got myself a new folding bike, a new car bought stuff for myself and to make my house look better. My spending mania ended up in buying a new car. I was waiting for the black Friday to buy a new laptop and new winter clothes.
Before committing to buying any new item, above all the new laptop, I asked myself a basic question: “Do I actually need a new laptop?”. That was a turning point in reviewing my spending habits. My current laptop is 6yo, quite a long time for electronics, I bought it even before starting my PhD. But the truth is that I don’t need a brand new laptop 1) I barely use it, I use a company computer for my job 2) I have a great phone which I use for most of telematics, even paying bills and rent. 3) I have a smart TV with Netflix and YouTube so I don’t use my laptop for streaming. Plus, after a short talk with my sister, I ended up deciding to do a bit of digital clean-up to make it work faster and better.
Same reasoning applied to buying new winter clothes. I haven’t bought anything last year because of lockdown. Though, I asked myself the same question “do I really need new items this year?” The answer is within reason! I did buy new shoes but the old one had no use at all.
Do I really need this new item?
With regard to Christmas presents, that was never a thing in my family. We never valued material things to make us happy. I think this sentiment has been overwhelmingly highlighted by the pandemic. In a moment when social interactions were a public health treat, I guess everyone realised how human interactions, building relationships, cherishing feelings are far more important than having material things. So the next question I would suggest anyone asking is “Do I need this item to make me happy and fulfil my life? Or it’s just a materialistic and capitalistic action to show off and get the approval of my social circle or followers on social media?”
Does this item make me happy or do I need the approval and kudos of my social circle?
Every item we buy has a cost that goes behind the price we pay online or in store. Everything we buy has an environmental and human cost that isn’t often included in the final number we end up paying. It takes resources from the environment, feedstock, energy and most of those bargains come from child labour or modern slavery. Or did you really think that a T-shirt worth a couple of euros was a sustainable and ethical item? To know more about this topic please give this article from the guilty environmentalist a read.
So should Christmas be cancelled at all? Maybe swapping gifts was the only normal act of this unprecedented and strange year. But as we readjusted to a lot of new things, probably we can rethink the idea of gifting at all. The sensible sustainability blog gives loads of useful ideas on the topic such as a DIY and making a present from scratch, giving cash or a voucher so that people can use the money to buy what they need, preferably from a local and indipent business.
Enjoy the festive season and remember that everyone is different and needs different things. So what’s valid to me might not be applicable to other people.