We are being duped right now. Yup, t’is the season for us to be hypnotized by lights, smells, and tales of wonderlands and treasured moments we’ve never had. Our emotional strings are being strummed so that we can believe that we will be merrier and more joyful if we buy, buy, buy our way to happiness. And so those emotional strings will loosen the purse strings and because we believe that we are saving – because of all of those great deals – we spend way more than we intend to. We spend on stuff and food because we are trying to fill a fictitious need.
Take, for example, my visit to Whole Foods on Wednesday afternoon, a.k.a. Thanksgiving eve. As soon as I walked in the door I was embraced by the sweetest, most enticing smell of cinnamon and sugar. It smelled amazing. My thoughts went right to what I was making for dessert. Right there in front of me was a mountain of cans of organic pumpkin for $1.99. Luckily I had already purchased my pumpkin so I was safe. Good trick Whole Foods, but I didn’t fall for it – this time. I went to Costco yesterday, and had not gone but a few yards into the store when a glint made me blink and compelled me to make a hard right with my giant cart. Right before me were several displays of men’s watches. Prices ranges from about $70 to a couple of hundred and I thought, hmm, hubbie does need a good watch. Actually, what he really needs is a $20 watch band, but so what, I could get him one of these shiny new watches and feel much happier about my gift. Good try Costco – keeping my wits about me. TV commercials are trying to convince me to get to the stores so that I can
spend save tons of money. This is tough because I love to buy things on sale. The black Friday commercials made me wish I had been in the market for a 47-inch flat screen TV or a Kitchen Aid 5-qt mixer. Mine still have a good five years of life left in them. It was tempting. Good try Wal-Mart, Kohl’s and Target. Macy’s is trying to convince me that they have magic in their stores and that I must believe in this magic or I will turn into the Grinch. Oh, oh, maybe I have already turned into the Grinch…bah, Humbug.
The truth is I love all of this stuff. I love the illusion, the sales, the sparkle, the smells, and the pretend magic. My heart wants it to be real so I sing along to the holiday songs as I walk through the stores and tell myself that I really need to have this, or he really needs to have that, and oh, look at all the money I’ve saved! The same goes for food. I convince myself that the holidays is no time to deny myself the wonderful flavors of cookies, peppermint bark, egg nog, peppermint mocha and pumpkin spice lattes. But, when January comes, and the illusion disappears, then I’m faced with the consequences of how much I’ve spent and how many empty calories have broadened my waistline while shrinking my wallet.
Retailers need people like me. They want us to believe that we need much more than we actually do. So, for a couple of months I have been saying that I need a few things. I need a new coat, even though I have 4 coats in my closet. My reasoning is – my coats are looking a bit dated. I say that I need a silicon rolling pin. I have a perfectly good wooden rolling pin but I heard a baker in a cooking show casually mention that the silicon rolling pins don’t stick to the dough. And so on. So, this holiday season I am going to enjoy the illusion, the sparkle and the romance, but I am not going to give in so easily to promises of savings or to satisfy an artificial need. This time I am going armed with the one question: do I need this, really?
As I sign off for my 100th blog post, I leave with this thought. When we think of what we really need, it boils down to the very basics in life: good health, shelter, clothing, food, water, love and purpose. Too many people have lost one or more of those this year. My heart aches for them and I pray for those who are at the end of their rope because they don’t have and can’t get what they really need. I challenge myself and hope you will join me in spending differently this year. Instead of buying ourselves one more thing that we don’t really need, let’s help meet a real need for someone who is not as fortunate. Let’s give to charity the extra stuff we don’t use, and let’s spend our money on charitable donations to the poor, the homeless, and the victims of crime or disaster. Let’s give of our time to be there for someone who has lost a loved one this year, or who is ill. We can be the real Christmas miracle in someone else’s life. By giving and helping those who really need, we can give the biggest most precious gift this holiday season –hope. Hope is so big and grand that it can’t be boxed or placed under a tree, but it will give you and the receiver, true and lasting joy.