Buy Nothing Day: 24 hours of Consumer Detox

It’s increasingly hard to miss the undercurrent of restless dissatisfaction; the evolution in the conversations we’re having, in the stands and sacrifices we’re willing to make. Something is changing. If you’ve never heard of Buy Nothing Day, this is the year to get with it. It’s just an annual day of action (or inaction, really) in 65 countries (says the Wiki) celebrating its 20th year backed by those kids over at AdBusters.

You know, Adbusters? Those idealistic troublemakers who pull shenanigans to stir the pot. You may know them from their recent work, creating a little trend now called the Occupy Movement. Now that I have your attention, Buy Nothing Day is exactly what it sounds like: a day – one measly day – of abstaining from consumerism. If ever there was a holiday who’s time had come, it’s this one.

Some readers are scratching their heads and asking why. Why, in a country designed for consumption at almost every price point (btw, Dollar-Rama needs a kitschy name like Sally Ann and Tar-Jay), why would anyone avoid spending unless it’s to save up for something bigger?

Well, have you ever gone through a day of doing nothing special, ending with a lighter wallet and little or nothing to show for it? Sure, we all do it too often, and that’s creepy. Consumer society has become so pervasive that we don’t even notice ourselves spending. If it doesn’t cost much, what’s the harm? We may as well. We deserve it.

We’ve stopped the majority of of our critical thinking about purchases, and are left with the bare minimum of “can I afford this?” which should be the last question in a string beginning with “do I need this?” That lack of critical thinking is symptomatic of addictive or obssessive behavior.

The first few times you do something, your brain goes on overdrive to make a logical (or at least conscious) decision. After it makes the same decision a couple of times, it skips the foreplay and jumps right in, and voila, you’re putting out a cigarette you don’t remember lighting. When we spend without noticing, shop as a distraction, a mood booster, or to fill the space where je ne c’est quoi turns into an indefinable void, we’re consumer crackheads.

Everyone has that “thing” they buy even when they know they don’t need it. Maybe it’s the lattes that cost as much as a lunch ought to, or new shoes, car accessories, video games (spend real money on virtual gear! I’m looking at you Zynga, and anyone who sells online maps). Personally, I love lip-gloss and nail-polish so much that I’m disappointed if I can’t find any to buy, and will settle for something I only sorta like.

See how that’s backwards? And to make matters worse, just think of how you didn’t even know you wanted that thing that time but it was on sale Sale SALE! Save 25% of the money you weren’t going to spend until you saw this sign!

For one day, save 100% by walking on by. At a time when people are calling everything into question, it’s time to remember that we work hard for each dollar, making the real value of each buck pretty significant, but not the be all and end all. Spend a day enjoying living rather than purchasing. Fill your tank and charge your Opus card the day before, pack your lunch, make your own damn coffee (which is in and of itself such a luxury in the global scheme that we should be grateful for every cup, including instant), have friends over for a potluck instead of an overpriced night of shouting over muzak. Plan ahead as though we live in a village instead of a vending machine. Curb your consumerism. It may not change the world, but it will sure make you more conscious of your own actions, desires, and actual needs for a day.

This year, I’m doing it, and I know it won’t be a cakewalk. I am wholly aware that as I write this article, I am in my head trying to justify the purchase of a new travel mug and super cute new purse sized water bottle, each $20, both from Starbucks (*cough), but I’m determined to make it through November 25th without buying so much as a lollipop. Are you up for the challenge? Leave a comment and let me know what you think.

More Ways to Buy Nothing

Co-op La Maison Verte is doing their part yet again, with their anniversary party and free Buy Nothing Day celebration potluck all rolled into one on Sunday, November 27. There will be a jam session and activities for the kids, so head out and wish them a happy 11th bday, while buying nothing.

Adbusters is calling for a buy nothing Xmas, or you could Occupy Xmas, with locally shopped goodies made under sustainable and humanitarian conditions. Both movements are designed to remind us that the real gift is in the time we spend and the thought we put in, not the bills we rack up. I hope to see many “What would Jesus Buy?” signs this season.

These 100 Things to Do on a Money Free Weekend should keep you busy if you get itchy to spend.

Buy Nothing Day is November 25th in North America and November 26th everywhere else

Twitter me and see what falls out of my head in 140 characters or less @McMoxy

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  • November 25 is Black Friday in the US. Can’t see Buy Nothing day being popular.

    • Well, that’s the part of the point. BND was scheduled to coincide with Black Friday, one of the worst examples of over-the-top wasteful consumerism there is. If enough people refuse to buy that day of all days, it really has an impact.

  • Starbucks, Lattes, Opus cards, Zynga. No doubt after this ‘one day’ of not spending, the author will reward herself with a ‘cute purse sized water bottle’, and a new purse.

    • Sort of true: I researched a better thermos-mug, and held out until I could cash in my birthday gifts (the mug, some tea, and a more versatile less expensive bottle). Then I organized a swap meet that allowed me to both clean out my closet and score new-to-me gear, and there I did happen to get a lovely purse, at no cost, with all of the unclaimed goodies going to charity. I have been shopping, of course, ’tis the season, and I like stuff, but I was pretty proud of these positive actions. I dig the thrills of consumerism, I just believe every thoughtful choice counts 🙂

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