C/O Heidi Fin, Unsplash
Save a little more and spend a little less, your OSAP savings will thank you
Just hear those sale signs jingling, ring ting tingling too. Come on, it’s lovely weather for a day out shopping with you! The holidays are just around the corner, clearly indicated by the new red and green Starbucks cups, ridiculously gigantic Christmas trees in store-fronts and most important of all, the “door-crashing” sales in shopping malls.
Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Boxing Day, though surprising how they came to be when you think about it, effectively offer North America with excuses to splurge on clothing, toys and other items that they “might use.”
It’s interesting because, throughout the year, it is easy to witness many folks treading carefully with regards to their spending habits but the holiday season will have you whole-heartedly believing that emptying out your savings account is the best way to go.
You can’t really blame the general public though, can you? I mean, corporations do quite a good job of reeling in the customers. How are we expected to walk away from Caramel Brulée lattes, red flannel pyjamas and Winter Candy Apple candles?
For most of the developed world, these select holiday items are the prime marker for enjoying the holiday season. It’s just not Christmas without going on a shopping spree for yourself and the people that made it onto your gift list.
Multinational corporations exploit the vulnerability of consumers at this time and have spectacularly transformed the ability to cause confusion between necessity and desire into a fine art. This often causes individuals to get lost in the excitement of it all and forget to pay any mind to the negative effects consumerism can entail.
Before we get into that though, what exactly is consumerism?
If you haven’t guessed it already, consumerism is essentially the purchasing of market goods and resources. More importantly, it’s a technique used by capitalist societies where suppliers are ever-producing to meet the demands of the general public, or the consumers.
It is much more prevalent in Western societies where there is often codependency between our personal identities and the items that we purchase.
In fact, according to economists, the driving force behind the steady increase of consumerism is the phenomenon of Americanization, otherwise known as the ‘manipulation of preferences’. It is important to note, however, that the market seldom invents new desires — they simply give existing desires a new form to make them more appealing.
This phenomenon effectively feeds into consumerism and creates an extreme version of itself: hyperconsumerism.
A variety of different factors, including the holiday season, can help normalize the dangers of consuming beyond what we need while ignoring the mental, physical and environmental effects. For large corporations, hyperconsumerism comes at the cost of violating workers’ rights since these capitalist markets often treat human rights infractions as collateral damage.
It also goes without saying that, as the demands for consumer products increase, so does the need to produce more and this inevitably leads to an increase in pollutant emissions, exploitation of natural resources and accelerated climate change.
Did you know that the wealthiest 10 per cent are responsible for consuming 59 per cent of the world’s resources? Ironically, they are not the ones experiencing the effects of climate change; it’s the bottom half of the population that is affected.
Now, I can’t possibly advise you to ditch the shopping malls and ignore Black Friday Sales altogether. Most individuals will invest time in figuring out a solution that allows them to continue consuming at the same rate while dodging the effects that hyperconsumerism has.
Ethical consumerism calls upon the consumer to critically analyze their favourite brands and products before making a purchase. However, it’s no secret that purchasing from ethical brands can be expensive and is not a solution that’s accessible to everyone.
Before making a purchase, consider its versatility, quality and whether it will stick with you in the long run. Limit impulsive SHEIN haul orders to conform with trends and instead look for basic clothing items that offer more flexibility.
If you want wide-legged jeans, go for it — just make sure they’ll last and you don’t relieve the store of its entire denim section. I want them too.