Subscribers get two chances to win a free audio copy of Jim Collins's The Simple Path to Wealth in December. Mr. Money Mustache reads the Forward. Don't miss out. Subscribe today!
The day after Thanksgiving in the States is called Black Friday, as if anyone doesn’t already know that. What you might not know is that it is also Buy Nothing Day. Buy Nothing Day started in Canada (how un-American) in 1992 and has grown into an international movement against overconsumption. The idea is one day of no spending should lead to a lifetime of responsible personal finance which should ease pressure on natural resource demand and pollution. It has been a slow start.
If you print it they will spend. The non-stop growth of fiat money, created by central banks at the click of a button (I know it involves more than that, but a longer description would interrupt the flow of my story) gets spent. The money supply growth of the last decade has not generated a massive wave to new consumption and inflation because most of the newly created money is sitting bank vaults and central banks around the world to prop up balance sheets. Siphoning off the excess cash once it is unleashed has a high likelihood of being very painful. Before this happens you must hone your financial muscles to protect yourself.
Self control is the only tool you have in self protection. Just because you have money doesn’t mean you have to spend it. If you hold a hammer in your hand do you automatically hit something? Okay, bad example.
Buy Nothing Day is a great idea to get us thinking, but it is a stupid idea in practice. Staying home and not spending on one day of the year is meaningless. It’s like those “Don’t Buy Gas on Friday” slogans, as if not buying gas on Friday will stick it to OPEC and Exxon. It doesn’t. You just fill up on Thursday and drive all the more. You want to stick it to OPEC and Exxon? Ride a fucking bike. Want to send a message on overconsumption? Then spend less all year round.
Things work differently in the Accountant household. Society says you need to buy gifts every goddamn birthday, anniversary, and Christmas, Halloween, Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and Boss’s Day (screw the boss). Add to that the required excessive spending on partying for all the above mentioned events and St. Patrick’s Day (green beer), Memorial Day, Independence Day (yes, I am U.S.-centric), Labor Day, oh, and why the hell not, every weekend (Friday and Saturday). As long as you are going to act crazy with your money, don’t stop there. Make up a couple of new holidays all your very own to blow this week’s paycheck on. The Accountant household participates in none of it. Bah! Humbug!
Mrs. Accountant and I haven’t exchanged holiday or birthday gifts in decades. We were light on the gift giving prior to that. (There are some things we do give on special events, but that is personal. And besides, this is a family blog.) The same goes for my brother and me. We decided long ago to forgo the Christmas gift giving. The kids are somewhat tougher.
There is a good reason why I am against the Christmas gift haul that goes beyond the money and overconsumption issue. Each year as I get older I notice youngsters all seem to go through a phase where they end up crying at Christmas. They didn’t get enough or what they wanted so the tears and temper tantrum ensue. My junior accountants never suffered through such a phase. We kept expectations low so there was nothing to cry about. The house is NOT crammed with plastic crap imported from China to give the home a holiday feel. You want some holiday feel? Grab a shovel and start moving snow. It is NE Wisconsin, you know.
It’s all madness. And cruelty. We live in a society where we all have a thousand times more than we need so we have this special holiday (what the hell does Christmas stand for anymore?) specially made to unload our pocketbooks and saddle us with more junk to take care of (and eventually throw in the landfill). Stupid.
I know you guys are with me on this, but I hear your moans. Accepting a gift free holiday season is easier said than done. What will mom and dad think? And the kids? Holy shitstorm! I can’t speak for you guys, but I can share how I moved from a ‘gift at every turn’ lifestyle to ‘no more gifting’.
When I graduated from high school I hated every birthday and holiday. A month never went by when I wasn’t thinking about a gift I had to buy for a birthday or holiday. I wanted to crawl in a hole and live like a hermit it drove me so mad. Before Buy Nothing Day was a wet dream I was already well on my way to celebrating the event. I was laying down the law.
The first thing to go was gifts for birthdays and most holidays. For Mother’s Day and Father’s Day I started a fire pit with wood from some old dead trees around the farm and had a fry-out. I was going to eat anyway so there was no additional spending involved. (Okay, mom can really pack it away so I do buy an extra package of brats, but who’s counting?) For birthdays I give a phone call and maybe have a family gathering to play cards. Once again, food is the only cost and we normally eat every day anyway so we have acted financially responsible.
Christmas was a tough nut to crack. Mrs. Accountant and I agreed to no gifts and it was an easy agreement. To placate anyone unwilling to accept we don’t give each other a Christmas gift and stay married, we consider a purchase made during the previous year to be our Christmas gift to each other. (How do people stay married when they give each other Christmas gifts? The risk of the wrong gift hurting feelings is sure to result in the major expense of a trip to the divorce attorney.) Mrs. Accountant got a new bike this year for Christmas; it was my gift to. Mrs. Accountant uses it for me. That’s it. No more gifts for us. We have all we want and more than we need!
The kids were on board when they got older. By the time they were 10 the gift giving was done. We use the same policy Mrs. Accountant and I used to placate the masses when we were asked what we got each other for Christmas. During the course of the year if we buy the kids anything, we call it their Christmas gift. It might be a weekend trip to a park or some other family time. This year the girls got a new bike too. No new bike for me. I got mine last year when the old Huffy couldn’t make the 30 mile round trip to the office anymore. The girls needed new bikes as theirs old ones were getting too small (they grew up on us) and Mrs. Accountant’s bike was approaching 30 year old too. I guess the bike qualified for Collector’s Plates.
That’s it. There will be nothing under the tree this year like in years past. The Christmas tree is a decorated houseplant again this year. But there is one more Walnut to crack: parents. They are the last to be weaned. My parents are still a work in progress. But I have to admit when I broached the subject again this year my mother lamented how people buy whatever they want when they want I, so it is hard to buy Christmas gifts. I replied we are that lucky to live in such a time and age where we can have whatever we want with little restraint. My parent will get a small gift. The best we will give is family time together; the best gift of all. Last year my parents gave us a cookbook (something we will put to good use) and cash (a good way to get money from one generation to the next without waiting for anyone to die). (Before you think it, there are no strings attached to the cash from my parents. No forced self-gift buying and letting everyone know later what you bought. We don’t spend what we earn already so it just adds to the stack.)
One Special Gift
When you are as blessed as Mrs. Accountant and I are, you do want to consider giving one special gift. Each year we choose a charity and make a sizable contribution. Every year is a different charity. I have written enough in the past on my contributions to charity so I will not repeat what I have written before.
Before I sign off and let you to your weekend I want to point out I am not a hypocrite when I have Amazon links on this page. As I stated, I have nothing against buying stuff, gift giving, or spending in general. My argument is against excessive spending. I will not think less of you if you and your significant other exchange gifts. All I ask is that you consider what the gift represents. Keep the cost reasonable (only you can decide what reasonable is).
My goal is to turn this blog self-supporting. That is why I include ads, affiliate links to products or services I think are valuable to my readers, and Amazon links. In no way should you feel compelled to use any of these links. The ads on this blog also break up the text because I know how long I get at times. White space and a break in the text are kind of nice on the eyes. And it helps keep the blog self-sustaining. Don’t use them just to please me! If you are going to make a purchase anyway, by all means, think of your favorite accountant.
Keep gifting to a minimum. I recommend giving more of you to your significant other, children, extended family, and friends. Time together is the only gift I feel comfortable giving. Buy Nothing Day is a joke unless you incorporate the message into everyday living.
Talk to your family about reduced gift giving. Set expectations low with your children. Birthdays and holidays are not a time to make a haul! Make it a special day. My kids always want to give mom and dad a gift for Christmas; it is hard giving up something society focuses so much on. Our girls make a craft for us. They give something of themselves, something money cannot buy. That is the kind of gift I really cherish and means something to me. The stuff from China? Not so much.
From the Accountant family to yours: Happy Holidays!