Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday - Tool Shopping

My Grandmother used to tell me, "The masses are asses." She lived for 85 years and was one of the most aware and awake people I've ever known. She was an avid reader and studied politics, philosophy and appreciated great writers and loved music. She lived through the Roaring Twenties, Prohibition, the Great Depression and two world wars. So she knew a bit about a thing or two. Though I didn't have the understanding about much of what she said by personal experience, I knew enough to listen to her because I knew she was telling me the truth.

Some times knowing the context behind and through a commentary is important.

Black Friday. An interesting tarnish on Christmas. The day after Thanksgiving has been generally a good start to the holiday shopping season. If a business is in debt the bottom line numbers are red. If you owe you are in the red. Likewise, if your business breaks even or better yet has a profit it is indictated by black ink (from the old ledger books people used before computers) and thusly, it is referred to as being in the black.

The day after Thanksgiving is referred to Black Friday because it is the day that many businesses often go from being in the red to in the black. Lovely way to end the one holiday of the year that is dedicated to being thankful (even though behind this wonderful premise a bloody genocide occurred across this nation), yet, the contemporary meaning of Thanksgiving has come to mean, a day we all give thanks, regardless of our faith or our cultural and ethnic background.

This year there was a lot of hype about select stores opening at midnight on Thursday so shoppers can make a mad dash to get their grubby hands on the best deals in town. Of course these are big corporations that are leading the way. And quite frankly, it pisses me off. Most people are working two to three part-time jobs to keep afloat these days. They do this because companies don't want to have to pay for their health care. As a result, they also don't get any paid vacation. So Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Years are the three days people get to spend a nice, relaxing (or crazy) time with their families. It means people can take a plane or train or automobile and be with the people they love and stay over night on Wednesday and stay until after dinner on Thursday or maybe even until Friday before heading home. But now these corporations have even cut that short.

I got to thinking, what's the big rush? Why offer huge discounts on a certain number of items, I mean, you know they have to be making a shit ton of money or at least they hope to, so what's up with the rush? And then it hit me. It took a few days but I had an epiphany.

Thanksgiving is at the end of the month. Most of us live month to month and have very little to save. And whatever we have we spend on travel to be with our families or to prepare a special meal and sit with our families for a delightful meal and lots of (well with my family anyway, shenanigans and laughter). So what's an idiot to do that has to grab that flat screen TV or whatever bright shiny object is being pushed out there, center stage? Well, the only thing one can do, charge it. Stores who have their own credit cards offer special deals for signing up during the holidays too. So it doesn't matter how much they sell you that TV for, if it is going to take you a year or two to pay it off, at 20-30 percent interest, they got you comin' and goin'. Which leads me back to the beginning, my grandmother was right. The masses are asses. In other words don't be a tool for these mega-corporations that continue not to get it and that continue to put profits their over what is best for the people who work for them and who shop in their stores. The only one who will lose is you. Buying things on credit is never a good idea. Doing without and making do is better. Climb out of debt and then budget yourself and save for holiday shopping little by little all year long. So you can shop wherever you want to. You might even be able to buy hand made things and put the money you spend back into your own communities.

If you are barely scraping by here are some ideas that we have done. We do a gift exchange. We put a name on a piece of paper and throw all of the people we are going to share a gift with in a bowl and then we write a list of names and the first name picked out is the one the first person on the list will buy for. Unless, of course, they get their own name. Then they get to choose again. When you have a couple of families joined together by siblings and marriage, this really helps. You can make something for someone you love or buy them a gift. And if you want to you can also buy for your own family members, or make gifts. It is much easier to handle your finances this way and also much easier to stay within your budget.

It was Black Friday today. And I didn't shop for one damn thing. It was in the sixties, the sun was out and I gave my lovely Akita Coco and shower and then we went for a wonderfully harmonious walk in the park.

I sat with two of my grown children and we laughed and talked about what we were grateful for. And while we missed our boy who is far away, we were grateful he had a kick ass time with an amazing family. And I shared a great quote.

In fact, it was so good I'll share it with you now. It is from the book entitled, "have a little faith," by Mitch Albom.

"A man seeks employment on a farm. He hands his letter of recommendation to his new employer. It reads imply, 'He sleeps in a storm.'
"The owner is desperate for help, so he hires the man. Several weeks pass, and suddenly, in the middle of the night, a powerful storm rips through the valley. Awakened by the swirling rain and howling wind, the owner leaps out of bed. He calls for his new hired hand, but the man is sleeping soundly. So he dashes off to the barn. He sees, to his amazement, that the animals are secure with plenty of feed. He runs out to the field. He sees the bales of wheat have been bound and are wrapped in tarpaulins. He races to the silo. The doors are latched, and the gran is dry. And then he understands, 'He sleeps in a storm.'"

Many people live throwing themselves, willy nilly into each day, without any forethought about what they are going to do. One thing about being a farmer is you learn to be flexible. You learn to watch nature and plant when the climate is right. You learn to watch the changing of the seasons and you learn how to be prepared for what is coming.

It took me a long time to learn how to make decisions based on reality. One what is in my hand. I don't spend what I don't have. I don't get anxious because there is something I want to buy that I can't have. Maybe living with an awareness of how fragile and temporary life is has had something to do with this. Maybe in my 57 years I have learned a thing or two.

Here are my words of wisdom for you, this holiday season, don't be a tool. Keep your eyes on what is truly important. Take time to be with your family. Love and cherish those friends that enrich your life and and the rest of them, be nice, you'll be back home soon.

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