With the “Occupy” movement now in its second month, the holiday season has begun. It will be interesting to see how those who are a part of that movement — and those who sympathize with it — celebrate their holidays.
Here’s how Wall Street wants you to celebrate the holidays: spend, spend, spend. They want you to rush out and shop until your credit cards are smokin’ hot. They want the affection you feel for your loved ones to translate into stuff — more sweaters, more iGadgets, more games and toys. They want your money to trickle up, not only through your purchases, but also through the credit card interest you’ll be paying until the next holiday season. Who cares if you protest as long as you buy more shit?
According to a shopping survey conducted for the National Retail Federation by BIGresearch, up to 152 million people plan to shop Black Friday weekend, up from the 138 million people who planned to do so in 2010. Retail sales are expected to reach $465.6 billion during the holiday season, a slight increase over last year.
Banks are doing their bit by offering sweet credit deals. Capital One will offer rewards to consumers who shop through its online retail service. BankAmericard will offer a variety of cash-back options depending on what you buy, where you buy it and which card you carry. Other credit companies are offering cash back on purchases made on Black Friday and through that weekend.
They want your business. Yes, they do. It’s not just so that they can earn a decent living. This is how Wall Street occupies you.
There are alternatives, of course, but Americans are no more in favor of “austerity measures” than any other bunch of well-trained consumers. Still, it’s possible to put gifts under the tree without running up credit cards, and it’s easy to spend your holiday dollars in ways that support this community and not Wall Street. Here are some tips:
Take a realistic look at your budget.
What can you afford without using credit? Do you really need to buy gifts for all of those people? Perhaps you can express your affection and share holiday cheer through homemade cookies, candy, bread or hot chocolate mix.
Think about the people on your gift-giving list.
What kind of personal services or experiences can you offer them that they might enjoy? If you’re handy around the house, perhaps there are repairs you can tackle for them. If you’re ultra-organized, maybe you can take on their filing cabinets, garage or closets. Or maybe you can babysit their kids so they can have a romantic night out. The options are almost endless and require nothing more than your time and your willingness to give from the heart.
When you do choose to spend, buy goods and services from locally owned businesses. Boulder residents give a lot of lip service to the idea of shopping locally, but far too often they overlook locally owned businesses in favor of chains. Perhaps it’s a matter of habit, or perhaps people just don’t stop to think long enough before they walk through a retailer’s front doors.
In truth, it takes very little effort to retrain yourself and develop focused shopping habits. You’ll discover how easy it is to buy most things on your holiday shopping list — from food to clothing to services — from local retailers and artisans. Visit the Boulder Independent Business Alliance online for a list of locally owned businesses.
Shopping locally is one of the best ways to “occupy Wall Street,” because it keeps your hard-earned dollars in the community, helping local restaurants, retailers and other service providers pay their employees and keep their doors open. Many local retailers also have gift cards as well as online sites, offering those of you who like to shop via the Internet a way to enjoy that option while still supporting your neighbors.
Wall Street is so powerful because it sits atop a global system of multinational corporations that suck up people’s money through a vortex of greed. When you shop locally — when you leave the global economy behind and localize your life — you withdraw from that destructive economic system and begin creating your own.