All I want for Christmas is a peaceful planet.

It’s that time of year when lists are being formed of stuff people want and stuff people want to give. Many retailers do ~75% of their business for the entire year in the next 6 weeks. But is this about what we need or about trying to fill some kind of expectation that has been designed by people trying to make money?

I was privy to a presentation this week that has me thinking entirely differently about the holiday gift giving season.

The stats indicate that the average American family, compared to the year 2000, is down 17% in discretionary income. Further to that, the trend will continue and by the year 2020, the average American family will be down 30% in discretionary income compared to the year 2000. All the while, food prices will increase, gas prices will increase, more manufacturing jobs will move out of North America and there will be more and more and more toys to buy.

After the presentation I was chatting with a friend of mine who disclosed that Christmas for their family of 4 is a $10,000 ordeal. I reflected on when my tax returns were $10,000 for the entire year and wondered if she is any happier than I during my starving artist phase. I doubt it, because I don’t think you can buy happiness for $10,000, whether it is Christmas or not. She couldn’t believe I ever lived on $10,000/yr. Incredulous.

It’s time we started thinking about what really matters. Most of us don’t even get there in today’s consumerist society until we’re diagnosed with cancer or someone in our lives is ripped away from us suddenly. I hear two trains of thought – one is ‘how do we weather this particular storm’ and the more realistic, ‘it’s time to acclimate to a new reality because where we were wasn’t real and we’re reconciling that on an international level now’. I put my faith in the latter, because the people telling us this is a temporary slump are the people hoping really hard that we’ll continue to spend and funnel our money their way, regardless of how that may impact us down the road.

As you build your lists, think about yourself and what is realistic in terms of what you can afford to give. Understand the value of your love and friendship is ultimately priceless and can’t be reflected in any kind of purchased item. Have discussions early about how you’ll approach the giving season and make sure you’re comfortable with the amount you’re prepared to spend, if anything at all.

It’s time to plan for a continual downward spiral in how much money you’ll have at your disposal over the next several years and start replacing consumerism with creativity, love, friendship of the non consumerist kind, protecting the planet by being mindful of what products you support and valuing yourself as a magical, wondrous human being. Is anyone going to officially tell you this? No, because they’re afraid to. They may not get elected again if they do.

Wishing you an insightful, forgiving week.

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