Are you thinking about lining up outside a national retail chain this morning to spend money you don't really have? Planning to fight for an Elmo doll and a DVD player?
Go toward the light, say some community activists. Black Friday hasn't buried you, not just yet.
On what's called the biggest shopping day of the year -- the day after Thanksgiving, when retailers supposedly turn the corner and see their income statements move out of the red and into the black -- some advocate changing the way you think about consumption.
Today is also Buy Nothing Day, as promoted by Kalle Lasn, co-founder of Adbusters Media Foundation, and others in 65 countries around the globe. For more than a dozen years, the Vancouver-based magazine has encouraged individuals to spend the day in a consumer fast instead of a frenzy.
"Every November, for 24 hours, we remember that no one was born to shop, we make a small choice to participate by not participating," reads a notice on Adbusters' Web site.
Whether it's recognizing that overconsumption is linked to environmental destruction, personal stress and unhappiness or worldwide inequity in the distribution of wealth, choosing a simpler path for even one day can be profound, Lasn said.
"People start realizing that the impulse to buy is almost like an addiction, and for years they have just given in to that impulse without even thinking about it, and suppressing that impulse is actually very difficult," said Lasn. "Those that do make it though the day, they feel like after they have given up smoking, that they have conquered the beast."
Americans will spend an average of about $800 each on holiday shopping -- which totaled more than $438 billion last year, according to the National Retail Federation. This year, the trade group says sales will be "subdued," growing about 5 percent, down from last year's 6.1 percent growth.
One-fifth of the industry's sales occur during the holiday season, according to the federation. And many shoppers will make purchases using credit cards, adding to the nearly $8,000 in such debt that each family carries on average.
The executive director of the Santa Fe Alliance said rather than encourage people to quit shopping today, she wants to remind them of myriad local options that keep money in the community instead of paying corporate profits.
"It's a huge day for shopping, and we want people to be in those local stores while they are shopping," said Vicki Pozzebon, executive director of the Santa Fe Alliance. "Maybe it is a good day to get a local massage instead of going shopping, or go to your local coffee shop and enjoy an afternoon with friends and family eating something other than turkey or taking part in some local activities like riding the train."
Another option might be to join the mayor and City Council to celebrate the beginning of the holiday season at the 25th annual tree lighting ceremony on the downtown Plaza. The free event starts at 3 p.m. and includes a poetry reading by Santa Fe's first Poet Laureate Arthur Sze and live entertainment by the Santa Maria de la Paz hand bell ringers, the Girl Scout Choir and SolFire. The Girl Scouts and Camp Fire Boys will be selling hot cider, hot cocoa and cookies.
"I think a big part of what goes on for many people during this season is the spiritual part versus the commercialism and the materialism," said Phoebe Girard. "And so a lot of people want to be generous, and they want to let people know they are thinking of them, but they don't want to go somewhere and buy something."
That's why Girard helps organize the Alternative Gift Market at United Church of Santa Fe, which takes place for the sixth year in row from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday. Donations to overseas peace initiatives, a local literacy program and St. Elizabeth Shelter are among gifts that can be made in a loved one's name. Each comes with a greeting card explaining how the money will be used, Girard said.
Ecotherapist Robert Francis Johnson, who teaches workshops about sustainable business practices, said the year's traditional shopping day is a good time to consider your habits as a consumer.
"The consumer culture, it's a mind virus," Johnson said. "When you get a virus in your computer, what it does is it destroys your system, your files. So this same idea occurs with consumerism because it destroys our moral and spiritual values. The word means burn, deplete, destroy, disintegrate, deteriorate, shrink, use, use up and waste or waste away."
Copyright © 2006 The New Mexican