Illustration by Ana Garza, The Mike Illustrator
And the most wasteful time of the year
Michelle Merino, The Mike Contributor
American Thanksgiving is upon us and marks the beginning of a frenzied season of spending — the holiday season. From Black Friday to Boxing Day, people camp outside stores, malls extend their hours, and seasonal work is abundant. It is a time when videos of Walmarts across America go viral due to the hordes of people fighting over flat screen TVs.
It is a time of excessive consumption. When the mania of these spending holidays is so prevalent, we Canadians look forward to American Thanksgiving because we know holidays like Black Friday and Cyber Monday will follow — “holidays” that our retailers begin to advertise for weeks in advance despite Canadian Thanksgiving taking place in October. The week before Black Friday, for example, Canadian Tire sent out an obnoxious black and red flyer titled “EARLY BLACK FRIDAY DEALS!” and this week they sent another flyer promoting “Red Thursday.”
A 2017 article in The Globe and Mail projected that Canadians will toss out 540,000 tonnes of wrapping paper and gift bags due to the holiday season. Despite it being the most wonderful time of the year, it is also the most wasteful one, where the foils and glitter gift wrap go straight to the landfills due to their incapability of being recycled.
I can understand the feeling of wanting to spoil the ones we love, how Christmas is a way to show care to those we cherish in our lives, however, a line must be drawn between what is essential and what is excessive. When we shop, we must be conscious about the utility of our gift, equally weighing its usefulness and enjoyment. We need to distance ourselves from this frenzied consumer mindset that retailers try to push onto us with big numbers and bold letters.
Stop buying novelty gifts for the sake of a gag or for their quirky use and refrain from throwing last-minute products into your cart while waiting for checkout. Stop letting the discounts persuade you into buying unnecessary products. A thoughtful present is a thousand times more valuable than a few stocking stuffers. Products made cheaply and unethically and made for the sake of taking up space are often products that will never be used again once their novelty wears off.
Before you go shopping, ask yourself if excessive gifts are a viable option this year. As students saddled with slightly decreased tuition and considerably decreased OSAP loans, the financial burden of this season may be too much. Don’t be afraid to talk to family and friends about gifts not being a choice this year. More often than not, your family understands the financial strain of being a student in Toronto and will appreciate you simply coming home for the holidays, to enjoy time as a family.
Personally, all my family members have their own financial strains this year, one about to have a baby, another planning a wedding, and a third moving to a new house. We communicated to each other that finances are tight, and we decided to have a Secret Santa instead, to alleviate the burden of excessive gift-giving, but we still look forward to creating and receiving thoughtful presents from our Secret Santa.
We don’t need to participate in this “throw away culture,” and we don’t need to be part of the tonnes of wrapping paper that go to the landfill. We can spend our money on thoughtful, useful gifts, and refrain from over-consuming. When I was younger, my older brother used cereal boxes and newspaper to wrap his presents. It was a quick laugh but looking back, it was a sustainable option, and no one minded the unconventional packaging.
Exercise restraint, and you may survive this holiday season with your finances intact.