You take a routine trip to the ATM one December afternoon and are shocked to see your balance displayed on the screen – it is approaching zero much faster than anticipated. To make matters worse, the holidays are upon us, which can be quite a problem for college students willing to do anything to save a pretty penny.
There is a solution for those needing to be thrifty this holiday season or for those who don’t quite agree with how consumption-crazy Americans get this time of year: buy nothing.
Buy Nothing Christmas is a movement to de-commercialize the holidays and re-design a Christian lifestyle that is richer in meaning. Advocates hope for a smaller impact upon the earth with more giving to people in need. The main aim of this campaign is not to save money, nor take the fun out of the holiday. Rather it aims to challenge our over-consumptive lifestyle and how it affects global disparities and the earth.
Buy Nothing Christmas is a national initiative that started on Canada’s west coast in 2000 by Canadian Mennonites, a group of Christians who are community-orientated, counter-culture pacifists, who offer a prophetic “no” to the patterns of over-consumption of middle-class North Americans.
Aiden Schlichting Enns, co-founder of Buy Nothing Christmas, believes his initiative has already made a significant difference. “It is taking off like wildfire and we had 3,000 people visit the Web site in one day,” Enns said. “I know it doesn’t seem like a lot but compared to how many we started with, it is.”
Enns also said that almost all feedback has been positive and people are relieved that they can “drop out of Christmas.”
“I’m delighted, pleased, gratified, that so many people are responding; however, I’m not surprised because I knew this was a great idea.”
Enns got involved with Buy Nothing Christmas after being continuously confronted with the divide between the rich and the poor and the North American level of consumption. He was also disturbed by Christmas materialism. He had to do something. “I believe we send a problematic message to kids by showing our love by buying them presents and saying that they should feel special when they get material things,” Enns said. “There is a misplaced emphasis on material gifts and in the end, it doesn’t lead to happiness.”
Enns said the economy is based on a consumer-driven capitalism, which means if we stop shopping, we stop the economy. Therefore, we should redirect our efforts to cleaning up our mess and developing more sustainable activities. He said that he is against capitalism because it favors the rich, is heartless, and is based upon the assumption that people buy things out of self-interest. “There is so much pressure to consume and it [Buy Nothing Christmas] will take a long time to become a popular trend,” he said. “But it’s cool to be different, and people should take a stand for something they believe in.”
Nursing sophomore Jackie Finnerman disagrees that people would really follow this initiative. “I know personally that if I received a gift that had already been used, I would feel somewhat cheated if I bought them an expensive gift,” Finnerman said. “It’s a good concept but not realistic.”
However, some students may find this approach to the holidays refreshing. Interior design sophomore Allison Bzdok said, “Because I am a college student, I was stressing about going to the mall and spending money, but this year I am really going to try to make homemade gifts that will have meaning.” She has already knitted numerous scarves for family and friends.
The Buy Nothing Christmas Web site lists some alternative ways to give gifts this year:
• Make friends scrapbooks with old pictures and memories
• Knit a sweater or scarf
• Put together a booklet of favorite family recipes
• Write or sing a song for the person
• Write a poem
• Make homemade candles and soap
• Make comics about your friends or family and things you’ve done together and give it to them
• Make an herb pillow filled with lavender or rose
• Give something you don’t use any more
• Make tree ornaments out of old CDs
• Buy a used book and in the inside cover explain why you chose that book for them
• Collect quotes that make you think of someone
• Make a calendar with pictures of family members
• Create coupons for a massage, manicure, etc.
• Make a mixed CD
So this holiday season, stay home rather than heading out to the mall. Give the gift of anti-consumerism. This year, give the gift of nothing.

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