An Economy Built on Crap

Honestly, does this add $300 worth of value to your life? I’m gonna say it does exactly the opposite!

A few years ago, when I was living in a tiny apartment, I declared a stuff boycott. Since moving into my house I’ve relaxed the rules a bit, though I still don’t like buying things that seem unnecessary. But every Christmas season I start scouring  websites for gift ideas to buy those tricky relatives who don’t want or need anything useful that you could possibly buy them. Sure, they might actually need a new dishwasher but it’s not like you’re really going to buy that for your aunt or uncle…

With my friends I can get away with making donations in their names (Heifer.org is my favorite), but my family is a little Christmas Crazy. For years I’ve been trying to get them to agree to Secret Santa or a grab bag, but so far I haven’t been successful. So…I continue to troll the internet looking for not completely horrible gift ideas for people who don’t need anything. I often make them something and then just go get gift certificates for manicures or what have  you.

But as I sort through the incredible amount of crap that’s out there to buy — and I wonder why anyone would buy it — I realize that our entire economy is basically built on people’s willingness to buy stuff they don’t need. Just the other day I was window shopping for a new laptop. Mine is probably at least 4 years old, some of the keys are starting to stick, and I’ve heard some not great noises coming from it but to say I “need” one would be a stretch. Part of me knows I should make the switch before this one actually dies, but a much bigger part of me says, “You don’t need it now!” But as I’ve chatted with friends about this new shopping conundrum of mine it’s clear that they think I should just go ahead and do it already, whether I  really need it or not. (There have been some good deals on refurbished MacBooks, so it’s been a real struggle to keep myself from the impulse-buy.) And if it weren’t for people like those friends of mine, buying gadgets they don’t really need, where the heck would our economy be? And more importantly, can we really sustain growth on that kind of mentality?

I think the answer is, obviously, NOOOOOOOO!  Continue reading