For me, the “fear of missing out” on holiday discounts doesn't necessarily cause me to spend more money, but it certainly causes me to “spend” more time. In the months leading up to November, I usually have something in mind that I could use. My mind instantly goes to, "I should wait and get it on Black Friday." And then, I proceed to spend hours researching where to find the best deal. The problem is, I end up getting that specific item at a very minimal discount. Is it really worth calculating the opportunity cost for months just to save $20? Probably not. And that's where this type of consumerism puts a strain on our lives. We put so much emphasis on the "shopping season" that we lose track of why we are shopping.
Without a “why” we get to the point where we're adding things we don't even like to our carts, simply because they’re on sale. I'm not one to say we should completely ignore the deals because there's no denying, I'm a discount shopper. However, even in my everyday clearance shopping habits, I can see how the hyperfocus distracts me from the intention of my purchases. Sometimes our aim to save money is masking our determination to justify material satisfaction. And ultimately, that is how we succumb to quantity over quality.
So this November, what should we do?Just buy it. No, I'm not talking about impulse purchases. If there's something you've decided will improve your life, and you have the budget for it, then don't stress yourself with "what if I'm missing the best deal?" Sure, if it's a large purchase and you think significant discounts are in the near future, then have patience. But if the search for this item is going to cloud your mind as you try to enjoy the holidays, then it's time to either go for it or let it go. Or if you know there's going to be a great deal on a certain day, set a reminder and forget about it until that time. I know how tempting it is to obsessively scour the internet for comparison before clicking that "purchase" button, but if you're otherwise happy with the deal in front of you, the value of your time is enough to stop the search there. If you don't think the purchase is worth it at the price available, then is it worth the clutter it will add to your life? If we're honest, we can usually conclude a simple "yes" or "no."
When it comes to gifts for others, it's equally important not to give in to the obsession epidemic. Most of the time, I'll find a simple and personable gift for someone, but then I'll decide to go through all the Amazon deals just to make sure there's not a steal on some new tech or gear they could use. Eventually, I realize that my initial find was the best fit for that person. Since it is so easy to accumulate things nowadays, there's a lot more enjoyment on both sides when a gift is about the message rather than the item. Lose the headache and refuse to browse.
Embrace the need for excitement.If you're hyped for the holidays, that's a good thing! It means you're seeking change. Even when our traditions feel mundane, our anticipation for certain events shows that we want movement in our lives. We want somewhere to direct our drive for fulfillment. But when we depend on material pleasures for that satisfaction, then our excitement turns to stress. What are some other sources that can replace the shopping fill-up? Maybe you can plan an adventurous Thanksgiving activity with friends and family or start a new creative project.
For many, this time of year brings disappointment or painful memories. If what you feel is the opposite of excitement, that is still a sign that you're longing for something new. And because our society loves to celebrate, the holidays give us more opportunities to connect and do. If you're resistant to the "cheer," or you don't have someone to share it with, that's even more reason to create a source of excitement. What is going on in your local community or at work? Is the focus on superficial enjoyment and stress? What can you provide to change the atmosphere? How can you give sincerely? Once you dive in, you might find yourself energized by your ability to encourage togetherness, even if it's unfamiliar to you.
Often, our focus on materialism is because it's safe (maybe not for our bank accounts, though). We don't have to leave our comfort zones to experience the child-like joy of a new toy, and that's precisely why that joy is fleeting. Any true source of fulfillment will require risk, and we start to let go of our obsessiveness when we learn that's okay. God made us to desire change, and that should tell us that He gives us the tools to handle it. Even if that change is as simple as spending money on a new habit instead of a new item, it matters. Instead of bringing more stuff into our lives, we need to bring more of ourselves into the world. We are in this world, not of it, and it's our responsibility to use our energy in ways that make a difference. We won’t fear missing out when we know we’re doing something that leads to genuine joy.
Written Content Coordinator at Sun Valley Community Church. An avid writer since the age of 5, who loves to explore new ideas and places. Inspired by Jesus, books, and travel.