By Loraine Debnam
The season of excess has already begun (earlier and earlier from what I see). Businesses rely on this time of the year to increase their sales of goods and services. The promotions for Black Friday are in full-swing and this frenzy will continue until after the chaos of all the Boxing Day (Week) sales.
It is a function of our culture to encourage this spending to acquire more than our basic needs. Producing and selling products and services is what makes capitalism work. It’s a philosophy sometimes dreaded and often scorned, but seems to be the goal for most nations. It cuts across gender, religion, class, ethnicity and even nationality.
We all owe a debt of gratitude to consumer advocates who have voiced their anxieties to the public and brought about significant positive changes.
Here in Canada, we have better product testing and safety standards, improved packaging and labelling and legislation requiring truth in advertising. Because of the tenacity and dedication of these campaigners, we are aware of concerns regarding textiles, drugs and chemical additives, food production and labelling (including country of origin) and, of course, environmental pollution.
The rapid growth of pollution prevention technology and the development of recycled products can be credited to citizens who have been committed to this cause. The institution of the office of the provincial ombudsperson and both provincial and national cabinet portfolios for consumer affairs are largely due to the influence of vocal consumers, both as individuals and in groups.
In today’s economy, it’s important to be a conscientious consumer. We all have the responsibility to make rational decisions and discriminating purchases. Comparison shopping can be a valuable tool when used wisely and reviewing product testing results is also generally valid, since most studies are conducted by unbiased organizations.
I’m pleased to read the Conference Board of Canada is reporting Canadians are managing their money in a more prudent and conservative manner during this economic downturn. Since the board is an independent not-for-profit research group, I have some faith in its credibility. It conducts studies and publishes reports concerning the economic trends of today.
One account stated companies are gearing their products and services to more demanding and cost-conscious consumers. The buying public is seeking out durability and value for essential goods and services and since there is less money to spend, shoppers are using more caution in making their purchases.
The financial pundits are forecasting very slow growth in 2017 and, as most of us are carrying too much debt already, they recommend we stay on top of our cash situation and carefully review our long-term financing.
Discipline is the keyword for holiday shopping in everything I have read.
Try to find smaller and more personalized gifts. Shop with a list, stick to it and whenever possible, pay with cash or your debit card — not your credit card.
Reports state being financially responsible this festive season is a gift to yourself, as well as those you care about. The power of making the right choices instills a greater sense of well-being in all of us.
I saw a bumper sticker the other day that had a new interpretation of the three Rs. It read, “Remake, Regift, Refrain.” My daughter’s pickles and my mom’s crabapple jelly came to mind when I saw another one that read, “Handmade, Homemade or Home Grown.” Those might be things for me to think about when I am, “making my list and checking it twice.”