Regardless of whether you’re switching in between radio stations, updating your Facebook status or toying around with the festive new Snapchat filters, it feels as if hearing about President-elect Donald J. Trump or those holiday “doorbuster savings” taking place at your nearest department store are inescapable.
Believe me, I get it.
You’re probably just as tired of hearing and reading about the election aftermath as I am.
And let’s not forget those incessant emails about holiday deals that you barely have $5 in your bank account to afford.
There are no more votes to cast in the 2016 election, but one opportunity still remains for you to cast a “vote”: how and where you spend your money this holiday season.
This hopefully conscientious decision that you will make is called “dollar voting.”
Mainly used in economics, the term “dollar voting” refers to the purchasing choices of consumers and how those choices determine which products will continue to be produced and supplied to a consumer’s market.
Every dollar put toward a particular product can be considered a “dollar vote” for that product. The products with the largest number of “dollar votes” generate the most profit and tell producers, “Hey, consumers really like this, so you should make more.”
It’s kind of like the saying, “Put your money where your mouth is.”
And, well, that’s what I’m asking you to do this holiday.
Rarely are people aware that their purchasing habits and choices can reflect what they stand for; not often do we realize we are casting a vote with our dollars.
Purchasing an item is like saying, “I agree with what this item and its company and producer stand for. I support how this item was manufactured, where the materials were sourced and how the employees were treated. I want this item, and it reflects the ethics and morals
that I practice in my everyday life.”
Now, of course, not all of that runs through your mind, if any of it occurs to you at all, when you’re handing over some form of currency to purchase an item.
But, if you think about it now, it’s true that you make this underlying statement when you buy something.
Last year, 133.7 million people shopped on Black Friday and spent nearly $616 billion on Christmas and other holiday-related gifts from November through December, according to a report by the National Retail Federation.
Shoppers spent $1.9 billion online on Thanksgiving Day 2016 and another $3.3 billion on Friday, according to Adobe, which tracks data from online purchases across the 100 biggest retailers.
This year, the average millennial is expected to spend $1,427 on holiday season purchases, up 38 percent from last year, according to the Rubicon Project, an online advertising firm in Los Angeles that predicts spending.
With consumers dishing out all this dough this holiday season, it’s especially important to pay attention to the implications of the “dollar vote” you cast.
Are you buying presents, such as children’s toys or electronics, that were outsourced and, as a result, eliminated American jobs?
Are you so focused on scoring the cheapest deal that you purchase clothing from a company that knowingly participates in fast fashion, despite knowing the industry’s negative consequences?
I’m not telling you to not buy gifts for your friends and family this holiday season. That would be ludicrous and contradictory to the affinity for giving that people associate with the holidays.
I am simply asking you to be more conscious of where you spend your money.
Steer clear of stores, purchases and “steals” that save you a couple extra dollars at the cost of another’s safety, health and quality of life.
Also, choose to shop local. It’s humbling knowing that you supported a local artisan rather than some mass producer of cheap and low-quality products.
More often than not, local businesses tell you who produced an item and exactly where it was made. Plus, we all know it’s more difficult for local businesses to stay afloat among other big department store fish such as Macy’s and Nordstroms.
Look for products that are certified “Fair Trade,” meaning the profit from them goes directly to the producers. A product that is “Fair Trade” means it was ethically priced, requires safe and healthy conditions for its workers, is environmentally sustainable and promotes open and honest relationships among its producers, buyers and consumers.
Remember that a gift doesn’t always have to be something materialistic. It can come in the form of delivering freshly baked holiday treats to a local homeless shelter, organizing a toy drive or canned food drive in your residence hall, donating winter apparel that may no longer fit or reading classic holiday stories to sick children at a hospital.
Whichever gift you prefer to give, be sure that you align yourself with the values you hope the holidays also inspire in others.
Cast an informed, ethical and cheerful vote with your dollar, and be sure to always give to those who are less fortunate.