Does purchase power leave you feeling powerless?

I heard on the radio yesterday that Saskatoon is clamping down on unpaid parking tickets. I’ll brag a bit here and say I’ve never gotten one, but some chick at the radio station was getting teased by the DJ dudes because cops were going to boot her car at the mall because she owed around $600. They gave her an hour to get downtown and pay her fine. But, she found out the city wouldn’t take credit or a cheque. The radio guys got to grumbling stuff like, why do this before Christmas? Why not wait until January?

Well boys, if she didn’t have $600 cash in the bank now, why would she have $600 after Christmas? She’d just been out buying gifts and groceries when they found her vehicle, as it happens, and if she’s like an average shopper, she’s probably already over budget. Better advice would be to not to get tickets at all, right? or pay them as soon as you do.

Anyway, a quick Google found me the average expense for American gift buyers last Christmas – $835 – and Canada is probably not that far off, but I can’t seem to find numbers right now. Interesting comparison here – in 2001, Americans spent an average of $462 based on a survey of 5000 households.

A recent poll done by gasbuddy.com found that 52% of people that knew their website existed and felt like answering their poll admitted gas prices did not affect their Christmas spending this year. I liked paying 77.9 cents a litre for my gas yesterday. Saskatchewan prices were around $1.30 at one point, I think. I don’t remember anymore. It must have been so bad I blocked it out. Gasticker.com keeps a good list of prices around the country though. Damn! I missed the 69.9 day, but I didn’t need the gas then. Ah well.

The National Post has an article today about things to do to fight depression during the holidays (and year round, really). They interviewed Michael Lerner, a Rabbi and Chair of the Network of Spiritual Progressives, who

believes the rampant consumption has undermined the true spirit of the holidays and is at the core of holiday sadness.

“For years I’ve run holiday stress groups, and I’ve heard first-hand about the depression and despair with people when they set a standard of consumption beyond their means and deepen their personal debts. Their only connection to the holidays is purchasing and they’ve come to believe the quantity and quality of gifts they receive reflects how much they are loved. But there are better ways to show love besides giving things,” Rabbi Lerner said.

By and large, I agree with him. This concept that material goods can somehow fill the gap once filled with family connections is a flawed one. Advertising campaigns like Scotiabank’s “You’re richer than you think” lead people into a monetary trap that more spending cannot buy them out of. That’s the biggest irony. I knew a girl in university who was in the habit of paying one credit card off with the other, literally passing the digital buck back and forth. She’d withdraw money out of one credit account to pay the other one. Nevermind the instant interest rates there… I have cousins who wind up in a job that pays fairly decent and the first thing they do is buy a new vehicle, buy a big screen TV. And then when layoffs happen or they just change their minds about working, it’s not long before the credit hounds are howling and a rep from the local repo depot comes calling.

Reverend Billy Talen has a simple solution for our holiday debt — stop shopping altogether. The New York performance artist founded the Church of Stop Shopping to address our addiction to consumption. Talen and his gospel choir head to the shopping malls to remind people there is no need to over-consume.

“Slowing down your consumption can be a spiritual act. You have to stop shopping long enough to think about what you are buying. And certainly when you ask, ‘What would Jesus buy?’ there’s no evidence that he bought anything, but we think he would buy less and give more. Spending time — that’s the gift that keeps on giving,” Talen says.

Time — that’s what people need to manage better. Steve Salerno had an interesting take on this recently, in terms of women and their over-scheduled lives. We – as in people in general, not just women – choose how we’ll spend our time. Many of us have made the choice to work longer hours or put our kids into more extra curricular activities or gotten another job to make ends meet in a house too big for two people. There’s a driving urge to have more, do more, be more, pursue more and what gets left behind during the rush to achieve it all before you keel over from exhaustion? Sanity and sense, frankly.

There is a lot of pressure to create the picture-perfect holiday. But family tensions and conflicts don’t disappear just because it’s the holidays. In fact, misunderstandings and conflicts tend to intensify when families are spending so much time together.

Experts at the Mayo Clinic suggest adopting a more realistic approach. Lower your expectations — your dysfunctional family is not going to suddenly become the poster family for Hallmark. Instead, accept family members as they are and leave the airing of grievances for another time. This means avoiding the temptation to drink too much.

Alexandra Keay at the CMHA national office recommends sitting down with family members to make a list of holiday activities.

It’ll be a peaceful Christmas morning at my house this year – we’re not hosting. Mom and I just have one salad to assemble before supper at my aunt’s. No frazzled turkey arguments at 7:30 in the morning this year. No need to argue over how many potatoes. No annoyance at rearranging the basement tables fifty times between breakfast and suppertime in order to get things “just right” for everyone. “No fuss, no muss, no rough stuff.”

Over the holidays, people tend to abandon their workout routines. But exercise is actually the perfect antidote for the high demands of the season. Not only does it help stop weight gain, it helps you burn off tension, maintain your stamina and fight off fatigue.

Don’t make a busy holiday schedule into an excuse to turn into a couch potato feeding on fruitcake. Mark Eys, an associate professor at Laurentian University’s School of Human Kinetics, suggests developing “a very practical plan of action. Book specific times to get to the gym or go for a run. Consider doing other fun activities such as a family skate, tobogganing with friends or after-dinner walks as alternatives to your normal schedule.”

That’s a good idea, too. Why wait until January first to reboot the workouts? New Year’s resolutions are notoriously hard to keep and any day is a good day to get some exercise. The trick is to do it again tomorrow and the week after. ShapeFit has a pile of beginner level exercises for people wondering where the hell to start. It has the added bonus of animated photos showing the how-to for each type of exercise so you can see how it’s supposed to be done. And, although the pictures show a gym with fancy weights, soup cans and water bottles can do the same job at home so there’s no real need to buy expensive equipment. And then you don’t have to worry about people looking at how out of shape you are, because I’m sure that’s at the back of your mind. Save a gym membership for when you’re more fit to enjoy it. Heh.

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Canadian Atheist Basically ordinary Library employee Avid book lover Ditto for movies Wanna-be writer Procrastinator
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