An article from Time Magazine that I wish I'd found and posted before Black Friday:
The price wars have gone nuclear. From Target's $3 coffeemakers to Best Buy's half-price stoves to Staples's $300 laptops, the theme of this holiday shopping season is, without a doubt, "we sell for less." Even Wal-Mart's commitment to "every day" low prices isn't preventing it from going lower. An online skirmish with Amazon.com that started with $9 hardcover books (books normally sold for three times that amount) has dominoed into other categories, driving down prices on everything from mobile phones to Easy-Bake ovens. The deals are everywhere. (See pictures of expensive things that money can buy.)
Well, pardon my saying so, but I don't want them. I don't want to pay less. If anything, I'd rather pay a little more.
Crazy talk, I know. Where is this coming from? Well, it began with some reading I've been doing about the trade-offs we make for ultra-cheap goods — the child workers in Bangladesh who sew our clothes and brush their teeth with ash since they can't afford toothpaste, the oceanic dead zones that come with $5 factory-farmed salmon filets. They're the sorts of stories that make a person think that buying carts full of cheap stuff — ensuring the production of even more cheap stuff — shouldn't be the social goal we've made it out to be.
I've got a collection of vintage clothing, and I was recently having a discussion with a friend who has similar tastes, about how unlikely it'll be that clothes from this era will survive to be worn by someone fifty years from now. Everything's made to be discarded. Even the laptop on which I'm typing this is a product of this mentality, I'm ashamed to say.
But when I broke the screen on my old laptop a year ago and the cheapest replacement we could find was almost $200, whereas I could get the reconditioned Dell I have now for $500, with an increase in RAM and storage space? We still have the old one, as since then we've found a site where we can get a replacement for $100, so it's being saved as backup for when this one goes kaput, but it's a prime example of how manufacturers encourage you to not be thrifty.
I've been scaling back on Christmas the last few years. Not because we were in a tough situation financially, but because I just decided I didn't like the way things were. Now I give homemade food gifts to my coworkers, and unusual handmade items to friends and family, bought from independent crafters like myself. Because I don't want to encourage this mentality, and help foster this cheap throwaway society we find ourselves in.