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Spending shouldn't be the reason for the season

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Once again the time of year has come when we dust off the Christmas decorations, break out the nog and apply for that extra credit card. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Black Friday has come and passed and we have now entered into full-fledged Christmas shopping season. Black Friday, the last Friday in November, has become something of a holiday unto itself, with pre-Christmas sales sweeping the nation.

Canadian retailers have traditionally had a hard time combating the lower prices down south. As a result of the exchange rate, many Canadian shoppers cross into the states to do their Christmas shopping, enticed by the savings. With the ever-growing popularity of Internet shopping, many web sites have joined in the fray, offering drastic price reductions over the Black Friday weekend. Sales upon sales pop up as Canadian businesses do their best to keep consumers on this side of the border. Internet purchases skyrocket and credit card debt balloons, all in the name of holiday spirit.

Material consumption has taken over our modern society, and businesses know it better than anyone else. Of course they're going to do their best to keep the cash flowing, so dropping prices when they are basically promised a massive influx of customers is a no brainer. Such is the economy we have built. Whether it's right or wrong, that's the way it is. It isn't a death sentence, however. Just because everyone else is spending mindlessly doesn't mean that you have to partake. Why not take this Christmas season and try to do something different.

Social acceptance does not make it right to mindlessly consume. We need to be smart about how we are spending our money. Think about what you are buying. Where is it coming from? Is it necessary? Are you just being sucked into a marketing vortex?

Here's an idea: buy little, buy local. Buying little helps to take the strain off your wallet during the holiday season, but it also brings us back to the more important meaning of the holiday -- it's a time to show people that you love them. Buying some mass-marketed piece of junk does not show love. Spending time with someone, or taking the time to make them something, that shows love. Most people don't have the time to make something for everyone they know. But when you go to buy gifts, think about where they were made. There are a great deal of locally made gifts to be found, so take the time to find them.

Local artisans have a direct impact on your community. The money trail is a lot shorter, as a general rule you are handing the money straight to the creator. Money spent in the community tends to stay in the community, so each dollar you spend has a direct impact on the place you live. Not to mention that handmade things have a lot more soul than something made in a factory. Buying imported goods from box stores feeds into the pockets of the corporation. Not to mention that your uncle probably won't complain about not getting another novelty tie.

Here's a challenge for this Christmas, cut your spending and spend a bit of time taking stock of what is really important in life. There's more to Christmas than a shiny new X-Box. Enjoy the season for the people around you and do your part to make this Christmas mean more than a Visa bill.

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