Buy Nothing Day 2008

It's that time of year again folks, it's Buy Nothing Day.

Unless of course you're in North America where it was Buy Nothing Day yesterday, to coincide with Black Friday, that day of retail mayhem where shoppers become so rabid with the hunger for cheap deals that this year a man was trampled to death by the consuming hordes!

The whole idea behind Buy Nothing Day is to just take time out from consuming. Whilst the UK economy is in fairly poor shape after the credit crunch and the country may well already be in recession, the Government is doing all manner of things to encourage people to spend money; tax & NI rebates from the botched abolition of the 10px tax band, a cut in VAT to 15% (albeit temporary) and the slashing of interest rates last month buy a surprisingly hefty 1.5%

Buy Nothing Day is the opposite of the crusade to increase consumer spending. Buy Nothing Day is trying to encourage us to actually spend less. Sure this may go against the grain of what is "best for the economy" but if we spend less, keep our credit cards tucked away and try and reduce the huge consumer debt level that this country has built up, then that may actually be more beneficial for the UK in the long run.

Personally? I have enough food and I don't need any trivial consumer goods. Today I will need to put petrol in the car and I will spend money seeing a band tonight and buy a beer. As for the rest of the week? Well, I'll probably have six Buy Nothing Days over the next seven days, so I think that's cool. And the extra money that I save on my mortgage repayments? They'll be ploughed into paying off my credit card. The VAT cut? It will probably save me a few pennies here & there on Christmas presents but not food (there's no VAT on food, remember?)

But the spirit of the day is to get people to think about what they spend their cash on. Of course there will be negative connotations if people stop or slow down on their spending; selling less goods will result in staff layoffs and even shops closing. Whilst bigger retailers might be able to soak up some of the slack it's the small independent retailers that I fear for.

So I'd urge wisdom to prevail in the concept of buying less; buy local wherever possible, support independent retailers, spend only what you have and don't resort to credit. Think about what you buy and where you buy it from. Rather than simply tearing down our debt-ridden consumerist society I think it should be re-eductaed, re-shaped and re-built. The economic downturn, whilst painful, is a good time to take stock of how people buy and sell and we could well end up with a more sustainable model than the one we've been so used to of late.