One of the liveliest Discussion Boards this semester in my ECO course was “What about all my stuff?” It concerned supply and demand, why we buy goods and services, the satisfaction derived from those goods and services and whether the owner of the greatest amount of stuff is the winner. Is happiness determined by who has the most, or who needs the least? More than a few people pointed out that all the stuff requires a place, even to the point of renting a storage unit. We discussed when is it enough, what drives us to buy so much and the role of marketing in our decision-making process.

Throughout the semester, the Marketing Discussion Board questions took on many of the same issues. Does marketing help us to make choices or are so many choices created to drive consumerism? Is marketing about satisfying needs and wants, or does it create what we think we need and want? When does it become out of control or greedy?

This brings us to Glee. I admit that Glee is one of my guilty pleasures. Each episode is a morality tale enveloped in great song and dance routines. The 12/13/11 show was about the true meaning of Christmas, and it is not Santa, expensive gifts and excessive consumption.

As you celebrate this holiday season (Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Bodhi Day, Solstice, Festivus, or any other significant day in your winter calendar), why not take the opportunity to reflect on what is important? Gifts and toys are nice to give and receive, especially for young children. Yes, your daughter wants an iPad and your son wants an iPhone. Your grandchild really wants an Xbox. Do they need ten other things as well? Should you overextend your credit?  Are you comfortable or able to spend so much money?

Perhaps you can give some gifts to your loved ones and donate one or two to a local charity? Maybe, instead of more stuff, you can give the gift of time or experience to your spouse, significant other or parent. Go to a cozy B&B for the weekend; take your mother to a nice show; clean your grandmother’s garage; take your child to a sporting event. For the person who truly has everything, make a donation to his or her favorite charity or cause.  If the economy has hit you hard, you are getting by or you are doing well, the gift of yourself is priceless.

When I was PTA president, we started a book donation program to the school library in honor of a special person. The librarian gave us a wish list, and we suggested that parents donate the book in a teacher’s name instead of giving a holiday or end of year gift. A fancy bookplate identified the honoree. Despite Kindle, Nook and the iPad, a real book still makes a nice gift but there are many other options. I am sure local community centers and programs have wish lists of their own.

This post is by no means a Bah, Humbug to the holiday season. It is a suggestion to take a deep breath and not be caught up in the gimme frenzy. You have control, not the marketers!

Best wishes for a happy, healthy and peaceful end of 2011 and start of 2012.

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