In our busy consumer-driven world, maybe it's time to reclaim Sundays?

Would we benefit from observing the Sabbath? So asks Colette Sheridan in her weekly column
In our busy consumer-driven world, maybe it's time to reclaim Sundays?

It’s mad to give dogs presents and clothing for Christmas, says Colette Sheridan. Picture: Stock

YOU know we’ve reached peak consumerism when thoughts turn to spending money on your dog.

Amid all the Christmas shopping mania, some folk actually purchased woolly ‘jumpers’ for their mutts, just so as they wouldn’t feel left out.

I even recently saw a Santa coat for a four-legged creature in a pet shop. That store has massive floor space and as well as pet food, it stocks an array of accessories for animals.

A woman, laden down with plastic shopping bags ready to burst, was the only customer at the cash desk when I dropped into the store last week. Her sleek dachshund was being treated to a toy that he was chewing madly. And yes, it is madness to give dogs presents and clothes.

Apparently, Gucci does designer rugs for dogs – retailing at over €500. What level of insanity is that? There are families trying to survive on that sum of money every month, having paid the mortgage/rent and being left with that amount to feed and clothe their brood and pay the bills including high cost energy payments.

In a world of glaring inequality, some dogs have the life of Reilly while others roam the streets, sniffing at litter bins. The same thing applies to humans, metaphorically scavenging for food while attempting to get by on very little.

But Christmas is expensive and unless you’re living off-grid, repulsed by the constant spending, there seems to be no escape from it.

The average person was expecting to spend close to €1,200 on Christmas this year. According to research from the Competition & Consumer Protection Commission, it’s an increase of 20% on last year.

Households with children were expected to spend nearly €1,600, an increase of around €200. Price rises were cited by 73% of consumers as the reason for more spending this year while 42% of shoppers wanted to ‘make Christmas extra special’ for 2022. Some people had to borrow money to have an extra special Christmas.

It’s all facilitated by frantic shopping. I found myself going into town nearly every day last week on important mini missions to buy things like Stollen cake, far from which I was reared, but suddenly seeming somehow essential.

The problem is we have too much choice. Believe it or not, having fewer choices can promote happiness. That may sound counterintuitive, but we all know simply making choices can be tiresome.

A University of Minnesota study published in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that having more shopping choices interferes with people’s ability to pay attention and complete simple arithmetic problems.

If you want to focus your attention on an upcoming activity or need the emotional equilibrium to handle challenging personal situations, you’re better off limiting the number of choices you make beforehand.

If the sentence ‘I never settle for second best’ sums you up, psychologists would call you a ‘maximiser.’ In your quest for the best product or deal, you need to evaluate all choices before making a decision. Others who have standards for what they want in a given circumstance (which can be high or low) are ‘satisficers.’

Maximisers may make the best choices (judged by measurable criteria). For example, research tracking people showed that by the criterion of starting salary, maximisers found the best jobs, making 20% more money.

However, in going through the process, they experienced more negative emotions and after being hired, they were less happy with their jobs than their counterparts who looked for the ‘good enough’ option.

So, who made the best decision – those who ended up with the higher salary or those with greater happiness? It’s surely a no-brainer.

Would we benefit from observing the Sabbath? I don’t mean going to church but rather, spending Sundays at home with family and friends instead of shopping. How would a ban on Sunday shopping sit with us?

Croatia, which is tourism-dependent, is to ban shopping on all but 16 Sundays in a year, giving retailers the right to decide when they would use the exemption.

“We want to make it possible for retail employees to spend Sundays with their families,” the government in Croatia said recently.

When I think of Sundays of yore, there was no shopping. Town was closed. As kids, the highlight of the day was going for a drive, maybe to the sea, where we’d be treated to an ice-cream. Or in winter, we’d just gaze out the windows of the car, a little bored but not bombarded with consumer choices to be made, garish advertising of goods and a spend-spend mentality. We had less choice. Were we happier? The sensible thing to say is that we were more content. For those of us who worship on the altar of consumerism, it’s time to reclaim Sundays.

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