There are many emotions that cause us to spend money. We spend money when we’re happy. We spend money when we’re sad. We spend money out of fear. We spend money without thinking at all.
But are you being guilted into spending money?
The idea of being guilted into spending money entered my mind as my Facebook feed flooded with folks doing the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. For those of you who live under a rock and may not know about this, here’s the concept: People dump buckets of ice water on their heads on video, post the video to social media and nominate three other people to do the same, in an effort to raise awareness for ALS (the debilitating neurodegenerative disease also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease). People can either accept the challenge or make a donation to an ALS charity or do both.
Now I know that ALS is an awful, horrible disease. And it has been amazing to see this challenge raise tens of millions of dollars to support battling ALS. But I can’t help but wonder how many folks felt pressured into donating. How many donated because they were afraid if they didn’t their friends on social media would think less of them? How many of them knew anything about ALS before they dumped a bucket of ice water on their heads? How many felt bad if they didn’t have the money to donate?
There are other more innocent ways of guilting people into spending money. Case in point: The 400+ folks who paid it forward at a Starbucks in Florida. Each customer in the drive-thru paid for the coffee for the person behind them. What started out as a random act of kindness, morphed into a crazy-long chain of somewhat coerced consumerism, until one man broke the chain and refused to pay. It’s not a a random act of kindness if the barista is asking you to do it. When you reach that stage, buying coffee for the person behind you in line is no longer being done out of kindness. It’s being done out of guilt.
School fundraisers are another guilt trip. It’s hard to say “No” to a kid peddling overpriced wrapping paper and trinkets. After all, who doesn’t care about education? Well… if we spent half as much time pushing our elected officials to properly support education as we do making our kids sell all this junk we don’t need, then maybe we wouldn’t have to make our kids the peddlers of consumer guilt.
I won’t be doing the ice bucket challenge. Or any other challenge like this on social media. It’s not because I don’t care about a particular cause. It’s not because I’m an insensitive jerk. It’s because I just don’t have the funds to donate to every single cause. I have a family to take care. I have bills to pay. And because of that, I have a budget for donating to causes and I carefully select what organizations to support based on that budget and what causes are most important to me.
I’m tired of the only way we can raise awareness for causes is by throwing vast amounts of money and drawing attention to ourselves with ridiculous gimmicks on social media.
How about we all start challenging each other to really learn about these causes? How about we challenge each other to volunteer to help support these causes? How about we use our time to lobby our communities to really make a difference?
It’s fine if you want to dump a bucket of ice water on your head and donate to ALS. It’s fine to support school fundraisers. It’s fine to pay it forward in the Starbucks drive-thru if you’re so inclined.
But just make sure you are doing those things because you truly want to and can afford to, not because you would feel guilty if you didn’t.