We have, at last, come off of a whole string of days officially or unofficially designated to tell us what to do with our money. There was Black Friday, when we were supposed to go shopping; and Buy Local Saturday when we were supposed to spend more money, but this time with local merchants and independent retailers. Then came Cyber Monday, when we were supposed to buy stuff online. Followed by Giving Tuesday, when we were supposed to redeem ourselves for all that socially-irresponsible spending by giving money to good causes.
Honestly, I have no idea who determines these things. Who designated Cyber Monday or Giving Tuesday or any of the rest, and how did these things somehow become folded into the Holiday Season? What exactly defines the Holiday Season, anyway? Does it run from Thanksgiving to Christmas? New Year’s? If you celebrate Chanukah and not Christmas, does the Holiday Season end with the completion of Chanukah (the evening of the 16th this year) or do you have to say in a festive mood until the last of the eggnog is consumed at New Year’s?
I have no idea. On the theory that whoever designates these things has no special authority (and really, aside from the Supreme Court, who does?), I would like to designate today, the Wednesday after Thanksgiving, as Do What You Would Usually Do Wednesday. If you need something, go out and buy it. Otherwise don’t. Unless, you know, it’s really calling to you and you can afford it and it’s genuinely going to make your life better, in which case, what the heck, go for it. If you can get what you need from a local merchant, that would be great. But if you just don’t have the time or energy to go out into the world and you can find what you need online, believe me, I understand. And hey, today would be a great day to contribute to the welfare of others, or to the arts or to any organization that you think is doing wonderful work in the world.
But, you know, tomorrow would be just as good. Setting up an automatic withdrawal from your checking account would be even better. Face it, how you spend your money just isn’t a holiday. It isn’t something that deserves a special moment set aside from ordinary time. Which is not to say that how you spend your money isn’t a religious practice. It certainly is. Jesus, for instance, had far more to say about how people should spend their money than he did about far more contentious topics like homosexuality and divorce. Judaism and Islam have plenty to say about money, particularly about giving it to people in need. Money is one of the major ways that we express our values, which is to say, how we express what we think is right and good, which is to say, our religion.
How we spend our money matters. But it doesn’t need a holiday, a special, set-apart time. Far better that we make our financial choices daily, mindfully, choosing over and over again to invest in those things that matter most to us: the health and safety of our families, the pleasures that leaven our lives, opportunities for learning and growth, care for those who are in need. Today, Do What You Would Usually Do Wednesday, please spend your money exactly the way you ordinarily would. Unless you aren’t satisfied that your financial habits reflect your deepest values. In which case you should look forward to Do a Little Better Thursday, which is coming right up tomorrow.