On Singles’ Day, I made a pledge against shopping

A brief introduction to the history of Singles’ Day:

Singles’ Day (11/11) was first celebrated by Chinese university students in the 90s, as an antidote to Valentine’s Day. Ever since Alibaba capitalized on this celebration in 2009, this has turned into an annual shopping frenzy, not dissimilar to Black Friday, Cyber Monday or Boxing Day in the West.

Having stayed in London for 4 years, the Boxing Day craze was not unfamiliar to me, but after the first year, I’ve learnt my lesson that missing out is actually doing me good.

For the last few days, Singles’ Day was THE topic. My sister would tell me, “Hey, there will be zeroised air tickets on sale on 11/11!” Or, the strangers who shared a table with me would be discussing on how late they might need to stay up and what they were going to buy. Even a merchant that I once bought something from would text me and asked if I’d like to buy more stuffs from her – it was a widespread phenomenon.

So what did I do instead? I deleted all the emails telling me about the great discounts, and I slept way before the midnight of 11/11. I woke up to a Bloomberg notification that says Alibaba has made $1.44bn minutes past Singles’ Day. It is yet another record breaking year for them.

To illustrate the scale (Bloomberg article):


However, as today stands, I have yet to bought a single item, and I doubt I would. I used to be the kind of person who was so afraid of missing out on a good deal, I would spend hours on e-commerce shopping sites, hoping I would strike gold. I believe there are many out there like me. We buy things in bulk because of the freebies, or the discounts, and we are constantly suffering through the FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) symptoms – we always want to get a good deal for ourselves, but we often forget another symptom – the buyers’ remorse. We end up with things that we don’t really want or need. They take up space and they lock in our resources. Also, more often than not, the idea of “scarcity” is an illusion marketing creates.

This totally reminds me of some of the clothing items I got on sale – they didn’t fit me at all! These items stayed in my wardrobe for years until I’ve finally made up my mind to donate them.

As I reflect on my past behaviour today, I’ve decided to make a pledge against shopping. This is also in accordance to my principles of going zero waste.

  1. I won’t buy anything just because it is “on sale”.
  2. Whenever I buy something NEW, I will try to think of its impact (complicating my routine, generating waste etc.) and see if there’s another way to go about getting the item (going secondhand, DIY, repurposing certain items).
  3. Always make do with what you have, and appreciate what you have got.

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