Monday, November 24, 2008

Contemplating...the mall

With the holiday season springing itself on us earlier and earlier each year, consumer spending and conspicuous consumption are running rampant in many U.S. homes. Since we've joined the Dave Ramsey bandwagon and began "acting our wage", the holidays have been very different around here.

This year is no exception. While I've been saving for a small Christmas fund since June, I'm still making most of the gifts we're giving including the ones for the Vikings. And, we've been blessed with several hand-me-down toys that the kids will be receiving as well.

And, at some point in the last week (although I can't remember where) as I perused my usual frugal bloggy goodness, I remember reading "just skip the mall this year" and "going to the mall is NOT entertainment".

Now, I know the writer was referring to just going to the mall to hang out and mindlessly buy something to fill a day when there's nothing to do but it got me to thinking...

I'm all for skipping the mall. One thing I "caught" from my dad is the desire to try to frequent small business owners and avoid the "big box stores". But, in a community as small as ours, I've noticed that mall is something else all together.

It's our community center - a place with the space and parking for events, activities, etc. passing through the area or on the calendar to set up shop. Our mall has had animal shows, musical events, and beauty pageants. There's been 4H displays, craft shows, and scavenger hunts.

Just this weekend, I took the Vikings up there for National Family Volunteer Day. About 15 or 20 of our local community groups - ranging from Hospice at Home to the Girl Scouts to Animal Aid - were all set up at tales in one of the mall's "intersections". And, over the course of two hours, we...

...made cards for those in hospice
...made containers to collect pennies for our local cancer service
...made welcome bags for children at the abuse shelter
...made place mats for 2 of our area nursing homes
...packed small boxes with books and such for children sick in the hospital, and
...braided materials to make chew/pull toys for dogs at the animal shelter

Free entertainment for the kids and learning about giving at the same time. Talk about a frugal lesson that ol' Dave would be proud of! LOL

So, while I understand that randomly walking through the mall wanting to be entertained or thinking I'll somehow be "fulfilled" by purchasing something is SO budget-defeating and self-deluding, and I'm not naive enough to think that the stores and the mall are hosting all this stuff out of the kindness of their wallets, I think there is still a place for going to the mall even for the frugal. At least in this neighborhood.

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