To all those who celebrate, have a successful Festivus. I’ve come to be a fan of this secular “holiday,” celebrated every year on December 23 following its mass introduction to the public through an episode of Seinfeld. At its core is a non-commercial, non-religious approach to the season. While I do enjoy gift exchanges with friends and family and everything else that goes along with the holiday season, the traditions of Festivus are interesting and applicable to everyone.
Before Seinfeld, Festivus was but one family’s tradition. This family produced a comedy writer, Daniel O’Keefe — how could it not? — who incorporated some of the aspects of the holiday into the television show in 1997. The episode aired thirty years after the first familial Festivus celebration. The primary symbol of the holiday is the aluminum Festivus pole with a “very high strength-to-weight ratio.” Two primary holiday practices have entered the public from the holiday: the airing of grievances and the feats of strength.
The airing of grievances
In dealing with personal finances, everyone can relate to these traditions. In today’s modern world, any individual who pays attention to his or her own financial situation can have grievances to air. In the typical manner of Festivus, celebrants air grievances against each other. For our purposes, it will be more constructive or cathartic to air grievances against the companies that charged us extra fees, salespeople who stretched the truth or lied to encourage us to buy something, and reflect on the mistakes we made with money throughout the past year.
Here’s my grievance from a recent encounter. I purchased a used camera from a local shop a few weeks ago. I like buying from local shops rather than from the internet in some cases, because if local shops aren’t supported, they’ll eventually disappear. I found a great deal and wanted to take advantage of it. One of my concerns with used cameras is the shutter actuation count; if a camera has been used too much, as it might be if it were used by a professional, the shutter mechanism wears down and will eventually need to be replaced, if the value of the camera warrants part replacement rather than full replacement.
I was mostly sure that this model would not indicate the true shutter count unless brought into a Canon shop, but the store owner convinced me the shutter count was readable, just like the older models. The information he pulled up on the camera showed a very low shutter count; a count I thought would be too low considering the wear on the camera’s grip. I took his word as the expert, and after trying out the camera in the store, bought it for the great price we negotiated. I probably should have waited to research the model at home to confirm my belief — that the shutter actuation count was not readable by the user. I will eventually take the camera to the Canon service center near my house to determine the true shutter count. Even if the number is high, I still got a great deal. Even if I end up paying to replace the shutter, the total I will have paid is still less than I figured I’d be paying for the camera.
I don’t think the owner was intentionally lying to me in order to make the sale, as his opinion is probably a common misconception about this camera model. I should have taken my time, though, and I should go back and let him know what the true shutter count is when I am able to retrieve that information.
What are your grievances? Here are some examples to get you started:
- Unexpected bank fees
- Hassles when returning purchased items to a store
- Confrontations with your boss
- Tenants who don’t pay their rent on time
The feats of strength
In Seinfeld, Festivus celebrants displayed feats of strength by challenging each other to a wrestling match. Rather than physical strength, I think it’s fair for Consumerism Commentary readers to focus on financial strength. While I review my finances and look for positive trends at the end of every month, this isn’t enough for the holiday. Most successes that I’ve seen so far are ordinary financial feats of strength. A brave decision with money is a the type of strength that would be appropriate to celebrate for Festivus.
This year, my biggest financial feat of strength might be obvious. It is my decision to leave my day-job salary and benefits behind and pursue with greater vigor what I had already been doing. Consumerism Commentary is now the bulk of what financially sustains me, and without the relative security of a pay check, that was a difficult decision to make. In fact, it took several years for me to have enough faith in the long-term sustainability of this income to be willing to make the leap.
For your feats of strength, here are some examples to get you thinking:
- A promotion at work
- Finding a treasure of coins in the couch you bought used
- Getting out of debt
Air your grievances and share your feats of strength from the past year. The comments on this article are open for anyone who has a grievance or feat of strength. Which banks gave you problems? Did you make any mistakes with your investments? What were your successes and strengths in 2011?
Editor’s note: This article ran originally last year, but I’m bringing it back for 2011.
Photo: M. Keefe