Sunday, December 28, 2008

When the Going Gets Tough, Don't Go Shopping

Tip #45 - When the Going Gets Tough, Don't Go Shopping. Shopping has become an obsession for many people - not unlike gambling, drinking, or overeating. And as the economy goes downhill, there are those who are turning to the one thing that will make matters even worse for them - spending money. Your husband loses his job, so you go shopping to make you feel better. You can't afford to go on vacation, so you buy something to soften the blow. Your morgtage for your large house is higher than your income can really handle, but you buy things to fill the bare living room.

This madness has to stop. Our culture has become one obsessed with material things. And while it's bad enough that we've become so consumer oriented, it's even worse when people who can't afford things buy them anyway. And in this economy, that has become more common than ever. Especially because the people facing hard times were used to buying things on a whim. They need to change their ways.

I don't know when our society became out of control with the spending but I for one would like to see things change. Does anyone remember the Little House on the Prairie Books? The girls had two! dresses - one for everyday and one for Sundays. Can we look in our closets now and count the number of outfits we all have? I don't even like to shop and I'm sure I have more than 20! While I don't think 2 is necessarily enough, I wish we could go back to when things were simpler. Maybe we have too much leisure time on our hands. Mrs. Ingalls certainly didn't have time to shop with all of her chores. Not that she had too many shopping choices other than Nellie's father's store and the occasional traveling salesman. We have physical stores, Internet shopping, and shopping channels on television. And even with the few choices of shopping Mrs. Ingalls had, she did not spend money at them unless she actually had money to spend.

So while my first beef is that we all buy too much these days, my bigger problem is with people who buy things even when they cannot afford it. We need to make shopping what it is - an activity you do when you need something. Not a leisure activity to do when there is nothing else to do. We're bored, let's go shopping. We're feeling down, let's go shopping. And the worst of all, I can't deal with my family's money problems, let's go shopping. There are many positive activities we can do when we are bored or feeling blue. Taking a walk outside in the neighborhood or riding your bike on a bike path is better than walking in the mall. Baking bread or putting photos in an album is better than shopping online. And watching Little House on the Prairie is better than watching QVC.

If things aren't going well for you financially, then stop shopping. Stop going out to eat and stop spending money you don't have. You can probably find plenty of other things that will keep you busy.

In Real Life (IRL) - Other than going to the supermarket and thrift stores, I don't like to shop. I never did. I can't stand shopping malls. I hate driving to crowded shopping centers. And I don't really like to waste money. But I still have too many things. My closets can be pared down. I own too many books. My children have too many toys. And while most of the things we have were bought for less than retail and we can afford them, I still think we have too much.
I have to admit that even with my not liking shopping, I still find myself sometimes caught up in the excitement of buying. I bought each of my girls an American Girl doll for the holidays. One was bought several years ago and put away until this year and one was bought on Craigslist. And even though combined I spent under $200 for their two big holiday presents, I can feel myself getting caught up in the consumerism of it. I like the doll clothes. I like the furniture that go with the dolls. And I can see it getting out of control. I think we all have our weaknesses when it comes to shopping (even those of us who don't particularly enjoy it). So I'm going to make a vow to to cut down on our purchases in the coming year even if we can afford it. And I'd like to see others around me do the same thing.

My mom is a shopper. She says it makes her feel happy to be in the mall. She is not extravagant. She buys things on clearance - a shirt for $3 or a pair of earrings for $8. But she constantly tells me she has too many things. However, shopping is an outlet for her. I suspect that she may suffer from mild depression and shopping is her drug to keep her from feeling down. I wish she would stop buying because she buys things she doesn't need. And she could put her time to better use. Luckily, she does not have any financial issues but if she did, I don't think her shopping would stop. It has become a habit for her.

A friend of mine is not necessarily what I would call a shopper. But her family is facing tough times financially, and she won't change her spending habits. She only buys name brands for food. She buys her kids what they want because "everyone around her does." I don't know if her family has debt or how much they have, but it makes me very sad to see her family live high on the hog when they don't have the money to do so. Her husband just got laid off and I sincerely hope that they begin to cut back on their spending. It bothers me to no end that they buy my children presents for the holidays from specialty stores. First, because they cannot afford it. Second, because we don't need it and third because I don't want it. We have enough! We all do. Let's cut back on our spending!

I get upset when I see people I know and love buy things they cannot afford and don't need. I know there are many others out there in this situation. While I'm not happy that the economy has tanked, I am hopeful that people facing hard times will changes their ways so that even when the economy turns around we won't be so spend-happy. Gas prices this past year have certainly changed people's driving habits and car-buying habits. So maybe when the going gets tough, people won't go shopping. I can only hope.

1 comment:

Nankie said...

Boy, do I agree with you on this!
I feel kind of guilty because lately I've actually been pleased that the recession is causing people to re-think their priorities and practices. Of course, I don't want people to suffer, but I am glad that simplicity and frugality are finally getting more mainstream recognition.