Sunday, December 06, 2009

The (in)Conspicuous Consumer

As I really settle into the holiday shopping season, I'm reminded of how I've been trying to make this year a little less about blowing dough thoughtlessly, and a little more about keeping dough close to home, and thinking very carefully about how I spend it. Whether that ends up helping a double-dip recession or not is really beyond my care; the fact that stores really rely on people running up their charge cards this time of year kind of sickens me, anyway. So, here are some of the ways I've been a more INconspicuous consumer.

• I've been buying used items. Roz is getting a perfectly lovely Mickey-as-sorcerer's-apprentice that I found at the Mega Mall, for one. Ooohh, I loves me some Mega Mall! It's a local dive, probably 25k square feet, loaded with everything from new-oldstock to genuine antiques. I could - and often do - spend several hours in there, and when Miss Tessmacher brought up the idea of a "Mega Mall Christmas" back in the summer, I gleefully took it as my own. So, many folks on my giving list are getting things from the Mega Mall. Keeps money close to home, and doesn't contribute extra waste to the planet.

• Keeping with the local idea, I've been simply buying some things right here at home, or at least within Michigan. I used to get my snotty-ass gourmet popcorn from Crown Jewel, but I found a place outside Detroit that grows two delicious varieties, and sells them in impressively large 4-lb. bags. Yum. Likewise, I've been eschewing internet shopping in favor of buying some stuff close by, like at Target or K-Mart. Still giant corporations, but at least the workers at those stores in my area are getting their paychecks.

• I'm trying to buy less, as well. Again, if everyone does this it may well tank the economy for a second time, at least until we settle into a "new normal," but I think that actually might be healthy. When everything I pick up has a "Made in China" sticker on it, I just get a little depressed about how our great industrial machine has waned in the past few decades. This isn't as much an "anti-consumer" attitude, but more a way to tame that urge to gratify my desires immediately. I could buy the new Lita Ford CD…or, I could save the dough and ask for it as a gift. I don't really need to buy any new clothes, the ones I have are perfectly fine. Sometimes I WANT new clothes, but - like quitting smoking - if I can just keep my mind off of that want for a few minutes, it eventually fades. Then, I can go into my closet in the morning and put together a shirt, pants, tie, etc. and walk out the door. Besides, Tess' folks always load me up on sweet outfits at the holidays, anyway. NOT buying a new vest for myself from Territory Ahead means that I can focus on buying gifts for OTHER people.

I dunno. In retrospect, these things may come across more as "look how cool and savvy I am" than as genuine ideas about being a better consumer, but I mean them honestly and without irony. I've really been giving some thought to the "shop 'til you drop" mentality and, like Charlie Brown, am left wondering if that's the true spirit of the season. I like giving gifts…hell, I like getting gifts! But that shouldn't be what it's all about, economic recovery be damned. So, happy holidays, or bah-humbug…whichever you prefer.

3 Comments:

Blogger Gknee said...

I often think of Tom Lehrer's lyrics from his rendition of the A Christmas Carole.

"Angels we have heard on high
Tell us to go out and buy!"

I wish you and your family a Merry Christmas!

5:10 PM  
Blogger Suze said...

Hear hear!

Funny, I keep forgetting about used stores. I think one needs to be careful about what used items one buys for other people in general, but it's not like little kids know the difference. Some of my kids' favorite things to play with are toys I picked up at thrift stores or yard sales. (And a couple things bombed, too, but at least they only cost a quarter.)

I try to buy local consumable items (we have 3 count 'em THREE local gourmet chocolatiers here in Madison, plus a toffee maker to boot), and I make some gifts, but I have to tell you it's HARD not to overbuy for kids. They always need stuff to wear and read and play with, you know? I buy from the locally owned toy stores when possible (recent acquisition of b-ball hoop notwithstanding, of course), and I've recently discovered a brand called something like "Green Toys" made of recycled plastic and sawdust...

It's too bad we now have to think so hard about what we buy. I'm all for the spirit of giving, and buying stuff drives the economy, for better or for worse. It's just hard not to get too preachy about it all, you know?

7:55 PM  
Blogger Fun Guv said...

I've tried hard to get away from internet shopping this year (not that I did a ton to begin with). About 95% of the gifts being given this year were purchased at local retailers ~ like you said...keep a neighbor employed ~ or have been homemade with love.

10:00 AM  

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