All right, here we go, another confessional blog. I confess that the most literary thing that I've done the past week is to shop for books. And not just books. Well, Christmas is coming, after all, but mostly I simply couldn't resist the sales.
I live in a fairly remote place where there are few opportunities to shop. To think I used to cut through one or two malls on my way to and from work just four years ago. I would often try to leave home early, not so much to get to my job early as to have a half hour or more of leisure to shop.
To my credit, I usually bought little and made sure to seek out bargains. On the other hand, I had no credit card at that time. Who knows what I might have bought if I did?
Because now, probably because I rarely get to go shopping, I tend to go a little wild when I get to a store, especially if there's a sale. At least I can say virtuously that nothing I bought last week was intended for myself. Now if I end up deciding not to give some of the stuff as presents and keeping it, that's another story.
Come to think of it, I am somewhat required to shop for myself to fill up my own Christmas stocking. I know this sounds nuts, but how am I going to keep the Santa illusion up if my stocking is left unfilled? Don't think my daughter wouldn't notice; she even wrote Santa last year to remind him to fill a stocking for her unborn baby brother. My husband doesn't always remember to buy stuff for my stocking. So I stock up on a few of my favorite treats and some cheap cute stuff like bookmarks and erasers. Last year I ended up raiding a drawer full of scrapbooking supplies I hadn't used (and my daughter hadn't seen) just to show that Santa hadn't forgotten me. All right, say it. I'm crazy. But it is kind of fun to have an excuse to treat oneself.
And I think I deserve it because I am not a shopaholic yet. I have managed to resist falling into that because of my natural frugality coupled with selectiveness. I know people who cannot resist any bargain even if they don't know what to do with what they've bought. I've got to love something or feel sure the one I'll give it to will before I buy it, even if it's really cheap.
Which is why I resisted buying a lot of cheap children's books last weekend. I was tempted to buy some extremely cheap but cute-looking picture books for presents. They cost only about $ 0.30 but looked like they were worth more. Then I read them. The first was a funny story about a detective looking for a missing pancake, which turned out to be on the ceiling. The moral given at the end was, "go back to when/ you lost something so you can find it again." Rhyme over grammar and not even a good rhyme at that? Aaaaaghhh! No way. I tried another book where three boys and a girl were talking about what they wanted to be when they grew up. The boys said they would be a fireman, a policeman, and a soldier. The girl said that she would just be glad to be their neighbor because they'd keep her safe. Gender stereotyping! Double aaaaghhh! Sometimes things are not worth even such a low price. I wasn't going to pollute any kid's grammar or worse, values, by buying such books, much less support this lousy publisher by buying any of its products.
I am not yet a shopaholic because I have not forgotten that shopping is an exchange. I make get something worth the price, but do I want to give the seller the money? That's something to consider also. I also try to think about what I'm really paying for and if it's worth it for that.
Like at a book warehouse sale I ended up putting back a lot of cheap movie tie-in books I'd collected just because my daughter liked the movie. Then while in the check-out line I thought about the fact that movie tie-in books are rarely well-written and took the time to peruse the books. Not particularly good writing. So forget it. If my daughter wasn't fond of reading, I could get them to encourage her, but she does like books already so there was no point. I replaced them with a lot of cheap trinkets that my daughter could use to make Christmas presents with, which was more educational. So in the end I hardly bought any books at the book warehouse sale! I looked at very few grown-up books because they were all the way in the back, and because with all the bustle I couldn't take my time to study the volumes to decide if I liked them. I'd rather shop at my leisure in a secondhand store or buy books online.
To forestall shopaholicism I always remind myself there will be other sales and other ways to get bargains and besides, I should wait to shop for myself after Christmas because you never know what people might give me (book gift certificates are most appreciated, thank you). And I avoid any place that primarily sells things I don't need, like a home store warehouse sale this weekend. I refused to go even to look.
Very often shopping is resorted to as the simplest solution to a problem. There are people ever buying storage boxes hoping to solve their clutter problem, but the clutter never does go away because the real solution isn't storage but actually sorting, organizing, and even getting rid of some things. I know someone who is always buying blankets and lamps. Obviously she has more than she needs. My husband and I have decided that this is her way of fulfilling her need for warmth, in the figurative rather than the literal sense.
So I always remind myself to think about why I'm buying something. And even if it's to please someone else, I try to probe further. Would it really make this person's life better? Is there something better out there?
All this good sense makes it sound like I'm in no danger of being a shopaholic, but the truth is if my credit card and income didn't have it limits, I probably would be because it is these limitations have compelled me to put a tight hold on my spending. I did say that I was naturally frugal, but that's more in the sense of trying to buy things at the lowest price possible rather than not buying things!
If only lack of money were enough to keep people from shopping. I've found I tend to resent my financial limitations and therefore rebel by overspending when I get the chance, so I need to go further and exercise some self-flattery. I remind myself that I am creative enough to manage with limited resources. That I can scrape together a good meal without an endless supply of canned goods and spices. That I can rearrange my home to be neater and more efficient without having to buy a lot of storage boxes (besides, where would I put the boxes?). That I can entertain my daughter without new toys and videos. Well, actually that's more of a credit to her own creativity because she really is able to entertain herself without toys and videos. My daughter can make a toy of anything. This often drives me crazy, since she gets things all over the house from empty plastic containers to kitchen implements. But it's a good reminder for those of us who are tempted to buy stuff that we really don't need to keep purchasing things to be happy. We just have to make the most of what we have around us.