Christmas Consumerism

Today is “Cyber Monday.”  We are being barraged with specials, sales, offers, and other ways to save money.  The ads everywhere we see them are immediate and urgent.  We have just survived “Black Friday,” the day where so many sacrificed Thanksgiving with their families, the hands-on version of the retailer’s dream.  Supposedly, we are tired enough to want to stay home and shop online, or have been forced to return to work after a respite.  Now that the workers are back, they are shopping on the office computers on company time.  What could be better?

Nobody is more frugal than I am.  I very rarely purchase anything at full price.  Now that I’m living poor on social security, I’m not buying much.  I have seen nothing that I need, nothing that I want.  I’ve seen lots of flashy things, lots of bling; lots of solutions for problems that I don’t have.

An old friend who did missionary work in Brazil once told me that the people with whom she worked didn’t realize they were “poor” until they got American television.  This simple statement took me aback and made me think about how consumerism affects our lives.  There are legions of people whose jobs are to analyze us and market to us.  Sight, sound, touch, scent, taste are all wrapped into a psychological profile.

When I was growing up, my dad worked and my mom stayed home, though she did tailoring to supplement the family income.  My folks raised five kids, sending them to Catholic school on dad’s salary from the post office.  We had one car and lived close to the post office so dad walked to work.  We rarely used the car anyway.  We lived in town where we could walk to the grocery store, the movies, and to school.  The high school did not have a parking lot.  There was no cable TV and there were no cell phones or internet.  The hardware store in our town had a toy section on the third floor (no elevator) and mom put things on lay-a-way in the weeks before Christmas.  No interest.  The local stores were glad to have her business.  In our stockings, we received, as had generations before us even back to the “old country,” a huge orange, a huge apple, and some nuts and candy.  photo (23)

Agreed, the times have changed and in many ways for the better.  We have luxuries we never had before available to everyone except the poor.  Even the poor can have a basic cell phone through services such as Safe Link, which is a great thing.  Cable companies (e.g., Comcast) will help families with children obtain computers and basic connections.

I’m not saying we should go back to the 1950s or the 1960s, but I think we should put more thought into what we buy.  So often, we buy meaningless things that waste our precious resources.  It’s not necessary to buy gifts for everyone we can think of.  Often, people feel the need to reciprocate when it is difficult for them to do so.  I have learned that if I receive something unexpectedly, a simple heartfelt “thank you”  and a smile is really all that’s necessary.  I love to pick little things up throughout the year that I know someone will love and save them for the holidays:  little Lalaloopsy dolls for my granddaughters, a baking set for my chef-to-be grandson.  Sometimes, I knit them sweaters or scarves and remind them that these are “hugs” from grandma each time they put them on.

When my own kids were small, they’d get new socks and underwear every year so there would be extra boxes to open.  In their 30s now, they expect it and would be disappointed if I forgot.  After all, what feels better than a brand-new pair of socks?

I won’t be shopping this Cyber Monday, but I’ll start looking for some great underwear sales soon.

(The photograph in this post is the Thursday – Thanksgiving Day – Chicago Tribune.  We only get the paper on Sunday so this one was a surprise “gift” paper.  The small 1/2″ section in the front is the actual news part and the larger 4″ section in the back is the Black Friday ads.)

Living Simply

0124131228What do we really need?  Shelter, food, water, and air.  Everything else is superfluous, right?

Personally, the other things I really need are an excellent shower and an excellent bed.  The last bed I purchased was very expensive but worth every penny.  Ten years ago, I got a Simmons Columbia model and I’ve not regretted it.  I get a good night’s sleep every night.  It’s even a no-flip.  Every once in awhile, I change the way I sleep on it, but that’s it.  I’ve protected it with a pillow-slip type cover, topped with a cushy mattress pad.  Both of the additions are washable.  I buy the best sheets I can afford, high thread count Egyptian cotton, which I still think is the best.  It softens and silkens as it washes and wears, doesn’t pill, and is a delight to sleep on.  I finally ripped the last top sheet I had, so I’m saving up to buy a new one.  In the meantime, I’m summer sleeping under a light cotton quilted comforter only.  I think if you buy the best you can afford, it pays off in the long run.  I’ve had cheap sheets when I was a young bride, and they pilled.  I felt like the character in The Princess and the Pea.  I felt every single pea on those sheets and it drove me nuts.  Before I retired and got poor, I purchased a lightweight down blanket (also a Simmons product) and I’ve had it for over ten years.  It’s great in all seasons, though I store it for the summer.  Also years ago I bought a down pillow from Wyndham at Home after sleeping on one of these dreamy pillows while on a business trip.  I’ve had it a very long time too.  I take it to the dry cleaners and they add down to it every year for a very reasonable price when it’s on its cleaning hiatus from my bed.  It’s a Joseph Abboud, actually by Pacific Down.  For the cost-conscious, I understand that Pacific Down has an outlet store if you’re ever in Seattle!

The one bed accessory I cannot live without is my dog, Maddie.  She is the best bedwarmer – ever!  Her little black body keeps me warm on cold winter nights as she snuggles up to my back and butt-hugs me.  Her presence makes me feel safe.  She has an entire side of the queen-sized bed to herself, yet I feel sorry for her every night.  Maddie plops in her special spot and does not move all night long.  I, on the other hand, flip and thrash and get up several times to go to the bathroom.  She stays where she is and does not complain.  I wonder how she does it.  If I were her, I’d be complaining bitterly about my annoying bed partner, yet every morning she licks my face at daybreak with what I believe to be a little doggie smile, asking for a simple trip to the backdoor.

The shower is a little easier to obtain as there are many reasonably priced shower heads available at places like Home Depot and Lowe’s.  I like the ones that spit out the water like rain, but I’m sure this is a matter of personal preference.  Nobody wants to fight with a bad showerhead.  Even in a rental, you can change the shower head yourself and replace it with the bad one when/if you move.   Nice towels are another investment that pays off.  I’d rather have one really nice towel than five cheap ones that pill and shed all the softness in the first wash!  Again, Egyptian cotton is my choice.  Those really big ones are useless unless you plan to wrap up in a wet towel.  Otherwise, the standard size are perfect for drying and hanging.  My splurge occasionally is nice French milled soap, but that’s a real luxury and not a necessity.  My shower head is connected to a hose and attaches to the wall above my head.  The hose allows me to use the shower to give the dog a bath and saves money on a groomer.  Speaking of the groomer, I just can’t afford to go there.   I purchased a mid-priced clipper and shave her down twice a year.  Okay, I admit, for the first week she definitely looks like “her mother cut her hair,” but it grows fast and looks fine after that!  Maddie is a shih-tsu/poodle mix (yes, that’s a shihts-pu) and she has this weird coat that is neither of her ancestors.  It’s very long and massively curly, but not tight curls.  The hair mats very easily after about the first inch and I just cannot comb the mats out after awhile, necessitating this shave-down.  Learning to do this was not difficult and the savings are worth learning.

My mom used to tell me that “cleanliness is next to godliness.”  That, and she’d tell me that poor as we might be, we could always afford soap.  I enjoy that daily shower, mom, and I really enjoy sleeping in now that I’m retired!

Published in: on August 28, 2014 at 2:43 pm  Leave a Comment  
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