The shopping news

In the season of spending, members of Table Talk, Salon's reader community, discuss the ways they resist the seductive allure of affluenza.

Published December 22, 2006 11:40AM (EST)

Social Issues

Consumption and consumerism: how do we get out?

Janie Jones - 12:42 pm Pacific Time - Dec 16, 2006 - #661 of 674

I'm really working on striking a balance, myself. I tend to want to "get by" with the cheapest possible computer, apartment, phone service, or whatever. There are cases in which this is good; there are cases in which it's better to pay a bit more to get what you really want. I'm really trying to learn the difference. All spending, even some frivolous spending, is not inherently bad, but for a long time I've acted as though it is.

DH and I got rid of a ton of stuff in October when we moved from a two-bedroom to a small one-bedroom apartment: a loveseat, two desks and chairs, a computer, one of two cars, a ton of old papers and books and magazines. Learning to live compactly is a challenge for us, but we're finding we like it for reasons beyond the practical. We think a lot about whether we have room for things before we buy them, we buy more fresh food more often rather than stockpiling storable stuff, and we go to the library a LOT more than the bookstore these days.

Robert Chariot - 03:16 pm Pacific Time - Dec 16, 2006 - #662 of 674

Excess accumulation -- in the form of food, flesh, responsibilities, money, debts, goods, services -- is, in fact, what causes aging. Aging is Accumulation.

Janie Jones - 08:36 pm Pacific Time - Dec 16, 2006 - #664 of 674

There are times, I think, when purchasing is as good a form of instant therapy as any other. Not trying to sabotage efforts not to do it (cheering them on, in fact), but I do think there's an element of "whatever gets you through" in hard times, and that buying shiny things may not be perfect, but it's not downing a bottle of Jack, either.

Robert Chariot - 12:48 am Pacific Time - Dec 17, 2006 - #665 of 674

A friend of mine likes to say, "Sometimes you think you need a friend, when what you really need is a cocktail."

I like to say, "Sometimes you think you need another thing, when what you really need is a good deep breath -- which is the Most Wonderful Thing."

Soj - 07:52 am Pacific Time - Dec 17, 2006 - #666 of 674

I can't wait until I have the time during the winter break to purge my storage space of crap I don't use anymore. I used to do it every year, so it will feel great and I'll have more room in my apartment as a result.

clemencedane - 12:00 pm Pacific Time - Dec 17, 2006 - #667 of 674

When I find myself lusting after an object online (happens frequently when I browse eBay, which shows that I was looking for temptation in the first place) I take a screen grab of it and save it in my gallery of beautiful things. Usually, though not always, this is enough for me and I don't need to buy it. I go through all sorts of crazy gymnastics in my head to rationalize or anti-rationalize a purchase. It's always a matter of which voices win out.

Janie Jones - 12:29 pm Pacific Time - Dec 17, 2006 - #668 of 674

That reminds me of the idea of walking through a store just holding something you want, seeing if "having" it for that little while is enough.

I've found that if I'm agonizing over a purchase, I don't make it. Sometimes I regret it, but not often, and as I am the kind of person who can agonize over whether it makes good sense to buy the extra roll of paper towels, it saves me some time.

clemencedane - 10:33 am Pacific Time - Dec 18, 2006 - #669 of 674

Oh, I do that, too. Agonize, I mean. And if I agonize more than a minute, I know I shouldn't get it. Luckily I still usually decide not to get things even if I am gung-ho. For borderline temptations all I have to say to myself is, "You don't need that." For really, really tough ones, where the item is overwhelmingly tempting but fills no need whatsoever, I have to say, "Do you want that or a house? How many bricks of a house would that buy for you?"

The idea of walking through the store holding something is a good idea. I usually shop online, which makes it more treacherous. Sometimes I guess I do the equivalent of holding by bookmarking the page of the item and then visiting it off and on for a week. Then finally I delete the bookmark and I am done.

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