It occurred to me yesterday that half of what we want from year to year is a waste of time and money. We buy things because everyone else has one, or because we think a thing or a piece of clothing will make us look better, feel better, BE BETTER than we were before, or perhaps better than our friend or neighbor. I was amused recently by a minor debate in the retail fashion industry about whether it improves or diminishes sales to see someone in the dressing room area who looks far better in the same outfit you just tried on. Some managers said it was the “kiss of death” to see some svelte woman prancing around in a dress you just tried on in a size 18. Others said that larger women still typically bought things that looked better on another woman or on a mannequin because they perceive themselves as looking just as good, even though they don’t! lol
I don’t remember ever hearing so many commercials emphasize replacing a product or service simply because something better is available. I suppose that choice has always been the underlying force in advertising, but my parents, and certainly my grandparents were inclined to wait until something broke or was no longer working efficiently before replacing it. And of course they tried to repair it or have it repaired before replacing it. Have you given any thought recently to how many things can no longer be repaired? There simply aren’t any repairmen or shops that will even look at most of our appliances or technical gadgets. We just go to the store and get another one. And of course the new one is better. Well, sometimes.
For years we used my grandfather’s old refrigerator. It wasn’t the biggest or best, but it worked, and had been working for decades. When we finally replaced it because it didn’t have the storage capacity for our growing needs we gave it to someone who needed it and we bought a “bigger and better” model at a reputable dealer. It lasted half as long as grandfather’s! I’m currently using the third dryer I have owned during the same span of time that my grandmother owned one! Sometimes the latest thing isn’t the greatest.
But still we yearn. Still we want. Still we buy. And we buy when we already HAVE. My mother usually owned two purses- brown and white- and carried them for years. Now it is not uncommon for a woman to own a dozen purses and use them only as long as they are fashionable. Why? Because we have let ourselves believe that we should care about such things. That fashion makes the woman, instead of the other way around.
And I don’t write this to condemn, but merely to explore the whys and wherefores. I too own far more things than I need. I too have to stop and think about why I need to buy more. When I reached for my coffee cup this morning I was conscious of the fact that I have a dozen coffee cups…not because I often have company for breakfast, but because I like to rotate them and drink from whatever cup “strikes my fancy” as Mother was fond of saying.
I suppose there is nothing wrong with buying what strikes our fancy, unless of course we are depriving ourselves or our family of essentials like food and shelter and health care and insurance. Before you scoff, look around at the number of people who have the latest game, phone, television, computer, or other technical marvel. Is it just part of their lifestyle, or did they sacrifice something else in order to have it? I honestly think that what some of our young people are sacrificing is their future financial security. My grandmother always cautioned us to save for a rainy day. I’m not sure what rain had to do with money, but she was a wise woman who didn’t waste time or money on things she didn’t need.
(I suppose I’m in a nostalgic mood. The photo is me with baby Karen, Dad, Gran, and Bigg.)