Last week we talked about our relationships with money, looking at their origins and considering how they play out in how we handle, save, and spend. This week, we’ll take the next logical step: let’s talk about our relationships with stuff.
It seemed no coincidence to me that the pre-recession era, marked with the growth of McMansion subdivisions and the rise—as well as the fall—of the Hummer also seemed to feature the growth of storage centers. Now I’ve never fact-checked this, but I don’t remember seeing more than the occasional, isolated storage center when I was a kid. But in my early adult years, these places seemed to multiply like rabbits and take on gargantuan proportions. They’re eyesores, and always led me to thinking: what has caused such a demand for these? The answer: stuff.
I myself have a mixed relationship with stuff.
I have, if I’m honest, a real love for Sephora. We are book keepers. I wax and wane in terms of clothing purchases. We have a mess of a basement full of god knows what.
I’m working on thinning out this mess, putting stuff in the garbage bin and in a yard sale pile. If I can make a few bucks and clean out the basement, I’ll be a happy camper.
Some folks fill their emotional needs with things.
Others feel caught up in the race to have the newest-best-fastest car, phone, you name it. Mercifully, I am not one of those people. I’m not a must-have-this-tech person; I have a bare-bones phone (I’ve only had a smartphone for about a year, and had a flip phone until then), an older-model iPad I got through work, and a work laptop. I reason that these things do what I need them to do, and so I’m generally pretty happy with them and certainly unwilling to spend more money to upgrade them. I tend to fill my emotional needs with chocolate rather than iPhones.
For a long time I was easily lured in by those “here’s $10 off $25” coupon deals to places like DSW. One day I bought a pair of shoes accordingly and brought them home to find I already had a pair just like it. That’s when I began to really reconsider the shopping choices I was making, and the reasons I was making them, and why I made them when I had little disposable income to make them in the first place, nevermind when my economic position improved. (I also wonder about the gender and sex breakdown of all of this, tho I haven’t done the research, in terms of who gets what kind of advertising and who then takes advantage of it.)
Since then, I’ve tried to save more money and spend what I do on experiences.
Eating out is still a money pit for me, but I’m working on it. I still feel that as long as I’m enjoying the experience of dining out, it counts for more than a pair of shoes I don’t need.
So here’s today’s question: why do you buy what you choose to buy? Do you buy just for fun? To satisfy emotional longings? To meet concrete needs? To take advantage of deals when they present themselves? How might these categories overlap? Do you spend money you don’t have in order to meet any of these categories? What’s the opportunity cost* in such spending, whether you’ve got the income or not? How might all of these questions revolve around sex and gender?
Down the road we’ll prod these questions further as we start to map out better uses of your cash than stuff, or figuring out your cash-stuff balance.
*a fun economics term that refers to the other things you might have done with the money (or time, or whatever) spent.