My husband, The Norwegian Artist, is a really boring person to go shopping with.
I’d say that he shops like a man, except that in this politically correct environment which spews smog over every thought we have and word we utter, I would sound like a dogmatic, diehard bigoted extremist spewing aggressively hostile expressions of hate.
So I won’t say he shops like a man, but those of you closely aligned to someone like this know what I mean:
He doesn’t go to a store unless he has to. When he does, he heads straight to the aisle with the item in question — antifreeze, or masking tape — and compares prices to quality. He makes his choice, decides that there’s nothing else he’s been in desperate straits about — socks, washers and bolts, light bulbs — and quickly checks out. And then he heads home.
End of the shopping expedition.
When he shops online, he does pretty much the same thing, but given that we both work on the computer all day, I sympathize that it’s not much fun, in our off time, spending even more time on the computer, looking around. He decides what he wants — stretcher bars to put canvas over so that he can create a painting — goes to the site, picks out the item and hits the checkout button.
The Norwegian Artist spends remarkably little time — and money — shopping, which is good. It’s just that you don’t create a date around that particular activity with this man.
But if you want to save money, shopping like a man, or at least like the Norwegian Artist, is a good idea, because you don’t fill the cart with all the ticky tacky plastic items screaming at you from the aisles, gaudy Sirens calling to be taken home and stuffed in your already crowded house.
The other day I was in a store, heading purposefully toward the back to pick up, of all things, antifreeze (the Norwegian asked me if I minded doing an errand for him) and I found myself striding past colorful displays of stuff, all of which appeared to be 30 to 65 percent off and none of which, when I stopped to look at the items and consider if I wanted them, appealed to me.
I don’t need a plastic pitcher with pineapples on it, even if it is $5 instead of $10.
Same for the plate that looks like an alarm clock, the book of prayers in both Russian and English, and the tape dispenser cleverly disguised as a chocolate bar. While some of these are funky and fun, and all of them were on sale, if I bought everything that caught my eye — like a dog attracted to a laser point — I would, over time, spend a lot of money on items I don’t really need, probably won’t use, and will wind up stepping on because everything, in my house, at some point winds up on the floor.
I would far rather head straight to the anti-freeze and straight out, using the money I save to make a larger or more expensive purchase of something I really want — like a piece of Polish pottery (which NEVER winds up on the floor, by the way), a hank of yarn, or even a flattering item of clothing that fits perfectly and looks stunning on me. These purchases I will use and not step on.
Living life in a sensible financial manner does not mean that we never buy anything; it means that we buy wisely, and in a society with So Much Stuff, that’s a challenge. When all of your money goes toward impulse purchases of stuff, there is little left over for the real thing: items of luxury, elegance, and pleasing design (like paintings, say) that last, and bring pleasure, for a long time.
There’s nothing wrong with shopping being a pleasurable activity, and indeed, even the Norwegian Artist engages in it — you should see his book wish list. When you shop well, with sense, sensibility, discipline, and self-control, you build up a collection of beautiful things that you never thought you could afford, a little bit at a time.
Three thoughts for saving money:
1) Cook for yourself. I post fast, easy, tasty yet healthy foods in my Recipes section.
2) Think more independently. Question everything you’re told, and don’t trust that any organization — government, non-profit, medical, religious — is more concerned about you than it is about maintaining its own existence.
3) Check out my book, Live Happily on Less. Saving money is a lifestyle, not a series of bullet-pointed tips. I write about Finances every Friday, and list published articles in the Financial Health category on the menu.
This article was originally published in ThoughtfulWomen.org.