Thursday, December 27, 2007
Do You Really Need 30 Pairs of Shoes?
The day after Boxing Day, Thursday 27th December . . . thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands of Australians will front up at Department stores to snag a bargain. It's traditionally the first day of the Summer Sales which will last for a couple of weeks when stores Australia wide will wildly discount, offer you interest free terms or nothing to pay until 2009 to entice you to buy clothes that don't fit, appliances you don't need, and accessories to clog up the top shelf of your wardrobe (isn't that where they all end up?).
My understanding of economics is scant. I pick up a few things from the Financial Advisers for whom I work but basically, overspending by a country's population and government leads to inflation which causes the monetary regulators to raise interest rates. Simplistic, I fear so but if you can put it more succinctly, please let me know. So what drives these people, overspent by too much indulgence at Christmas, maxed out on their credit cards, to queue in front of department stores overnight, to charge through their opening doors at 7.00am, rummage through the specials tables, abuse shop assistants, grab items out of the hands of fellow shoppers and generally spend, spend, spend at the post Christmas sales?
Is it need or greed? Who needs more than one television, one XBox or PS2, who needs 22 pairs of shoes, 16 handbags or a wardrobe of clothes to make a film star envious. Who needs a new fridge just because it's interest free for 2 years. Who is compelled to go out and buy a car because there's 40% off after Christmas. In fact today, shoppers waited in long queues outside jewellers Swarovski and bag stores Guess, Coach and Oroton in central Sydney because these shops chose to 'regulate' the amount of shoppers they allowed to enter. What! We have homeless youth, problems in indigenous Australia, drug addiction, a failing health and education system and people are queuing to buy jewellery and handbags. It's INSANE!
Sales here seem to be more and more common. Even before Christmas we were shopping for backpacks in Kathmandu and they had a 50% sale BEFORE Christmas. There are the post Christmas sales, the Spring Sales, the half yearly sales the twice a year clearances and offer us cash for a HUGE discount! If they can afford to entice us to buy with low or no interest, 5o% off, Clearances and post Christmas mark downs . . why can't prices be a little more affordable before the event or consistent throughout the year?
If you're a saver, I guess high interest rates are fantastic but how many of us have NO debt? No credit card outstanding, no mortgage, no personal loans? Not many I'll wager. What makes us want to buy, acquire, own? Personally, I've had to deal with the 'estates' of three members of my own family and the bulk of what they 'bought' is just junk to be disposed of by those of us who remain. I'm not a minimalist in the white-walled, white-tiled, single-chair in a room fashion but I don't believe in purchasing 'things' just because someone else has them or because they're cheap or necessary to 'acquire'. I don't see the need for a lettuce spinner or a rice cooker in the modern kitchen. I don't need an electric peppermill or a cappucino machine (they never taste as good as Barista bought anyway!). I don't like designer dresses that are made in sweat shops or shoes made in China then badged by some silly designer with their name and sold for $300. I don't need a TV that extends accross an entire wall. Don't get me wrong, I like my little luxuries but they're practical, economical and useful and I could live just as well with a few simple implements as a kitchen full of gadgetry.
I have friends who have a TV in every room so they don't speak much to their children who also have their own PS2's or X Boxes. They have air-conditioning, dryers, gadgets and gizmos and have lost the art of doing things intuitively and simply. They have electric garage doors because it's too difficult to get out of the car and open a door. They have the latest coffee makers, the flashest cars. They have GPS systems because it's too hard to look up a Gregorys or UBD and buy water which in Australia is no better quality than that which comes out of the tap. They are dripping in jewellery, handbags and shoes . . . but these things don't always make them happy and in many cases, they just surround themselves with debt and the knowledge that they've managed to keep up with the Joneses.
Please Australia, think before you buy: Do I need it, Do I want it and if so why? Can I live without it? Will it really make me happy? What effect will my purchase have on the economy? And in my case . . .can I really afford it. The answer is invariably no.
Then I've never been much of a shopper but I have still managed to get myself into credit card debt. I 'need' a new computer but hey. As long as the old one has legs, I can wait for five minutes while it navigates its way around the web. I need a new car but basically $250 spent on new brakes will tide me over. I need a new washing machine but if I spin stuff twice, it's dry enough to peg out. I need very little actually. I need my friends, my family, a roof over my head and a hot shower each day. I need a minimum of implements and mod cons. I need my dog, a standard fan and a stereo to fill my house with music. I need a coldy in the fridge, food in my belly and the love of my children. Needless to say, I will not be smashing through the doors of Myers because basically, there's nothing more that I need! And lets face it, I certainly don't need another rise in interest rates when the Reserve Bank meets on the first Tuesday in January!