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!


Unknown said...

Amen to that, Baino, excellent post. Interest rates here have been hiked horribly yet people keep spending. (Personally I love it when interest rates go up, but since when did I fit into to the usual box!) This year the government urged people to curb their spending at Christmas, ho ho ho. Not a chance, I think there were more people going into hoc than ever before - and most of those are people who are already poorly off and cannot afford the debt. I fail to understand the complete lack of logic. But we live in such "gotta have" societies where more is never enough and enough is considered impoverishment - ironic, isn't it. I have a fridge which I bought when I left home 20+ years ago - it still works and so I see no need to replace it. My car is 9 years old and still goes like a bomb, so why get a new one. But then, as D frequently tells me, I'm not like everyone else - and to that I say, thank goodness. I'm glad you're not like everyone else too!

Unknown said...

I wanted to add, pondering this - see, you've set me off now! SA makes for an interesting society in this mad buying, materialistic world of ours. There are millions out there who can barely afford to put food on the table, who live in tin shanties and are surrounded by crime and violence. Yet they see what "rich" people have (this is relative, bear in mind - and rich equals "white" in this instance - and a small minority of increasingly wealthy black people)and they have to have exactly the same. I know of people who cannot afford basic school fees, food, electricity, water etc but they MUST have TVs, air conditioning, microwaves, computers etc and when you ask why they must have it, they say it's because everyone else has it and if you don't have it then you are nothing and no one and if you do have it you may be better than someone else. These are truly tragic values and are the undoing of so many.
Sorry, I'll get off my soapbox now before this becomes a blog post in it's own right - which it probably already is!

Anonymous said...

HAHA well you already know we drive around in a Valiant. I've probably mentioned I've never had a mobile phone or credit card and to top that off all our furniture is restored from others throwing theirs away. BUT I MUST have the best in regards to computer and printer and wacom tablet and HAHHAHAAA, we need our vices paid in cash only. *SIGH* I was hoping to find some good walking boots, an outdoor setting and square shaped garden pots because refuse to pay the amount they are normally priced ... but stuck here working!

Baino said...

AV: Soapbox moment excused. It's a bit hard without a thread to follow on with these things and I do feel rather hypocritical. I have nice things but for a 'Westerner' I'm not materialistic per se although I am more 'comfortable' than most. I have flushing toilets and clean drinking water. It's tragic though that we consider 'success' and 'affluence' to be the posession of the latest fad. Then again, (hypocrasy sinks in) my dog eats better than ALL third world children - my ultimate indulgence. So apologies for being so sanctimonious.

Baino said...

Anon: I have to get better at second hand rennovation. It's amazing what people throw away. I guess that's one of the benefits of a disposable society, some of us can see the potential in other's cast offs. Another man's treasure and all that! (Hey, the Valiant must be worth a motza!) Walking boots? Ray's Camping Warehouse . . Gortex waterproof on special for $99 - no half sizes - but you'll need inserts for another $20. (Guess who's daughter is about to do the Inca Trail?) Sorry, can't help with the square pots.

Anonymous said...

When you were writing this, was someone playing Advance Australia Fair in the background?

Baino said...

Daz: Oh . .come over here and I'll give you a slap!

Anonymous said...

Great piece Baino! The sales in some of our shops started at 5am this morning. 5am!?! What is with people? I must confess that I'm a bit of a gadget freak myself but I only have one TV, one sound system and a Wii.
In Ireland too spending has gone through the roof. My own theory is that for so long Irish people weren't allowed to own anything. I'm not going to get into the whole 800 years thing now, but our state and politics is only 85 years old and for many of those years, things weren't so good here. Now that things have got a lot better recently people want to have everything that their parents/grandparents couldn't afford and nobody is going to stop them.
Myself and LadyMc have no debts other than our mortgage and we bought a few years ago so we're not paying €3000 a month for a small wooden box like some people I know.

Anonymous said...

Well said! Baino.

I've reached that stage in life where the only shoes I need or want, are comfortable ones :-(

Sometimes you know, I think I'm really lucky to have experienced the merry-go-round of this world come to a halt from time to time. It puts a whole new meaning on life - and no amount of sales bargains could ever match that feel good factor!

Gayé Terzioglu said...

To answer your question, yes I do. :P

Shoes and bags, absolute obsession.

I am only joking I have never obsessed with clothing, fashion, even make-up.

Vanilla talked about, when she was on her soapbox, people who don't have money basic necessities but must have TV etc. Absolutely Vanilla, same in Turkey, lots of people go on a holiday and go to negative on their credit cards so they can tell their neighbours etc that they had a wonderful holiday. Rest of the year they open their mouths, facing up to the sky waiting for food to drop right in their mouths, as they have bugger all money to do anything that is actually needed. Same thing for cars and other status-definers. Ugh, makes me sick.

Wishing you and your family a stupendous new year Baino! Looking forward to reading more of Baino's banters in 2008! :)

Loads and loads of love!

Baino said...

Aha so we all agree . . doesn't anyone have an opposing view? C'mon, there's gotta be a member of the Gold Shoe Brigade out there somewhere?

Jack: You're lucky just to have a mortgage. I have so much credit card debt it's getting ot of control. One Wii is allowed. An XBox per child? Now that's excessive

Steph: I'm in the sensible shoe category, I have a pair of thongs, a pair of runners and two proper pairs for work! And I guess in your situation, you of all people know that there are far greater things in life than material possessions.

Gaye: Sounds very typical. I have two types of acquaintances who motivated this post. The extremely wealthy who have money to burn on swanky holidays and pretentious cars whilst still managing huge (usually business) debt. And the borderline pension friends who spends every cent they earn on all the gizmos and gadgets, latest clothes, plasma screens, four wheel drive, hair and nails and the latest fashion.

Having said that peeps. We all have our little indulgences. Mine's French perfume and soft toilet paper and a flashy camera . .

Anonymous said...

Thanks for directing me towards good waterproof walking boots! The Valiant was a throw away in terrible condition when we found it and has cost a mint to restore but you're right, if we look after it for a bit longer - worth a motza! Trouble is it's the only pocession we have that indicates we might not be 'poor' ...;)

Anonymous said...

Now you're sucking diesel, Baino!

Give me good health, good friends and good wine (in that order) and I'm a happy bunny!

Anonymous said...

Hi Baino,

Now I know why they need that mill in Tasmania, it's not to burn pulp, it's to burn all the stuff that people don't need!

I'm not too up on your economy, Baino, but a huge surge for discounted stuff might be a sign of an economy in recession. If demand is buoyant retailers have no need for big discounts. I must Google Oz economics.

Going to Nepal for a backpack seems a bit extravagant, what did you put your smalls in on the way there?

Baino said...

Ian: Ah don't get me going on Gunns and the Paper Mill! Nepal? Now shame on you - sarcasm is the lowest form of wit . . and there's nothing small about my smalls! Are you referring to Kathmandu? Its an adventure shop of course.

You could be right about the recession. That's why our interest rates have been climbing steadily over the past 18 months. We just can't stop people SPENDING.

Um having said that, I just bought three T shirts for $17 each in the sales . . I didn't want to . . .honest . . they just screamed 'buy me' so I did! And for the record, I was inthe shopping mall to make a Medicare claim . . not to shop.

Unknown said...

You've inspired an entire post - just so you know :-)

Jefferson Davis said...

Tis a sad state of affairs Baino. It is one that is running rampant throughout the world. I know several people that have red lined their credit cards, and still apply for more credit, as if some magic sprite will come down from faerie land one day and pay all of their bills. It is idiotic, I tell you!!! Fantastic post, Baino. :)