Consumerism: the preoccupation of society with the acquisition of consumer goods.
Thoughts on Consumer Culture and Advertising:
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Peak Consumer Culture: Costco on Circular Day
Don’t get me wrong; I love Costco. In fact, when I lived in Manhattan, I used to rent a car and go to Costco and stock up on all my supplies for the month. I loved those trips. I felt incredibly smart as I drove back to New York with massive quantities of discounted paper towels, toilet paper, frozen dinners, and protein bars.
Now that I live in California, I couldn’t pass up a groupon offer that came my way: $60 membership fee and receive a $20 cashback card as a thank you. Done!
One problem: I needed to join before November 30th.
So here I was on one of the busiest shopping days of the year, when they release their holiday circular, stuck at Costco trying to activate my membership. The definition of consumer culture. Shopping hell is an understatement. The parking lot felt like the parking lot for the SuperBowl, and not in a good way.
I signed up. I got some stuff. I didn’t blow my budget and I left.
Frugal Takeaway: I will share one new observation with you. In a world dominated by Amazon, Costco is no longer a great value. In fact, I think Amazon is now better than Costco, especially if you use Subscribe and Save.
What do I use Amazon Subscribe and Save? They give you a bulk discount of 15% on household items. In fact, if you use Subscribe and Save and then use an Amazon cash back credit card, the savings come to 20%! Pretty great, right? You make a list of the items you use frequently on the Amazon page. Then, once a month they send you the items at a reduced price. If you order more than 5 items, the cost is reduced by 15%. Because Amazon ships the items together, they save on the shipping costs. And they pass the savings on to you. I love it. It’s very convenient. The cost savings are huge and it saves me time as well.
What I bought on Cyber Monday
On cyber Monday, I bought an Amazon Echo with Alexa. It was difficult to pass up at $29.95 and I thought I might like it. Here’s what I discovered. It wasn’t really that cheap. I liked it. It seemed cool and fun. Except that I bought it for music and it had none. Specifically, you could Join Amazon’s music club. Or, upgrade to Spotify Premium, etc… I can use my IPAD to play music from a bluetooth speaker. So, apart from telling Alexa, “Play music.” I wasn’t getting anything from this purchase. And I would wind up with an extra $5 or $7 monthly charge for music. The Echo was inexpensive and cool. Yet, it really didn’t add any value to my life. And I returned it. Products that don’t add value to my life go back to the store.
Advertising and Consumer Culture
There is a disturbing television commercial I keep seeing. Maybe you’ve seen it. The Parents watch their child in the backyard. It is clearly the West. Its Christmas, but there is no snow. The child looks sad. Shot of the mother clearly disturbed by her child looking sad. There is a problem here. What kind of parents don’t offer a child snow on Christmas?
Solution: Thanks to a new $90,000 Range Rover, the parents drive all night to solve this problem: they arrive just in time for their daughter to enjoy Christmas in the mountains with snow. The problem has been solved. The family is happy. All is well.
The ad is everything that is wrong with consumer society. It is manipulative and ridiculous. It presents the essence of everything that is wrong with consumerism in America. Money is nice, but it will not solve your problems. It feeds into the idea that I can always buy something to “fix” my problem. And I have been guilty of this mindset too.
Consumerism: Buying to solve my problems.
I admit that in the past, I have tried to use money to solve my problems. It doesn’t work well. As I have reviewed my spending habits on the way to paying off my car, I can see how much mindless shopping I have done over the past few years. That is one reason why I suggest people unsubscribe from retail email lists. It removes temptation. I have been all too guilty of using shopping to cure things like boredom or stress. It doesn’t work in the long run.
I read the book, The Obstacle is the Way while I was on Jury Duty and it was incredible. There is much wisdom and value added in this view of life. Essentially, you have to accept what is. We can’t make everything perfect. Its not a perfect world. Seeking to find solutions through money and shopping is a lie sold to us through marketing and advertising. We have to power to decide what messages are true and which are distortions.
There is no perfect Holiday season. It’s odd how we pretend to be in a good mood during the holiday season leading up to gift giving. And by February, everyone is suffering a bit of a hangover. The gifts and presents haven’t kept us happy. We have bills. The cheer is gone.
The larger goal in my opinion, is to create a life that is fulfilling most of the time.
Becoming debt free and achieving financial freedom will create a much more fulfilling life in the
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