Monday, May 3, 2010

Am I a consumer? Say it isn't so!

I recently discovered The Non-Consumer Advocate blog. The blogger had a recent post in which she included a Top Ten Ways You Know You’re a Non-Consumer quiz. I took the quiz and scored 8 out of 10. The two I didn't line up on were having a growing bank account (too many life difficulties for that to happen), and turning down free stuff.

I almost never turn down free stuff. I will if it's really cheap or badly damaged, or really have no use for it, but if it's free and I can think of a way to use it, I'll snap it up.

The quiz got me thinking: am I more of a consumer than I generally admit to being? Two recent incidents have made me pause.

One of the ways my consumerism comes out is with my daughter. I enjoy shopping for her far more than I ever enjoyed shopping for myself. It helps that she loves dressing up--much more than I did as a child--and that clothing and other items made for little girls are so cute.

Her fifth birthday is this week. Last Friday I took her to the Build-A-Bear Workshop at the Tacoma Mall. We first visited the place right after Christmas when we were completely broke and I promised her we'd come back around her birthday. We bought the cheapest bear they have ($10). However, once she had clothed her bear and added hair and accessories, the final cost was about $44.

I also went to Value Village today and bought clothes for her. This was for two reasons: because she already has the bear, I wanted another gift to give her on her actual birthday; and because she is growing so fast, she is unlikely to fit any of her clothes from last summer. For about $13, I bought her a dress, four outfits (top/shorts or top/skirt combos), two additional skirts and one additional pair of shorts.

It's much easier to justify the Value Village purchase than the bear. The former included items she needs, the price was right, the quality was good, and buying from a second-hand store is an environmentally smart choice. Furthermore, clothing is something she will naturally use again and again.

On the other hand, while my daughter loved the building a bear process, she hasn't shown much interest in the bear since we brought it home, preferring the dolls and stuffed animals she had before. So did I spend more money than I wanted to spend on something which she may not enjoy or play with much?

The second event is the closing of a local QFC store. They're selling their remaining inventory at drastically reduced prices, and they carry many natural and eco-friendly products. Well, I went in and spent about $100, which was far more than I wanted to spend. I got some very good deals which will save me money in the long run, such as Preserve razor refills for about 60 cents for a four-pack (I bought five) and Tom's of Maine deodorant sticks for about $1.59. But I'm still trying to figure out how I managed to spend so much.

My conclusion is that I can be a spender, if the price is really cheap or there is a sentimental value attached to the purchase (such as making a promise to my kid about returning to Build-a-Bear...). But I need to be more thoughtful about my shopping and spending, or I will end up with purchases I regret or buying more than I intend to.

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