March 2, 2007

In Praise of Shopping

One thing I love about having lots of children is seeing the things I buy for them get used again and again. I've mentioned (and mentioned, and mentioned) that I enjoy getting things on clearance at Target. Just imagine how much my bargain-hunting soul loves to use those items for several children. Buy a child's shirt for $1.74, then bring it out for the third boy in a row, knowing a fourth boy is coming to wear it next, and right there's a little slice of happiness.

I do buy some things new for each new child. Sometimes it's necessary: my first two boys were born in the winter, and my next two are summer babies, so some of the seasonal stuff is the wrong size: the child needs size 12m shorts, and all we have is 12m sweaters. Sometimes it's a matter of things starting to look dated: the things I bought for my first son eight years ago in the late '90s don't look as cute now. Sometimes things wear out: jeans get holes in the knees, onesies get stretched out and thin and grungy. And sometimes it's just fun: fun to have new things, fun to buy things for the new baby.

I like to shop. I'm saying it right out, because I think people who like to shop are supposed to be embarrassed, like we're Paris Hilton or something. I guess it's supposed to be superficial to enjoy seeking out and purchasing material possessions, and I can see how it wouldn't stack up against, say, working with orphans in an impoverished country. Nevertheless, I enjoy it. Not only do I enjoy it, I will go so far as to say I think it is a worthy pursuit. Shopping is seen as a rich woman's activity, but I see it as a poor woman's activity: Making good choices means you can have the good stuff for the price of the crappy stuff. You can have two of something instead of one. You can have this and that, instead of this or that.

When I shop, I'm looking for things we currently need, but I'm mostly looking for things we will need: the less pressured you are, the easier it is to get what you want for a good price. I don't wait until our sheets are full of holes to look for new sheets, I'm always on the lookout for good sheets at 75% off. We don't need them yet, so I can be picky and get ones I like. I buy clothes for the kids in the next size up, and even the next size after that. Not too far ahead, because fashions change and because it's hard to predict who might need slims and who might need huskies, and because as kids get older they might want some say in what they wear, but I do buy enough ahead that I'm not scrambling to buy them a whole new wardrobe at full price because they've suddenly outgrown their old stuff. Basics like winter boots and snowpants, I buy several sizes in advance. I'm willing to handle a certain amount of storage and organization in exchange for paying $6 instead of $24.

When you save money in boring areas, you have more money for fun areas: save $18 on boring winter boots, and you have $18 more to spend on cute birth announcements, or a pretty green vase thing, or a new book. You also have more money in general: if you don't buy the vase thing, the $18 is just extra in the checking account. When the utility bills come in, or when the car insurance is due, or when somebody needs to go to the dentist, it's good to have those extra bits that wouldn't have been there if you'd bought things full price.

New pair of boots bought in November for $24? Or new pair of boots bought in February for $6, plus new sheets bought for $18-down-from-$72? Shopping is not just the act of putting down a credit card, it's the art of choosing. There isn't a thing wrong with buying the boots for $24, but nor is there a thing wrong with enjoying trying to get them for $6.

11 comments:

desperate housewife said...

I think it's interesting how you noted that people seem to feel obligated to be embarassed of their love of shopping. I think that should only be embarassing if you're a compulsive shopper, to the point that you're, say, bankrupting your family and taking out five credit cards that your spouse doesn't know about. Your kind of shopping sounds healthy and rewarding!
I wish I were better at it. I'm a very impulsive person and I want to use what I buy immediately, so even if I think I should buy some new boots for next winter now while they're on clearance, it's so much morefun to go look at cute spring sandals!
On the other hand, the times when I have actually been disciplined enough to buy the way you do, I have been very pleased with myself. Last fall I bought a pair of very cute Dockers white sandals at like eighty percent off or something, and I have kind of enjoyed looking at them waiting in my closet, knowing that soon, soon, it will actually be time to throw on a cute skirt and white sandals! Except replace the cute skirt with maternity capris.

Kathi said...

I'm a new reader and I have to say I love your blog. It's as if you're in my mind saying exactly what I think! I love shopping too!! And because we don't have a lot of extra money these days, I see my love of shopping as almost a duty to my family--comparison shopping and bargain shopping to get the best deals. It sounds dumb but I pride myself on never having to pay full price on stuff like shampoo and toilet paper and laundry detergent because I always stock up when my brands are on sale. I only have one kid so far but I have found lots of cute (and some brand new!) clothes and toys at a thrift store around here. I even go there on Mondays to get 25% off. I can't wait to pass all of his stuff on to the next kid. I'm also a Target addict--did you know that when you see a price at Target that ends in a 4 (like $4.74) that is the absolute lowest price the item will ever be? Now I'm always looking for the 4's.

Shelly said...

I think I love you...

Anonymous said...

Yay! Yay yay yay!

I think I love you, too ...

nowheymama said...

Well said! Let's go shopping!

Trina said...

I am de-lurking. :) Love the blog read it everyday.

Very well said on the shopping. I personally hate it. I always have. I really hate it now that I am a SAHM and I feel like I have to buy everything on sale. My husband can't believe how "cheap" I have become.

Michele said...

I love to shop and I am not ashamned of my place in the clearance aisle one bit. Its a hobby for me, buying on sale and putting it away for next year. I do the same thing with household stuff because I hate shopping when I NEED something, too much pressure and never finding the right thing.
Having kids is great for this kind of shopping because one or the other will always eventually fit into the stuff I buy for later.
The only thing I splurge on is perfume. I cant find Chanel for 75% off.

coffee stained said...

Thank you for posting this today. I feel like I can relate in so many ways. I think I have an issue though b/c I have a hard time paying full price for anything, even if it saves me a headache... like I will drive around to 5 different stores looking for that perfect, on sale item, only to spend an entire afternoon's worth of time to save less than $10. I guess if you take the urgency aspect out of the shopping experience though, that relieves this particular problem. I totally get this compulsion from my mother though--a woman who will take an entire Saturday to do her grocery shopping because she is searching out the best prices on various items by visiting multiple supermarkets.

Mommy Daisy said...

This is a great concept! I'm the same way. And I never realized how much I enjoyed buying clothes (especially on clearance) until I had a baby. I'm a baby clothes junkie. You should see this guys closet. He has too many to talk about. But last summer I was buying things for this winter, and this fall was buying things for summer. Wow, what a rush! :)

jen said...

I love to do the same thing. When I see something on sale that I can use, I snatch it up. Lots of $2 pants here! I just got a ton of solid tees at old navy for $1.50 ea too. It's hit or miss but we do pretty good.

brightfeather said...

I love the secondhand market, especially for children's clothing. It takes time, yes, but when I can outfit a child for an entire year for under a hundred bucks in new and nearly new clothing, it's worth it. That's how we dress my one-year-old niece and nephew. Thrift stores, consignment sales, and yard sales are great sources. Thing is, it can take multiple trips to find what you need. I've found very well-made, high-end clothing at places like this that might cost as much as hundred dollars a piece for anywhere from a dollar to five, sometimes even under a dollar. All of those adorable, smocked creations that you find in boutiques at inflated prices? Not a problem. Most I ever paid for one, dress, coat, bonnet and everything, was $8.