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If You’re in a Financial Mess, You Might Thank Shopping For It

shopping There are a whole lot of blogs out there. One researcher estimates that there are 175 million of them. I read a bunch of them. What I really look for is someone who says something that really makes me think. I read a blog recently that was a “lightbulb moment” for me.

The young lady whose blog I was reading, a couple of months ago faced a financial crisis – she and her husband have one of those “modern relationship arrangements” – she pays hers; he pays his; they pay the household stuff together. So, when her credit card balance got to be the size of AIG’s bailout, she had to do some negotiating with her DH in terms of how to pay that sucker down because she couldn’t afford the minimum payment any more.

Now, this is all well and good. Her DH was kind, nice and nurturing – he took the credit card away and told her to come up with a plan. He even recognized that she could not go “cold turkey” and she came up with this: She would get $10 a week to spend however she wanted to. This did not include costs like lunches, car fare (what a homey, old fashioned term that is) and so on. This was her “play money” and she could spend it however she wanted to.

Ten dollars. $10.00. This, for a woman whose purchases had produced a credit card balance that required her to make a fairly humiliating appeal to her husband for her own personal bailout.

Now, looking at this, I said to myself, “She can go about this two ways: She can save up these weekly allowances and get herself something good and nice once a month – or, she can fritter it away on nonsense because you really can’t get anything of any value for $10.00.”

This woman proved me absolutely wrong and showed me one huge reason why we are in such a big mess at the family financial level.

Her belief, at least at first, was that her problem was the amount of money she was spending on an ongoing basis. So, she felt she was holding up her part of the deal with her DH by only spending $10.00 a week. On a quantifiable basis, she was probably correct. She detailed in her blog her adventures spending that $10.00. It makes for some very interesting reading. I’ve never seen anyone who squeezed out so much sheer stuff out of one $10.00 bill a week.

And you know how she did it? She found all the thrift stores in the area. In any given week, she was bringing home between 5 and 8 items (some small, like accessories priced at 50-cents; some somewhat larger, such as a coat she got for $8.00). Sometimes, she even had money left over from that $10.00 bill, which she rolled over to the next week so that she could buy even more.

After about a month of this, she woke up to the same thing I saw almost immediately – her problem was not spending money – she has a shopping addiction. Her only form of personal entertainment involved the hunt for and the acquisition of sheer volumes of stuff. Stuff that sat in her closet and was never worn, stuff that was worn only once or twice, stuff that she’d seen in other fashion and shopping blogs (and I don’t want to even try to estimate how many of those there are).

She isn’t the only one. I’m sure there are millions of people out there who are in the same situation, because:

1) They have a credit card, which, as we know, is seen by many as “free money.”
2) People are working more and more for less and less – they tend to treat themselves with things like shopping and eating out.
3) The concept of leisure time and what to do with it has gone through a huge change.
4) The ability to find and acquire stuff requires basically no effort – no one has to go to the store for anything anymore except perhaps for gasoline. Everything else can be ordered over the internet and delivered.

As we go deeper into America’s own personal financial hell hole, one of the things I’m going to question is – how are families going to deal with this situation? A lot of families no longer spend any time together; taking the credit cards and the car keys away from Buddy and Sis is going to be a huge change. How many families do you know who never eat together any more? Where family members retreat to their own rooms – don’t interact often; don’t have really good “getting along with others” skills, have no real feel for “being a parent” or of “being a child in a family”? How many families substitute ready access to and the providing of “stuff” to family members for actual family based activities? How many families have members who are addicted to shopping?

America’s collective “financial cold turkey” is going to be very shocking and nauseating – I’m wondering how we will all get through it.

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