Shopping is the opium of the masses

The main thing I was looking forward to in the US was going shopping.

With a huge market, and variety of choice, I knew I’d want to shop.

Even with our pathetic dollar, I knew/hoped the prices in the US would make for cheaper goods.

I was really looking forward to shoes! Sand shoes. Dressy shoes that come in different colours and designs.

And I wasn’t disappointed.

The US really is a shopping paradise. Choices! Lots of choices!

And cheap. But why did the dress and coat I really want in Bloomingdales cost over $400 and $2,000 respectively? They WERE gorgeous. But I resisted.

On my first full day in the States (after visiting Old Sacramento, I didn’t just shop), I hit Maceys.

Mr S said, “Don’t buy at the first shop you visit. Look around. We can come back.” But I know we don’t do that. Too many places to visit. And anyway this was The Post Christmas sales. (As it turns out, I did return as there was a stuff up with a pair of shoes – they gave me two different shoes, not a matching pair in a box, so I took them back. Luckily they found the left shoe of the right shoe I wanted. And while I was there, I bought the watch I saw and which spoke to me but didn’t buy on the first visit. No watch has called me in years.)

On that first visit to Maceys I bought:

  • Boots for $30. (Maybe I should have 10 pairs?)
  • Nike runners.
  • Some other brand of runners.
  • A Calvin Klein coat in the most divine blue.
  • Micheal Kor shoes.
  • A pair of green sling backs.
  • Two pairs of active wear leggings. (I need these now I am a regular gym goer.)
  • Mr S bought me two blingy costume jewellery bangles.

I could have gone really mad with dresses. So much cheaper than at home. But I have enough dresses.

In San Fran we hit the discount stores that take remaindered stock. Ross is my fav. Also visited the shopping centres which has Bloomingdales. The shopping centre had curved escalators!

In San Fran I picked up:

  • Pair of red loafers
  • Pair of blue Sketchers (With all my walking and exercising, I need new sand shoes. My current pair are wearing out and are ready for the bin. I was putting off buying new ones until our trip to America.)
  • A gold Calvin Klein cardie. I have one in black and one in white at home. This will be perfect with all my navy work dresses that don’t suit the black or white.)
  • Another pair of exercise tights
  • A black top.

I also popped into several shops, including new and secondhand book shop, Costco and supermarkets. I always love checking out bookshops and supermarkets in other countries. I had to find a diary and some mascara I’d bought years ago but then the importers stopped bringing it into Australia. Both of which I bought. And:

  • 1.75 litres of my favourite vodka at $US32 – less than half the price here.
  • A lovely little Christmas tray
  • Several different types of melanin. We can only get this by prescription. In the US it is on the shelf at Costco.
  • Four books, including two I was so glad to find from a second hand book store as they are out of print and I couldn’t find in Australia.
  • A double lined water bottle
  • Foot cream
  • Pens that write on glass
  • Little place setting nutcrackers for Christmas (Second hand. They only had five.)
  • Two Hamilton t-shirts
  • Reading glasses.

Oh dear. I should have listened to friends who said to go over with an empty suitcase.

I had to buy a second suitcase. Luckily it will be very useful as it opens like an old fashioned suitcase, not one that has two halves. Easier to use when travelling.

  • So what else?
  • On the way to the airport we stopped off at a factory outlet shopping centre where I bought:

    • A pair of lined crocs
    • Kate Spade handbag
    • Pink sandals.

    It is truely amazing the choice that comes with a big market. I saw some amazing variety in taps and furniture and electronic goods. But you know choice doesn’t make you happy and choice isn’t the same thing as freedom. It’s just more variety, “more permutations of the same meaningless shit”.

    (I’m sorry. I can’t just revel, can’t take simple joy, in buying heaps of stuff. I have to question and interrogate my actions – a life unexamined is not worth living and all that. I’m reading a book about hope and may post on its message soon.)

    I know I’ve bought a lot, and it seems incongruous with my posts about decluttering, but all these things will be used.

    Now to make room for the new stuff!

    Wardrobe diet

    After all the unnecessary, but very happy to have and still admired, clothes I bought in January, I said I would go on a wardrobe diet until winter; a mini-challenge I forgot about and really should have included on the post about mini-challenges. (As an aside, I really love long sentences, and semicolons; it’s how I talk, with lots of asides and internal footnotes.)

    So, with February over, how have I gone thus far?

    Well, it was not an absolute zero purchase month. I bought one item: a jacket.

    When I say I bought it, I am not being totally accurate. A friend sent me a text; she’d found me a beautiful jacket, one that was just me, and on special! “Should I get it and bring it to you tomorrow?” (We were travelling to a meeting the next day.)

    As chance would have it, the jacket was the style I had recently admired on a newsreader. Split sleeves, so it is part jacket, part cape.

    Wanted, heavily reduced, my size. Yes, yes, yes. Get it.

    “What about this skirt?”

    No, I don’t really want it. And I am not meant to be buying any clothes.

    “But it’s you. And reduced. I’ll bring it too. We can return it.”

    No, be strong, Lucinda. No, don’t bring it. Anyway, I’m doing a wear dresses to work challenge. When would I wear it?

    So one item at $120. Worn twice. Earned lots of admiring glances and comments. [OK, I did twirl around and if the response wasn’t immediate or enough, I fished deeper for compliments.]

    Aldi: the perfect holiday souvenir but can I fly with that?

    My step-father loves Aldi. Not as much as he loves doing jobs around the house.

    Given Aldi’s propensity to stock tools for around the house, his two loves are often combined to form a greater love.

    He was overjoyed when, on my recent visit, I said I wanted the newly advertised product – a battery operated pressure cleaner.

    So overjoyed that he offered to drive me to his nearest Aldi (a round trip of about an hour) and pay for it. (His language of love is to do jobs for people, but given we live 12 hours drive apart, he can’t do any repairs or renos or tidying up for me. Buying the product is the next best thing.)

    After immediately agreeing, I had second thoughts.

    “We do have Aldis in Sydney, you know. I can walk to two of them from my house.”

    “It will be too late when you go home. They will have sold out.”

    Then my next thought, “How will I fit this in my luggage? Will it take me overweight.”

    “We will take it out of the box.”

    And then, “I wonder if I can take the battery pack on the plane?”

    “If not, I will post it to you.” (He really wants me to have the Aldi pressure cleaner.)

    So we trooped down the mountain to Aldi. Like true Aldi aficionados, we arrived before opening time.

    Opa was so happy that we got the second last one – with the last one being taken minutes after we took ours. So happy, he did a little jig.

    I couldn’t help but imagine the conversation with the hand baggage security as I took the battery in my hand luggage.

    “You have a rechargeable battery pack?”

    “Yes, an Aldi one for a pressure cleaner. That’s in my checked luggage”

    “They have Aldis in Sydney, you know?”

    “Yes, but this was my holiday souvenir.”

    And what did the checked luggage X-ray operator see and say?

    “I think we have something here. Looks likes parts of a weapon.”

    “No. I recognise that. It was in the latest Aldi catalogue. It’s their pressure cleaner.”

    “Who flies between the Gold Coast and Sydney with a pressure cleaner?”

    “Oh man, totally get it. If you don’t buy it when you see it, you miss out. Would have been too late when the passenger got back to Sydney.”

    Of course, over the next few days of my visit, the pressure cleaner formed the topic of many conversations between Opa and me.

    “You tell Mr Sans to … You keep the receipt for Mr Sans…” (Opa is old-fashioned in his division of labour. Outdoors work must be for the man.)

    “Opa, Mr Sans won’t be using it. He doesn’t see mess and dirt. This’ll be my toy.”

    This is generally followed by a look of incomprehension.

    Footnote: we didn’t just get the pressure cleaner. You can’t go to Aldi and buy ONE thing. We also got the rechargeable night light and torch, which was actually something Mr Sans wanted and we’re so impressed with it. It comes on at night when you walk into the bathroom, gives enough light and then goes off after 25 seconds on no movement.

    Footnote 2: I broke a new pair of sandals while I was in Qld. Opa repaired them. He’s such a handy man. (By the way, my language of love is to let people do things for me so they feel useful and needed. I’m good like that.)

    This is why I stay out of the shops

    I ventured into a shopping centre to buy some thick tights. The leg brace has pulled holes in my two pairs. I could have waited until next winter but I wanted to take two pairs to France to wear with skirts and my boots.

    I only like the Italian brand, not the cheap Chinese copies that are not as smooth and silky, not as long lived. The Italian brand are about $24 each.

    I went to a larger shopping centre, not my normal small, local centre as I also wanted to check out flat dressy shoes for work. I won’t be wearing high heels again this year and I can’t wear my boots for many of my work outfits. I had already looked in my local centre and they didn’t have anything that appealed to me.

    I ran into a neighbour who works in my preferred department store. She offered to use her staff discount.

    All this is a long-winded preface to say, needless to say, I didn’t just buy stockings.

    Three tops; three pairs of shoes; a scarf; a pair of jeggings and two pairs of tights.

    I might availed myself of some discounts but thank god I have been saving money; I can cover this splurge. Yet all my principles of sourcing socially and environmentally just clothing went out the window. Opps.

    Here’s a peak at what I bought, minus the scarf and pants.

    Stay out of the shops.

    Subtitled: Saving for a whole year off – income cut, not lifestyle cut tip number 5

    I've been cheating with my last two tips. I have been doing them for years so they haven't really saved me extra money this year since we've faced the income cut while on the Deferred Salary Scheme. 

    So in a similar light, half of my next tip is not new. But it is saving me money. 

    Tip number five: stay out of the shopping centres and unsubscribe from online shopping emails. 

    I don't get how shopping is now a family activity. Want something to do on a Sunday? Take your family to the shopping centre!

    When did that become a thing?

    Years ago I stopped "go shopping" to "look" for something as a regular weekend thing. Now I only go if I need to buy something.

    We never took our kids to the shopping centre as something to do even when I did go to shopping centres. I mean why impose this on little kids and why impose little kids on others? We took our kids to parks and playgrounds and the harbour and the beach and the botanic gardens. Places they could run and chase and shout and burn off energy. But it didn't stop me going shopping alone or with friends.

    This year I added the second half of the tip. I unsubscribed emails from online shopping retailers. I was deluding myself that these didn't affect me. 

    Now I don't get tempted to buy things I didn't know I wanted before I got the email.  I am not tempted by deals which actually cost me money and which if I didn't get the email I would have saved money by not spending in the first place. 

    So save money and increase your self-worth and lifestyle by not looking to go shopping for fun and to fill your time; by not feeding the desire for the new, for things you didn't really want in the first place; by not raising dissatisfaction with what you already have. 

    I still buy things. I love clothes and shoes and bags. I still visit shops occasionally. But I am not shopping as an activity.

    Fill your time with the want to do but say you have no time for.

    I've been doing the things I like – reading, visiting friends, exploring our city, planning our next trip away, learning a language. 

    Bingo: saving money and improving lifestyle!!!

    Assaulting our senses and sensibilities

    Shop windows loud with placards so exclamatory they make one’s eyes jump. (Thank you J.B.Priestley for that phrase. I love the “with placards so exclamatory.)

    I’m not a frequenter of shopping centres. The noise, the crowds, the commercialism rankles me. I tend to limit myself to my minor Westfield shopping centre – it has enough choice for me – and within that centre I tend to limit myself to one department store. The one that plays gentle music and has more open space and fewer people. Even so, going once every ten weeks is enough for me. Add to this going once every ten weeks into the city. 

    I hate the visual pollution of shouty shop signs. 

    I could never work in sales. I’d be telling people they don’t need to buy. And, indeed, they shouldn’t go into debt to buy whatever it was I might be selling. This product wont give them happiness. Go out and do something. Go for a walk somewhere nice in the fresh air, close to nature. Read a book. Talk to family friends. 

    Though all this aside, I can shop with the best of them. And I just bought a CD of a local up and coming artist (Alex Lahey, listen to her on YouTube) from the shop in the picture above.  Ahhh, inherent inconsistencies, I embrace you. 

    But let’s make a start and not buy from any shops with shouty placards so exclamatory. 

    Down with visual pollution!

    Surviving Aldi: lessons from a successful shopper

    You know I have dreams of having a beautiful garden, don’t you? 

    Well, much like the person who buys all the cleaning products with hopes it will give them a clean house, I spied a magical piece of garden equipment that I thought would help us. A four in one garden trimmer, hedger, lopper thing. 

    I knew it was good quality cause my step-father, who knows these things, said so. 

    And it was cheap. It was an Aldi special buy. 

    No, not the Aldi brand. One of those magical items – an outside well-known brand occasionally stocked by Aldi. The weekend special buys had all manner of gardening items included a lawn mower with a Briggs and Stratton engine, and my desired four in one, also with the Briggs and Stratton engine. 

    I told my gardening friend I intended to get one. In fact I told all the ladies at work of my intended weekend purchase. “Could you get me one too,” a number said. 

    “No worries,” I naively replied, “if I can, I will.”

    My gardening friend, who is also an Aldi fan, said, “You will need to go early.”

    “Yes, I’m going to be there at 8.30. You know how hard that is for me on a weekend.”

    “Pfff,” she replied, dismissively, “that won’t do. It opens at 8.30. You have to get there earlier.”


    “No. That’s no good.”

    “Really? Will 8.15 do?”

    “Mmm. You may be lucky.”

    Now while I have Aldi items too numerous to count, my only other early  morning, on-opening-time, expedition was years ago. I picked up a special buy on the way to work. Oh, it was a gentler time then! The elderly in the queue had given me tips on how to get the camera I wanted, where to queue, where to rush to. This expedition proved to be much different. 

    On the morning in question I attempt to get Mr S to join me in leaving home just before 8am. “I’m not going that early. You go. I will be there at opening.”

    Not well pleased, I head off, arriving at the designated Aldi by 8am. This is silly, I tell myself. This is way too early. So I sit in the car for five or so minutes. [First wrong move.]

    Imagine my surprise when I get to the shop front at 8.10 to see this queue!

    These people are clearly Aldi experts. My friend was right. I may not have been early enough. I spy my competitors. Men in gardening clothes. Pensioners whose love of early mornings is only surpassed by their love of a bargain.

    I can see the face of the Aldi newbs like me. When they walk up the ramp from the car park, thinking they’ve arrived in plenty of time before opening, and see the queue, they momentarily pull their head back in surprise. 

    Anyway, I get my trolley [second mistake] and join the queue. And wait until opening while texting my gardening friend with regular updates on the Aldi campaign. 

    The queue continues to grow. Some people try not to join the queue but surreptitiously stay to one side. I know their game. They want to rush in with those who queued earlier. 

    See the blue-shirt-squatter on the left of the photo below?

    I had my eye on her. Not for her a queue. She looked around for where she could squat close to the front of the queue. Her chosen spot is in front of the queue that has now formed a right angle.  She is alongside the part of the queue that is in front of the door. If this was a junior maths lesson she’d be on the hypotenuse. Well, I for one would thwart her entry afor me. 

    It’s getting close to 8.30 and no sign of Mr S. I’m getting nervous. How will I lift the thing?

    At 8.27, they open the doors and the rush is on. Lucky I didn’t get here at 8.30!

    Yes, blue-shirt-squatter rushes forward. I use my trolley to block her entry. But she is not my real competition. 

    If you know the Aldi layout, they have the special buys in the centre aisle, down the back. Most of those in front of me run down the first aisle. They clearly plan on turning right at the fruit and veg. I take the centre aisle, the aisle less taken. 

    What’s this?!?

    A man blocking everyone from rushing down the centre aisle. He is walking with his trolley, ssslllooowly, nonchalantly, frustratingly, in the middle. 

    Bastard! He is clearly working in cahoots with someone who rushed down aisle one. His partner will get the lawn mower and hedger while he foils the competition. In fact, those who were behind me in the queue but are rushing down aisle one, as we dawdle, will beat me. 

    And now what’s this? Blue-shirt-squatter is trying to shimmy past. I swing my trolley. Success in blocking her again. But my foot is injured by my own trolley. 

    I will not bow out. I am not yet hors de combat. 

    I make it past the blocker. The crowds are already amassed around the two in demand items. Someone has sent in an 8 year old boy to duck under the adults and grab the dwindling pile of hedgers. I leave my trolley in the aisle. I duck under a man lifting up one hedger and put my hand on the second last one, to claim it. “Careful love,” says the man under whose arm I ducked. Someone else rushes in and says, “I want one like everyone else here.” Or was that me talking? In the emotion of the chase, the centre of the battle, all clarity is lost. 

    But what’s this? I can’t slide my hedger off the shelf. The boxes are not rectangular. They are narrower at one end and packed alternately. I have my hand on the one with the narrow end to the for. It is the second last one. I have to get it out. I can’t lift it. The crowd are pushing on me. 

    Where is Mr S?

    The one with wider edge to the front is removed. I slide mine off the shelf, wide-eyes looks of envy on those around me. Actually, I think they are looking for signs of weakness. Will I falter? Can they swoop in and claim my item? 

    No, I will put it in my trolley and leave. I can’t risk leaving it in the trolley to look at any other items. Someone will take the hedger. It’s mine. It’s my precious. Get back!

    I turn to my trolley. On no! Blue-shirt-squatter is pushing it away. “Hey, that’s mine.”

    “Oh sorry. I didn’t know. I thought I could take it. Sorry, I don’t have good English. I didn’t know these things.”

    “No.  You have to pay for a trolley.” And in my head, “Don’t give me the no English excuse. You knew well enough. It’s why you didn’t get a trolley. You were right behind me. You saw me leave my trolley on the side.”

    Struggling, I put my item into the trolley. Within a few steps I have someone else ask me where I got the hedger. It is 8.31. “Over there,” I point. “But they’re all gone. They opened early.” The last sentence said almost sympathetically.

    Triumphant, I walk towards to checkout. 

    It is then I see Mr S strolling in. “I’ve got it,” I call out, “Let’s go.”

    “No, I want to look at a few things.”

    I frown. I am not well-pleased. But he won’t be moved. 

    I am asked by strangers again about my item. I keep my hands firmly on my trolley. People are eyeing the hedger off. I know if I leave alongside other crates of special buys, it will disappear. I cannot afford to lose it now. Not after the time and injury sustained. 

    So the lessons I will share:

    • Go early. Very early. 
    • Don’t get a trolley. They get in the way of getting to the desired item. You can drag the larger item to the register if needed. 
    • Big garden items will be at the back. 
    • Work with a partner. They can bring a trolley up from the rear after you’ve claimed your desired item. 

    And as to the garden. Nah, the hedger’s only been used once or twice since its purchase in March! I will have to find something else that will work.  

    Like hiring someone.