Wednesday, June 19, 2013

A Few Thoughts on Consumerism While on Vacation

I’ve noticed that whenever I come up to Michigan, I inevitably experience the urge to buy things.  More things!  Need more things!  I also experience junk food cravings, which I think is another symptom of the same phenomenon.  Which is this: when I’m up here, my wings are clipped.

Wow, that sounds so negative, right?  As though I’m some bird itching to take flight, but I’m caged, flapping around angrily and biting at people’s watches.  It’s not like that at all.  My family is wonderful about my visits.  We like spending time together, and they’re so good about taking care of me when I’m visiting.  But there’s something very powerful about going places by yourself and living the day by your own agenda, not by other people’s.  I feel independent when I run errands by myself, free to take my time and listen to my own thoughts.  When I’m with family in Michigan, I just don’t have the means (read: bike or car) to come and go as I please.  And what’s more, I’m not sure I need that freedom since they take such good care of me.  But I do find myself feeling different about cravings for stuff.  As best I can tell, buying things is a proxy for the independence that I give up temporarily.

As someone who is deeply interested in consumerism and our relationship with it, I’m fascinated by the independence-shopping axis.  I recognize that my cravings are not needs; they are wants—and not even wants for anything specific!  I want to enjoy browsing at Trader Joe’s (seriously, I spent at least five minutes ogling the body care goods yesterday).  I want to ooh and ah over the pretty clothes at Target.  I want to buy a smoothie…just because.  Even though I need none of these things!  And I know that it’s better to not shop frivolously here just for the sake of shopping when Paul and I have our trip to New Mexico and Colorado coming up very soon.

So what have I concluded after all of this navel-gazing?  That I enjoy spending my own money, and I’m kind of at a loss when I have nothing to buy!  So I bought lunch today for three of us while we were in Royal Oak.  My sister-in-law offered to pay, but here I am, sleeping in her house, eating her food, and generally mooching off of her family.  (I know they don’t see it as mooching, but I like to look for ways to contribute.)  It was a nice lunch, too, at a grown-up place (Bastone Brewery), where we ate crispy Belgian fries and nibbled on salads.  My nephew loved the fries, too!

Being up here reminds me that what we’re really doing together is making memories.  That for me, money is a tool to help me do things, not buy things.  Don’t get me wrong: I love creature comforts and pretty things, and I believe that smart spending is critical for a healthy relationship with money.  But I’m here, now, and we have everything we need.  That should be enough.  And I know it is; I’m just trying to remind myself whenever my inner wanty monster1 starts getting all googly-eyed about shopping. 

Last night was pretty great.  Four of us ate ice cream cones on the deck in the warm evening air.  Later, the kids ran around in the backyard.  Or rather, my nephew Devin ran around while his sister stuck her nose in a new book.  Amanda and I stood on the deck, watching the kids play as the light slowly faded on us.  It was such a sweet after-dinner winding down. 

Devin and an Ice Cream Cone

Bookworm Reading a New Book

1 I stole the word “wanty” from Phoebe, who stole it from Kei.

1 comment:

Chrissy (The New Me) said...

"Money is a tool to help me do things, not buy things." Excellent and insightful advice! Glad you're making some good memories up there in the mitten. :)