Tag Archives: spending habits

Think – don’t feel – before you buy

Image credit: Roger Dodger: Everett Collection

(Sorry I couldn’t find this on video anywhere.  Instead, you get to read the transcript of a scene between awkward and innocent teenager Nick and his womanizing, clueless — but here, very insightful — uncle Roger, from the movie “Roger Dodger.”)

NICK: What do you do all day?

ROGER: What do I do all day?  What do I do all day?  I sit here and think of ways to make people feel bad.

NICK: I thought you wrote for commercials.

ROGER: I do, but you can’t sell a product without first making people feel bad.

NICK: Why not?

ROGER: Because it’s a substitution game.  You have to remind them that they’re missing something from their lives.  Everyone’s missing something, right?

NICK: Well, yeah.  I guess.

ROGER: Trust me.  And when they’re feeling sufficiently incomplete, you convince them that your product is the only thing that can fill the void.  So instead of taking steps to deal with their lives, instead of working to root out the real reason for their misery, they run out and buy a stupid-looking pair of cargo pants.

Nick looks down and shifts his hands inside the pockets of the pair of cargo pants he’s wearing.

NICK: So … is it fun?

ROGER: It can be.

—————————————

In the ultra-good bargain days between November 28, 2008, and January 31, 2009, I behaved badly.  I spent $283.62 on stuff I’m now sure I didn’t need.

A total of $156.34 went to stores in my neighborhood that were going out of business.  I don’t feel the least bit guilty for the $81.90 I spent on gospel CDs and bible study guides at a Christian bookstore that was closing, and I’ve made excellent use of the hand mixer and bed skirts that Linens n Things was practically giving away.  The DVDs from Circuit City have kept me entertained on my many nights spent inside, and they have assisted me in the film dissection and script analysis I’m supposed to use to improve my own screenplays, so I guess about 90 percent of the going out of business sale purchases were worth the money.  (The curtains from Linens n Things haven’t worked out so well.)

I spent the remaining $127.28 on a DVD from a store still doing great business, especially now that Circuit City is gone, a pair of sexy green suede boots, a related green purse, a comfy pair of loafers perfect for ushering, the biggest, warmest, most comfortable fleece sweatshirt in the world, a pair of yoga pants, and about $31 on some other clothing items I couldn’t point out in my closet today.

I can’t even recollect those items now, and yet they and the rest of the items in my shopping season shopping spree seemed so important at the time.  I think about them now because, while I don’t long to be among the throngs of shoppers in Black Friday lines or among those clicking a Cyber Monday mouse, I wish I could do more than what I currently can.  I wish my 20-dollar moisturizer hadn’t run out the same day my mom gave me $20 to do something enjoyable.  I wish I weren’t dipping into my savings account to cover the expense of overdue repairs on my car.  I wish I were finished paying Sallie Mae, or that I had the guts to default on my student loans like most people do.  I wish premiums for health insurance plans that don’t cover pre-existing conditions cost the same amount that they’re worth.

I don’t know why I had extra cash this time last year, and even if I hadn’t spent any of it, life probably would have happened and I would have spent the money in a different way.  Another “why” is more important: Why did I feel the need to purchase anything?

As I said, I can justify almost all of it.  But the sexy green boots and related purse bother me to this day.  (I’m sure it’s no coincidence that the boots were the most expensive single item that I bought this time last year, or perhaps even for the entire year – other than furniture.)  I remember waking up one morning obsessed with green boots.  I instinctively knew what store would have them.  I instinctively knew that they would be on sale.  But what makes a woman who doesn’t go out that often think that her life is incomplete without a pair of sexy green boots?

Now, I have nothing against enjoying material things or against supporting the people who have to endure this great season as retail employees.  It’s just that I think Time writer Barbara Kiviat made a good point in her recent critique of big bargains.  She “realizes that part of what got us [into recession] was overspending, and that that overspending was fostered by a shopping culture that uses cheap goods to hook people on feeling like they’re winning at something.”

Maybe if I had spent more time in the books and study guides I bought, I wouldn’t have felt the need for anything else that came after it.  Perhaps if everyone “took steps to deal with their lives” or “worked to root out the real reason for their misery,” fewer of us would (still) be living life laid off.

——————————————–

© Mariam Williams, aka The Pink-Slipped Girl, and The Pink Slip Blog – Living Life Laid Off, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mariam Williams and The Pink Slip Blog – Living Life Laid Off or http://livinglifelaidoff.com, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Any use and/or duplication of any photo contained within this blog without express and written permission from Mariam Williams is strictly prohibited.

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How far would you go to stop living life laid off?

by Mariam Williams

Last week, I saw a story on Good Morning America about the modern meaning of Sugar Daddies. At the end of the video, reporter Andrea Canning said, “So money can’t buy you love, but it can buy financial freedom. These websites say they’re actually seeing a spike in the number of members with the shaky economy – unemployed women looking for an easy way out.”

As I find fewer jobs each week that will hold my interest for longer than a month or that will be a step up in pay or skill level, and the expiration date for my unemployment benefits looms closer each day, I start to wonder how I’ll feel when the deadline actually arrives. I picture the humiliation of begging the state for an extension in benefits. I don’t know what the process is, but I can see a meticulous investigation into my job-seeking efforts for the past six months … A hearing of some sort to determine whether or not I looked hard enough for new employment … An official from the Office of Employment and Training telling me I will be required to lower my standards, to accept a salary below the requirements I originally stated on my unemployment benefits application and to accept work outside of my field … Sending the 30 days written notice to my landlord … Selling all the possessions that I won’t need in my mother’s house … Posting a picture of myself in full makeup and a form-fitting shirt, baby shorts, and stilettos onto a Sugar Daddy website … Surprising my landlord with six months’ worth of rent and a description of the new car now occupying my parking space … Hanging my head in shame the first time I see my Sugar Daddy out in public with his wife …

Nope. Not going there.

It’s not exactly a question of morality, and it’s not the Sugar Baby’s morals I want to debate. I willingly admit to occasionally having used feminine wiles to lure an unsuspecting (and sometimes fully knowing) man into paying for my drink, my dinner, or a movie. In the name of the semi-full, slightly narcissistic disclosure and invited voyeurism that having your own blog promotes, I’m also willing to admit that if I hadn’t found the job from which I am now laid off, my next step would have been to either join an escort service or start my own. (And I mean an overpriced date, not a prostitute.) But this time, I’m not willing to go there.

This time, I’m finally in a place where I’ve tried enough jobs that I thought would be careers to know much of what I don’t like. I haven’t zeroed in on the perfect combination of what I do like – at least, the scope isn’t precise enough for me to throw tens of thousands of dollars at tuition towards a masters degree somewhere – but I’m getting there. More importantly, I’m learning about God’s faithfulness and provision, and about my own spending habits that need[ed] to be corrected. I’m also rebuilding my confidence in my skills, gifts, intuition, and abilities. I know how to make an old apartment more energy efficient without asking the landlord to do massive, costly repairs that he wouldn’t do anyway. I’m writing consistently, for an audience of more than one, and helping other adults who haven’t written in years. I can sense, even from descriptions filled with euphemisms for boring, clerical duties, when I won’t like a job (and I don’t apply for it). And I’m able to withstand many quiet hours alone with my computer and a daily ambush of new ideas about what to do next. As much as I would like free rent and a new set of Manolos to go with it, a Sugar Daddy couldn’t buy me the perspective I’m gaining while I’m living life laid off.

However, I realize that this isn’t everyone’s point of view and that my relatively simple financial situation is probably not the standard. So if you’re registered on a Sugar Daddy website, contemplating becoming an escort, or otherwise thinking out of the box, leave a comment! How far would you go to stop living life laid off?

© Mariam Williams, aka The Pink-Slipped Girl, and The Pink Slip Blog – Living Life Laid Off, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mariam Williams and The Pink Slip Blog – Living Life Laid Off or http://livinglifelaidoff.com, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Any use and/or duplication of any photo contained within this blog without express and written permission from Mariam Williams is strictly prohibited.

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Filed under Dating and Relationships, Economy, Lifestyles, money, Unemployment

Living life laid off has changed some things

by Mariam Williams

Pink is a color that I wear quite well. It doesn’t look so hot on a piece of paper, but living life laid off isn’t so bad. (BTW – my termination letter wasn’t pink; it was white.)  Because my salary at my previous job was an insult to what someone with my education, talent, and work ethic should have been making, I had already learned how to live off of pennies. But a few things have changed:

  • Something I had to curtail before it even started: regular hair appointments. I wanted to become one of those get-my-hair-done-every-two-weeks women. That would be about $100 a month. Decided against that.
  • I spend more money on groceries now. I go through items like soap, toilet paper, and paper towels more quickly. I think I’m also instinctively stocking up on food because something in me tells me the unemployment checks will run out before I find a new job.
  • I’ve also become a coupon maniac, saving no less than $5 every time I go to the grocery store. The largest amount I’ve ever saved in coupons was about $15. It took the grocery bill down from $32 to $17. I think the coupon frenzy is my outlet for that uniquely womanly need to conquer the retail industry by finding the best possible sale price. Saving 75% on a shirt from Dillard’s would make me feel guilty. Saving 50% on groceries [that I don’t need] makes me feel practical.
  • I spend less on transportation. Instead of paying for gas and parking downtown, or bus fare when I didn’t want to bother with traffic or parking and when gas was over $4 a gallon, I only pay for gas, which is now down to around $1.80 a gallon. I also rarely drive more than 10 miles a day.
  • That 10 miles is round trip to the gym. It does kind of suck to not be within walking distance of the downtown YMCA anymore, but I do quite like Zumba classes at noon, and I don’t know what I’ll do without them when I go back to full-time work.
  • I give less money to my church, but there’s no real excuse for that one. My tithe has decreased because my gross income was cut in half. But since I’m not having taxes taken out of the unemployment checks, and I was making pennies before, I could make up the difference by giving to general offering and probably still not go broke.
  • I’ve learned to like cold, inside my apartment. The thermostat hovers around 65 degrees. I stay in one room – the office, also the smallest room in the house – and let an amazing little heater work its magic. I think it also saves me around $50 a month.

Monetarily, that’s how I’m living life laid off.

© Mariam Williams, aka The Pink-Slipped Girl, and The Pink Slip Blog – Living Life Laid Off, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mariam Williams and The Pink Slip Blog – Living Life Laid Off or http://livinglifelaidoff.com, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Any use and/or duplication of any photo contained within this blog without express and written permission from Mariam Williams is strictly prohibited.

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Filed under Lifestyles, money, Unemployment