Tag Archives: Consumerism

My Dance With Consumerism: The Christmas Schwag

About That Other Thing, A Steff Note:
My Christmas eve posting was cryptic because sometimes we need the light of day before fear goes away. I’d gotten a call 10 minutes before I served Christmas dinner saying my late-ass brother wasn’t late — he was hit by a car and being taken by ambulance to emergency, with a definite head injury albeit the severity unknown. He’s doing very well, and is lucky to be alive. It was a pretty wrenching evening at times, and I wrote that post with him groaning in light pain while sleeping on my sofa, 10 feet away. Daylight made things better, as it often does.


It’s the calm between the storm fronts as my coffee reaches its bitter end.
I’m wishing I had another day of Nothing Doing after yesterday’s utter embrace of sloth, but I’m sadly headed into the world for acupuncture, shopping, lunch, and the like.
It’s half-way through my Christmas vacation. I’ve been on a shopping tear — all online — in doing the once-almost-every-decade shopping for electronics and things to make my life nicer on the homefront, signalling what will surely be a year of much belt-tightening and budget-respecting to follow. My last two such splurges took place in 2003 and 1994. Clearly, I’m due.
It’s the best kind of consumerism — the kind that enriches one’s life with careful choice-making before the splurging.

Oh, Glowing Picture On The Wall, Who’s the TVest of Them All?

For instance, I’m cutting my cable enough to compensate within one year for my splurge for a new TV and home theatre system. Thanks to sales, I got components worth $1300+ for under $600 after taxes. The amount I’ll save in 12 months for going to basic cable and using the one year of Netflix my friend gifted me? $588. Cha-ching!
My huge tube TV’s on its deathbed, taking as much as 6 minutes to just warm up and give me a picture upon start-up, and even when it’s warmed up, the input jacks are loose and just walking across the floor can cause me to lose picture. That’s been happening for three years, and was a real drag back when I was dating and watching something romantic or fun, and sucked even more with a back problem.
My stereo was from 1994, almost dead, and couldn’t even play my iPod, let alone play nicely with my out-of-date TV. My new dealio was 45% off, can play with iPod, is Netflix & web-ready, and will offer surround sound for those moments I give in to The Big Shiny Movies.

A Writer Needs What A Writer Needs

I picked up a new laptop, intended to make me work on my own writing more, and get out into the world to see people whilst I do so. My computer’s from 2006 and I suspect also similarly not long for this world. I saved another 40% on the laptop. Soon, I’ll get my office equipment, so I can have a healthier work environment. It’ll include an ergonomic keyboard & mouse tray, a back-friendly chair, a new desk, and other fixings, making for a more comfortable home office environment, since I’ll now be spending up to 40 hours a week there on just the “day job,” let alone writing for myself.
So, I’ll have a completely-new, ergo-friendly, and sexy office for only $550, because I’m getting things for up to 76% off, thanks to my smart deal-finding ways.
I did blow my wad on one treat that’s like a bottomless-refill cup of goodness for my soul — a new camera. I didn’t have a working one, and photography has been a love of mine for 20 years. It’s profoundly inspiring for my writing to spend a day shooting pictures, and there once was a time I’d write stories based on what I’d snapped. I long for those days. Nothing will make me get out and explore my new home more than having a great camera to record it with, like my new Nikon D3100.

Simply Gift-tacular!

There’s one new belonging I didn’t have to splurge on, and I can’t wait to have it in my life (it needs to be driven in from the Valley still). The Santa-Folks gave me a new KitchenAid Stand Mixer that will be incredible for homemade bread-baking and other things. This has been something on my wish-list for a very long time. I’ve still been using the hand-mixer I bought for $15 more than 10 years ago.

Barbara Krueger's iconic image.

Another gift I was given for Christmas, and it’s funny, because it was likely only a $10-15 gift and isn’t earth-shattering, is a CUTE littlelunch bag that has gel-pack walls on four of six sides, which you just store in the freezer, then it keeps anything cold for up to 6 hours. It’s FUNNY to me because it’s such a small thing but it makes me so excited to think about taking lunch breaks from working at home and walking to the beach with a book or my laptop, and eating a bagged lunch with controlled calories and nutrition, and keeping both my budget in line and me in the sun. It’s a really thoughtful little gift I love. It’s cute, functional, quick to set up, and pretty to carry with me. Perfect! Now I can envision it happening — me and my little peach-polka-dotted bag, together on shorelines and in parks, soaking up the sun and enjoying the outdoor writer’s life.

I Love It When A Plan Comes Together

None of these purchases were spontaneous. They’ve all been on a wishlist for a year or more, and I budgeted carefully beforehand to make acquiring my whole list happen, and I try to buy what will last.
With only my office set-up left to purchase, I’m dead-on-track with my budget and it feels great to know I’ve bought better quality for every purchase than I expected I would find in my budget.
On Monday, I call and cancel all my cable add-ons. By then, I hope to have my new TV and stereo up and running. I see a future with less cable TV and more “deliberate choosing” of what to watch, either via the web or Netflix, rather than haphazard “what’s on?” channel-surfing that’s a bottomless pit for my time.

But Tomorrow’s Not Here Today

Then I’m looking forward to having a work desk at home that doesn’t leave my shoulders aching and my neck prone to starting headaches. It’s amazing how much that hampers one’s desire to sit and write for more than 40 minutes at a time. The desk won’t be a reality until I’m landed in my new home, come March, but my soul’s left wistfully wanting for that day.
While I’ll be thrilled to get out and meet new people on the Island when I move there, I’m making it very plain that my first motivation behind the move is to adopt the WRITER’S LIFE. This will mean a lot of time alone, and when I have a home that has a good entertainment system, lots of music to play, a camera to stoke my creativity, and a healthy writing environment with the right tools, I think the idea of being at home for all those long hours won’t feel like punishment anymore, especially when I’m so close to the city for quick escapes and refreshing The Little Grey Cells. I think those 15 hours I save on weekly “work” commutes via working from home will transform the way I work off-hours for me.
There’s still the mystery of where I’ll be. I’m prepared to compromise a little to get a two-bedroom (or one-plus-den) apartment in a neighbourhood I love. I want my work separate from my life, since it’ll be muddled together so much from working at home. I’m dying to know what I’ll be calling home for the next year or few, and I’m five weeks from knowing, eight weeks from going.

Buyer’s Remorse?

Absolutely not. With the holidays almost over and my budget intact, I feel great.
Unlike other people who buy new electronics every couple of years, when I buy things I have a tendency to use them until the end of their workhorse lives. I’m not about new or trendy, I’m about getting the best I can on a reasonable budget, of technology that’s been tested and true, and I’m big on not wasting my technology via replacing them for the “shiny” releases.
I’ve bought cheap-and-often in my youth, but I don’t do that now. When I replaced my sofa 3 years ago, I paid nearly 4 times what my friend did, but his will need replacing next year, and mine has a lifetime warranty on the frame and still has spots needing to be “broken in.” I have family members using the same brand of sofa from 20 years ago, because they bought smart with quality like me.
With a new home, a new town, new goals, new tech, new priorities, the coming year will be a really fun and exciting experience for me from day one to day done.
Sometimes, consumerism isn’t just empty acquisitions. Sometimes it’s about picking the things that really do let you be the best you. When I take breaks from writing, I love movies and drama. Always have. I love photography walks. I love writing in cafes and watching people. I haven’t been able to do these things for a long, long time. When my scooter died in late 2009, while my back was horribly injured, my life became more about commuting long-form through the city and surviving it, rather than living in it.
It’s sad it’ll take my leaving my hometown to get back to the smaller lifestyle I love, but it’s enthralling to know it’s closer every day. I’m 100% sure it’s the right direction, and with all the quality-of-life purchases I’ve made, and the things I’ll emotionally gain from the move, a part of me feels like there’ll be nothing left to want.
For now, I’m in a weird limbo between what I know is coming and what’s here today, but I’m soaking in every moment. What a ride.

Valentine's Day: All My Thoughts

390242855_a107ca92ceValentine’s day looms and I’ve deftly avoided the topic by not posting new stuff lately. Brilliant!
But I guess it’s time for my annual rant against the Big Machine and the perpetuation of the belief that, hey, if it’s love, it’s worth going broke for.
I know men buy gifts because they feel obligated. I know women usually like receiving the gifts. I just wish both sides of this equation would get over the bullshit and just accept it’s not really doing a lot of good for either of them.
Relationships die because either people change or they just don’t want to work on the relationship anymore. Not because a diamond ring wasn’t forthcoming soon enough. Continue reading

The Business of Unhappiness

Body image. Stand any one of us in front of a mirror, ask us to reveal what we dislike about ourselves, and an unhesitating list would be quickly forthcoming.
Industry knows this. They count on it. All the way to the bank.
If you’re happy about yourself, why would you ever spend all that disposable income on beauty products, clothes, and other distractions that keep you from looking inside, where true self-image resides?
I read a fascinating Huffington Post article on the economy of waif-thin models. It spoke of how having models thin is benefiting someone, somewhere, and until the public starts demanding differently, designers will kowtow to those in the industry who have everything to gain from keeping women thinking they need to be a size zero to four for any real chance at happiness in life. (I’ve written about anorexic models before and, as an overweight feminist, it’s always been an issue for me.)
You ask me, I think that fashion will never show real women for the same reason that science will probably never really “cure” cancer. There’s too much to gain from the downside — illness and our discontent. The upside means people become healthy and well. If they’re healthy and well, they’ll be happy. If they’re happy, they won’t want or need as much. If they don’t want or need as much, then how in god’s name will industry get their hands on all that tasty money in people’s pockets?
Your insecurities, people, are keeping industry going strong. Your insecurities are helping you contribute to the overall good of society. Productivity, consumer confidence, retail bottom lines — they’re all fed by your insecurities.
Why in god’s name would you want to feel better about yourself? Is that really the Modern Way? C’mon! Don’t smile on one another, don’t love your brother, don’t even love yourself! Piss, moan, whine, and feel shitty in the morning. That way, you’ll feel like you need to “treat” yourself and swing by Starbucks for a Venti Caramel Macchiato, and why the hell not one of those tasty apple fritters? Then, you’ll feel like shit for being so bad, you’ll beat yourself up at work, and say you need to go to the gym. That’ll cut into your day more than you’d planned, you won’t have the time to cook properly, so now you got to go blow your wad on take-out. But the take-out’s all cooked with oils and fats you can’t even imagine, so what would be 450 calories if you made it at home’s actually closer to 1,000 in take-out, and now the workout you just did’s completely pointless. But that’s okay, you’re planning to buy a new pair of jeans and shirt on the weekend anyhow.
See? It’s a cycle. It seems to work for you, it sure as hell works for industry, so why would we ever want to start feeling like it’s all right to be a few pounds overweight with a grabbable ass?
Personally, I’m losing weight. Most of the time, anyhow. Lately I’ve gone off the hook and have eaten badly and not exercised, but I’m back on track.
I’m doing it because I don’t like feeling fat. I don’t like having little to no energy. Or not feeling strong. And not meeting goals. I didn’t like movie theatre seats cutting into me. I didn’t like my doctor looking at me with grave concern as he told me I was toying with the odds on diabetes. I don’t want to be THAT way.
But I sure as hell don’t want to be skinny.
All I want is to be happy. It may have taken a lifetime to realize it, but it occurs to me that Happy doesn’t come off a shelf in a store.
Too bad there’s a few billion consumers who’ve missed out on that epiphany so far. Which keeps industry wringing its hands with glee.
This brilliant image is by a San Francisco photographer named Cheryl McLaughlin and you can find her here. This image is for sale.