by MIA FREEDMAN
“You should be a financial planner,” suggested my husband this week as I explained how much money I’d saved by buying a new jacket. Yes, how much MONEY I SAVED BY BUYING A NEW JACKET. If you are struggling to understand that concept, you’re clearly not trying hard enough. Or you have a penis.
I have recently come to understand that the method by which I approach shopping is slightly unconventional. Others (male others) have been known to refer to it as ‘batshit crazy’. This seems harsh. I prefer to call it ‘Creative Shopping Logic”.
You see, in my head, there is a parallel economy where I can justify pretty much any purchase. I visit this happy place often. It’s peaceful and there are unicorns.
Men, not so much.
On the downside, my parallel economy can sometimes go a little bit Zimbabwe – around the time they decided the solution to their financial crisis was to print a lot more money. That didn’t work out so well for them but we won’t mention it again because it’s not in the spirit of deluded fantasia, which is mandatory when you’re justifying the purchase of gold glitter shoes.
Uncensored, here are some of the thoughts that pop into my head when I’m shopping:
“I haven’t had a parking fine in ages so this $240 dress is actually free!”
“These jeans are 40% off which means I have made a profit of $80. I’m practically rich. Now what should I spend that on?”
“There’s a $20 EFTPOS minimum and I’m only buying three boxes of Cruskits so this $10 worth of chocolate is essentially free (and as an added bonus contains no kilojoules).”
“I’m at the airport on my way to another city so therefore this imported copy of Vanity Fair for $15:95 is not that expensive.”
“If I was addicted to the pokies, I would be spending a fortune and have nothing to show for it so this $150 necklace is a bargain.”
“I’m going to park really carefully for the next few months and that means I have at least $180 worth of non-fines to spend for free in this shop right now.”
At this point, you’ll either be muttering “why did they give the crazy lady a newspaper column” or you’ll be nodding vigorously in solidarity and taking notes for the next time you’re tempted by ANOTHER pair of black ankle boots (yes I agree, they’re really flattering, they go with everything and you totally need them – just think about the parking fines you won’t get and take those black babies home – they’re free!).
Am I the only one who does this? Don’t be ridiculous. Many women are familiar with the parallel shopping economy. We particularly love the way it’s so marvellously quarantined from pesky things like inflation, interest rates, the fluctuating Aussie dollar and, you know, common sense. Give a girl some wine and promise not to tell her partner/father/therapist and she will let you into some of the fabulous justifications she uses when shopping. Like this:
“I have this thing called Medicare Shopping,” a co-worker admitted. “My closest Medicare is next door to Sportsgirl and if I take my son to the paediatrician it’s a $300 bill – that’s about $200 in Sportsgirl money. An ordinary doctor visit is a just top or a scarf ($35). Hospital visits or dentist bills covered by the private health fund are just an added bonus. My fashion style is best summed up as hypochondria accessorised with extra dental hygiene.”
It turns out Medicare shopping with ‘free money’ is a popular pastime, an added bonus being that it’s cash and therefore untraceable by spouses. Now you know why Medicare branches are so thoughtfully located in shopping centres.
You never knew money could be free, did you? Welcome to the delusion. Would you like the receipt in the bag?
Another feature of my parallel economy is the formula I use to assess the cost of an item before I pony up my cash. It’s complex yet stunningly simple: boring things should be free. Socks and cutlery, I’m talking to you.
Frugality comes more easily when you’re not emotionally invested, I find.
Consider this example. Over dinner a few nights ago I was telling off several members of my family for using my ‘special’ shampoo and conditioner instead of their own. “I’ve told you all a thousand times it’s a waste. That stuff is EXPENSIVE. And your hair doesn’t matter as much as mine. It’s short. You can use whatever. I can’t. So stop it.”
Silently, I congratulated myself for being so thrifty. “I’m being thrifty,” I said smugly and out loud for added emphasis.
As my husband regarded me quizzically, I continued: “My shampoo and conditioner is more expensive than yours so on a cost per use basis, it’s nuts for you to use it.”
“So how does that formula apply to those gold shoes you bought and haven’t worn?” he asked in an unexpected counter-attack. “How much do they cost per wear?”
I hate it when someone challenges my logic. Particularly my shopping logic. I generally prefer it to remain unchallenged. With unicorns.
Do you have a parallel shopping economy? What’s it like?