Archive Opinion The Orion

Up shopping stamina with 5 laws of spending

August 1, 2004

As a semi-poor college student, I am appalled by the outright boasting by stores that we will spend more money on their products than last year. I am a consumer, yes, but that doesn’t mean that after the cost of two laptops dying on me during this semester, as well as a $300 failed rebate offer, I’m going to magically spend more money this Christmas than last year.

While I may have barely enough common sense to realize this fact, I’m sure there are others who may be subjected to the fate I narrowly avoided. Christmas is out of control in terms of spending. We need change. On this date, I would like to set forth this set of spending rules:

The Laws For a Fiscally Responsible Non-Denominational Holiday (They even have a passive tone to make them sound professional)

Law 1 — Thou Shalt Spendeth With Paper, Not Plastic — This is so common sense it kills me to say it. Most people wouldn’t choose to pay an extra 20 percent all at once, yet if they get the opportunity to put off paying it or do it in smaller installments, it’s a shiny new investment. Of course by the time the last payment is due, they probably will either have whatever they bought repossessed or it’ll be in a church rummage sale.

Law 2 — Thou Shalt Not Spendeth Thy Money At Old Navy — This also applies to any of our other genial clothing outlets (i.e. American Eagle, Gap, any subsidiaries of Gap, etc). The idea of advertising is that the company spends money to attract consumers, yet people blow $100 to become a walking billboard for this crap. This would be a great way to cut spending throughout the year.

Thankfully, these companies don’t have to advertise on television or in newspapers or on giant billboards. What, they still do? Let me get this straight: not only are people paying to advertise for them, but they also have to butcher perfectly good songs into marketing parodies (and I use the term loosely)? Aren’t I supposed to die before I go to hell?

Law 3 — Thou Shalt Avoideth Best Buy Like Sinus-Drip Santa — This applies to the major sale days (fourth Friday of November, anytime around Christmas). There’s a simple marketing technique at work here. Advertise a huge deal, get people in the store, stick movies like “Joe’s Apartment” and “Breast Men” for $5 next to the 60-minute line wrapping around the store and make a few more bucks.

As a side note, they offered a 4-Megapixel Kodak digital camera for under $200. These items are in quantities of 20 to 50 per store and will be most likely sold within the first five minutes of shopping. I was tempted to say “screw you” to anyone who happened to get them, but I talked with one of the clerks and that model has been discontinued. In other words, you stood in line for hours waiting for a camera that was obsolete before you entered the store. Merry Christmas, you greedy bastards. Now that I’m in the holiday spirit, how about another law?

Law 4 — Thou Shalt Not Falleth For Phony Sales — Believe it or not, this isn’t the same as the Best Buy phenomenon. True Story: An acquaintance of an indirect relation to me bought a big Santa Claus decoration with jingle bells. Ordinarily her sensibility wouldn’t put the $20 wonder in her pocket, but it was on sale. She got a whole $2 off.

At Circuit City I saw two identical televisions. One was shiny-purdy new and was blah-de-blah dollars and 99 cents. The other was an amazing open-box value that was blah-de-blah dollars and 94 cents.

The blah-de-blah number is the same; apparently they had to replace the entire box, television and instruction manual, but they saved the tape and passed the five cents along to consumers.

This time of year, people are hit with a syndrome that shuts down the left side of their brain and takes away their math and reasoning skills. They see the word “sale” and start drooling. People turn into spending demons that must whip out their plastic to buy this lower-priced item. If somebody beats them to it, they whip out their Pokémon and have a battle, or at least that’s what I tell my nephews while the police sort out the carnage. Hey, it saves me a few bucks shopping for them when they develop a fear of the expensive toys. Now to deal with Yu-Gi-Oh…

Law 5 — Thou Shalt Gift Card…Responsibly — You will never be able to figure out exactly what to buy for everyone. Why not try a gift card? Just make sure you actually know the person and what they like. Don’t get a vegetarian $100 in Omaha Steaks.

If you do it right, they can be educational. Get the kids a gift card to Toys “R” Us and let them figure out how much they have and how much they spend. Afterward, they can even write you a thank-you note when they learn just how little you can get for $10 in this world.

Looking for something for that writer in your life? Gift certificates to iTunes can be sent online and can help them get that U2 collection to make them better writers. All they would need are 15 $10 donations (hint-hint, wink-wink, insert suggestive nod and shoulder jabs here).

This is only the first stone tablet of laws. Unfortunately the second was dropped and at press time, all The Orion’s writers and all The Orion’s designers couldn’t put it together again.