Posted by: nickgerlich | October 4, 2007

New Shoes

The other day, I was going through some stuff. We’re slowly trying to get ready for a remodel of our house, so I’ve been trying to toss out junk, organize, and pack in my spare time.

To my horror, I found at least a dozen CDs and DVDs sitting there, still wrapped in plastic. I found books with the sales receipt tucked inside the cover. And I even found a sport coat I had bought last summer with the tags firmly sewn in place.

Yikes.

What could have possessed me to do such a thing? It’s not like I’m gathering inventory to open my own retail store. I hope it’s just that I’m too busy to get around to consuming the things I buy, but I suspect that I, like so many other people, sometimes use shopping as a drug. Suddenly I heard Paulo Nutini singing in the background:

New Shoes Woke up cold one Tuesday
I’m looking tired and feeling quite sick
I felt like there was something missing in my day to day life
So I quickly opened the wardrobe pulled out some jeans and a t-shirt that seemed clean
topped it off with a pair of old shoes that were ripped around the seams
and I thought ‘these shoes just don’t suit me’

Hey, I put some new shoes on and suddenly everything’s right
I said hey, I put some new shoes on and everyone’s smiling, its so inviting
oh, short on money but long on time
slowly strolling in the sweet sunshine
and I’m running late and I dont need an excuse
coz I’m wearing my brand new shoes

MSNBC.com reports that compulsive spending is running rampant in this country, and it is a perfectly legal (if expensive) drug to lift us out of our malaise. Retailers become pushers and manufacturers the pharmaceutics, and we’re left to pay for the thrills, the bills, the pills that kill (with apologies to John Mellencamp).

So who are these compulsive shoppers? People like you and me. Rich. Poor. Educated. Uneducated. Male. Female. It spans the masses. Luckily for me, my guilt zone is limited to media purchases, which I do sooner or later (usually later) consume. Clothing is a non-issue for me…I really did buy the sport coat for a purpose, not because it reached out and grabbed me.

I suppose this is all just an artifact of a consumption-driven economy. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: Purchasing makes the world go ’round. Just ask Greenspan and Bernanke.

But it can get people into trouble, especially when they binge-shop on credit. It’s bad enough when people use credit cards to buy short-term assets such as groceries; it’s even worse when they use them to buy things they don’t even use.

Like any addiction, shopping can bring pleasure to a part of the brain that may be hurting in a variety of ways. It’s instantly gratifying, almost euphoric, and results in a shopper’s high.

But it is ephemeral and fleeting. And if you can’t afford to pay for your thrills next month, it can get you into trouble. According to researchers on the subject, the average compulsive spender carries $23,000 in consumer debt. That’s a lot of consuming desires, and at 20% or higher interest, a debt that won’t go away any time soon.

I’ve got a lot of reading, listening, and watching to do. Maybe we need a long, cold winter so I can get caught up. At least then I would be able to stay away from the stores.

Dr “Sucker For A Good Book” Gerlich

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