Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination.  ~Oscar Wilde

One of the perks of my new job is that once a year, I get a bonus which is a percentage of my annual salary (assuming we meet our revenue projections.)  This is the first time I’ve ever had a job where that was the case.  Our fiscal year ended in June, and I have been waiting with anticipation to determine whether or not we reached our revenue targets, and more importantly, when we would be getting our bonuses.

Last Tuesday, the bonuses were delivered. And lo, there was much rejoicing.

Over the last year, finances have been pretty tight for me.  My expenses increased pretty significantly when insurance rates went up (both health and auto/renters), rent went up, groceries and gas went up, and I got hit with a not-insignificant tax hit because of a foolish purchase I had made back in the middle of 2010.  My piano, while greatly loved, was not purchased the right way—by saving up until I could afford it.  So, to put it mildly, I haven’t been doing much in the way of shopping lately.  I have managed to sneak in a couple of trips to Kohl’s for clothing, but that’s about it.  Most of my paycheck these days go toward payin’ the bills.

That’s one of the reasons why I was so excited about this bonus.  I had several things that I had needed (and wanted) to purchase, but couldn’t afford to do so without putting them on credit.  Which I don’t do anymore.  So, when my bonus check came last Tuesday, I was itching with anticipation about getting back into the shopping mindset for a while.  Since then, I have learned something that is both simultaneously exciting and upsetting: I have grown to hate shopping.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  I started on Tuesday, when I purchased a new cell phone.  (Discussed in the previous post.)  My old one was falling apart.  I purchased my new phone on Tuesday during my lunch break.  And I love it. A lot. 

That kept me engaged for Tuesday.  Wednesday, I refocused my efforts on the amazingness that is  I love Amazon.  I have multiple wishlists that I use to track all the things I would buy if I had the money.  I always go there first to check for pretty much anything that isn’t food.  I have a Prime membership, so I get free two-day shipping.  And I can even get same-day delivery on most of my purchases, because I live in an area where Amazon Fresh, their grocery delivery service, is available. 

Amazon’s purchases were pretty fun.  I got new ink for my large-format photo printer, and 17X22” paper, to print up some large prints of my photos to frame and hang up.  I figure for the cost of the ink, paper, and generic frames, I can get about 10 times more artwork than if I had to pay to have it printed up elsewhere.  I got a soil moisture detector ($5!) so I could make sure I don’t overwater my plants.  I bought bluetooth receivers for both my home stereo and my car, so I could listen to music through my phone without having to deal with plugging in the headphone jack over and over again.  (That’s how I screwed up my last phone).  I bought some amazing Drinking Chocolate and refills for Luke the Dog’s™ Everlasting Treat Ball.  I bought a second battery for my camera, and another pair of waterproof headphones as a backup for swimming.  Oh, and I got a 32gig MicroSD Card for my phone so I could put more music and videos on it.  That was done on Wednesday, through Amazon.  The ink for the printer was, by far, the most expensive of my purchases, so I had done pretty well.

Thursday, I actually paid all of my bills ahead one month.  You know…just to see what that felt like.

Friday, I did some more shopping on Amazon, but didn’t buy anything, because I wanted to leave stuff on my wish list for people to buy me for Christmas.

And then came the weekend:

The best purchase of this bonus season is this awesome sideboard that I purchased for my dining room.

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It’s oak, 78” long, and has the most beautiful wood grain.  Since my existing furnishings are contemporary, this should fit right in, and now I can finally get all of my cooking stuff out of the pantry so I can use it for, you know, food.  I can also finally get my microwave off that ugly printer stand in my dining room.  Best part of this buy?  It was on clearance, so I got it for $500.  Actual big boy, solid wood furniture that doesn’t come in a flat-pack box or need to be assembled with an Allen wrench, and it only cost me $500!  (It was originally $1,100.)

So, I was pretty excited about finding this buy, but by now, I was getting awfully tired of consumerism.  It used to be that I found the hunt for the right thing to be exhilarating.  But even though I had managed to find this really cool thing for a great deal after going to five different furniture stores, I didn’t get that rush I normally get.  I was starting to get an inkling that, perhaps, my year without shopping had changed me fundamentally.

As if to drive that point home, I went to the mall.  I don’t go to the mall very often, but once upon a time (a year ago) I loved going to the mall and shopping for clothes.  If I ever needed confirmation that I was a changed man, this did it.  Just setting foot inside the mall send me off the cranky old man deep end.  Everything drove me crazy.  The music in all the stores was terrible and too loud.  None of the clothes fit my new, Reubenesque frame, every single sales person wanted my email to sign me up for a loyalty program. And, behold, my wrath was kindled mightily against a new foe.  A foe that embodies the full evil of American retail. My anger, which had been smoldering gently, burst into wildfire flames, fanned by the noxious aroma permeating the air surrounding the softcore porn shop, Abercrombie and Fitch.

I mean, really.  There’s a picture in the entrance of a naked man, the lights are low, there are dark shutters across all the windows, and there’s a reek of cheap (yet still expensive) perfume, as though the store was trying to cover up the scent of human feces, mildew, and desperation.  If I were walking by that and I didn’t know Abercrombie and Fitch sold clothing (something I’d never assume, since none of the people in the photos visible from the front of the store are ever wearing a stitch of clothing), I’d assume that it was a gay bathhouse.

I actually went inside A&F this time.  Ludicrously overpriced merchandise, which I could barely see because it was so dark, awful caterwauling coming from the sound system, and that horrible, horrible odor that the pump into the store.  I get wanting your store to smell nice, but A&F is like the 14 year-old using his dad’s aftershave for the first time to go to the big dance.  Just a quick dab behind the ears A&F.  You don’t need to bathe in it.  And more importantly, I don’t want to have to taste it if I happen to walk within a 200 foot radius of the front door of your store.  I was eating an Auntie Anne’s preztel, and I couldn’t taste it over the Eau du Rotted Flesh and Rosewater fog from your porno-shack.

(And don’t even get me started of A&F Kids.  Why are they using naked 15 year old boys to sell clothing to 8 year olds?)

I spent three hours in the mall, and I realized that shopping—especially clothes shopping—is a young person’s game.  I only have two days a week to relax and do what I want to do.  That time is valuable to me.  More valuable than going through racks of 70% clearance items in Chartreuse and Burn Orange just to find the one button-up shirt that doesn’t cost $87 and have the smell of Abercrombie and Fitch so deeply permeated that the only way you could get rid of it would be to burn the damn thing.

And, quite frankly, I just don’t care about looking good the way I used to.  I mean, if I did, I would pull my ironing board out more than once every six months.  I wouldn’t eat McDonald’s twice a week, and gorge on Jello Popcorn.  (Mmmmm.  Jello Popcorn.)  I wouldn’t cut what’s left of my hair by myself.  But I just don’t care anymore.  Also, men’s clothing is SO BORING.  It all looks the same.  It didn’t matter which store I went into.  You could have taken the clothes from Urban Outfitter, and stuck them in American Eagle, or the clothes from The Buckle and put them in Aeropostale.

And the net result of this whole shopping jag?  I got a button-up shirt, a hooded sweater, and two t-shirts.  And a hat. I couldn’t find the jeans in the size I wanted.  I couldn’t find decent underwear. And apparently, the color scheme this year is the mid 1990s-era red, green, and blue plaid…rather like the couch that my aunt and uncle gave me for my college apartment.  Sorry, but I’m just not going down that road again.

So, lessons learned:

  • Shopping isn’t very much fun anymore. So you shouldn’t feel too bad about not doing it
  • If you have to shop, use Amazon.
  • Abercrombie & Fitch is the Hellmouth, and their perfumed air is the signal of the forthcoming apocalypse.
  • I am officially too old and too fat to look good in any clothes that could possibly be considered hip, cool, or stylish.
  • I am officially too cheap to spend the kind of money that cool, hip, or stylish people would to wear the kinds of clothes they wear
  • It’s way more fun to shop for furniture than for clothing
  • Nobody, and I mean NOBODY, looks good in a changing room mirror
  • I really like the color purple.

Now, if I can just keep these lessons learned in the front of my mind, I won’t feel so tempted to go out shopping again at Christmas time.