Spend like Mike: a lesson in impulse shopping

This weekend I went a little crazy. I went on an Amazon/Home Depot shopping spree, or at least as much of a “spree” as I’m emotionally capable of. I enjoy the process of questioning my actions and motives, forever trying to keep myself in check, so consumer behavior fascinates me.

We moved into our own place a few months ago. We signed the lease the day I got my job offer and moved in 3 days before I left for GEICO training. This last week I’ve been back we’ve been settling in together. Finally. This weekend we finally committed to the small handful of purchases we’d been considering for months, or even years.

Our old roommate Mike, a 31 year-old flamboyant gay man from Boston, spent money so fast that he’d be forced to borrow from his parents (or us) in order to cover rent and bills. A consistent appreciator of Vodka, he’d often find himself Buying Now With One Click. During Christmas break last year, he took a week-long vacation to Mexico on borrowed and gifted money. When he arrived home with a grand total of $17 to his name, $3 less than what he needed to get his car out of airport parking, he walked to a bar and drank his final dollars. Sloshed, he then asked another roommate to bail him out, whom he promised to pay back after his parents loaned him some money. His spending habits are impressively impulsive.

But Mike taught me a few important lessons. Mike always buys the highest quality products without regard for cost. He considers his overall enjoyment of the item tantamount to the initial cost, which means cost is not a huge factor in his purchase decisions until he is literally out of money. As a result, he owns a lot of really nice shit that he genuinely loves (or loved at one time). After over a year of watching this kind of extreme consumer behavior, it occurred to me that I probably fall closer to the opposite end of that buying spectrum; I am guilty of sacrificing quality for a more cost-effective price, especially for commodities like watering cans or pillow cases. But Mike rubbed off on me a little, and I find myself valuing quality and style more and more.

That’s why I splurged and bought a pretty $21 copper watering can instead of the $2.97 plastic piece of shit from Home Depot. I also have 2 house plants, a lucky bamboo, a hanging urban veggie/herb garden on our deck rail, and front porch flowers now, like I’ve always wanted. But unlike the last few times I’ve felt similar green thumb inspiration, this time I’ll keep them all alive because I have a novelty watering can from which I need to get my $21 worth.

Mike buys something the second he decides he wants it. He doesn’t second guess his impulses, nor does he question whether it is a wise use of his money. Perhaps this is instant gratification at its finest, and certainly not sustainable, but it’s also an important lesson in treating yourself and following through with what you want, especially when the alternative is to constantly dream or think about having it. That’s how I look at it.

That is not to condone mass consumerism, or even to stray too far from my current brand of minimalism (a trendy euphemism for being cheap and/or pretentious, depending on how you look at it), but my pattern is to think about a purchase, try it on, and ponder it for weeks or months at a time before committing. And that entire process is actually kind of exhausting.

A minimalist at heart, I resist buying or accumulating things and often gain more pleasure in getting rid of things. It’s my form of control and I’m on a current mission to Konmari my entire life. I think about this shit a lot. Probably too much. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that. As a result, I go long periods of time without the tools and things that could make my life so much easier. Like these kombucha brewing bottles, which I finally allowed myself to purchase this weekend, after almost a year of brewing kombucha and sloppily portioning into mason jars. Bottling kombucha will be so much more efficient and easier to store/drink now.

Me trying (yet again) to keep plants alive.

For the last 6 years, I’ve been using a combination of thrift store blankets and sheets because that’s who I am. They are fine, but the cats destroyed the off-white comforter when they were kittens and the sheets are mismatched and feel old. None of the sheets or blankets quite fit the bed, and they never look clean no matter how many times we wash them, probably also the cats’ doing. It’s one of those things that you get used to, but in the back of my mind I’m always thinking about how nice it’d be to have fresh sheets and a colorful comforter to brighten the room. That was my final splurge. A fresh, well made bed is one of those pleasures I indulge.

As we are on a mission to rid ourselves of all our furniture— a process forever testing my patience– we find it easier to justify these new purchases with the money we’re bringing in from our old stuff. I see it like a trade. Am I willing to trade the coffee table for house plants and lucky bamboo? Absolutely. Trade the couch for new bedding? Yes. Trade the dining table for kombucha bottles, a watering can, and a deck vegetable garden? Definitely. But despite this fair trade, or maybe because of it, it’s been really fun to spend like Mike this weekend. To let the weight go and move on from my obsession about lucky bamboo desk ornaments.

It’s a weird feeling to buy stuff for yourself when you have a lifetime of resisting such behavior. But now it’s like this huge weight is lifted off my shoulder. I have new sheets! I’m someone who has a lucky bamboo at my desk right now! I feel accomplished, a feeling I wouldn’t normally associate with shopping. I also feel incredibly fortunate and grateful to be in a position to both indulge and think about this. Do you ever catch yourself and think, damn, I am so privileged to live in the first world, to have these kinds of problems, to be able to do and buy all this stuff? When you spend like Mike, that feeling comes up a lot.


Wife, yogi, and cat mama living in the SF Bay Area.

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