Archive for August, 2009

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The Power of Saving

August 25, 2009

Hi. I’m Lindsey, and I’m a shopaholic.

It started in junior high, when I first began to buy my own clothes.  There was so much power in choosing.  It’s an awkward stage, so when you find something that makes you feel pretty, that gets someone to compliment you, it feels nice.  In high school, shopping was an activity unto itself.  I would just go shopping to pass the time, which now seems absurd.  Sophomore year of college, I put myself on a semester-long shopping hiatus. No buying anything, other than food and toiletries. No clothes, no shoes, no makeup. Zilch.  And that cured me of much of my urge to “go shopping.”  

But the compulsion is still there.  I know that buying something won’t make me any happier, really.  I grew up with plenty of “stuff,” and I saw that my family didn’t really benefit from it.  I know I have more stuff than any one human needs, that there are people out there who do have actual needs for food and medicine, but while grasping this helped me curb my spending somewhat, I still shopped on.  Somehow I can’t escape that rush, of buying something new.  If I’m out with friends and we step into a store, odds are I will buy something.  I try on a cute dress, and I imagine where I’ll where it; church, or a wedding, or work, and when people admire it, they simply vindicate my thoughts that it will make my life better.

Recently, something has changed.  See, I was lucky enough to not have to pay for college, and I managed to find jobs that provided me with food and housing in addition to wages, so I never had many major expenses. But suddenly, post-graduation, I realized that money was not in endless supply.  There were enough actual needs taking money out (rent, food, health insurance) and not that much income coming in, and I realized I needed to become more frugal or my bank account would soon deplete to a dangerous level.  

Online shopping is a dangerous thing.  It’s so easy to just click, click, click, and all of a sudden you’ve bought a whole new wardrobe. It hardly feels like real money; it’s like a game. Recently though, after clicking through a website picking out clothes to wear to work, I clicked, clicked, clicked… but I didn’t click the last click. Something stopped me from completing the purchase.  I saved my “shopping cart” and left.  I came back a few days later, and removed a couple of items. I clicked on, filling out information, but again, something stopped me. I returned again later in the week, having narrowed it down to two items, but still didn’t buy it. I thought, you know, I don’t really need this. And I left.  And suddenly, I felt the strangest feeling. It was such a rush, but it wasn’t the rush I got from buying things. It was a rush of savings. I almost spent $70, but I didn’t.  It felt like I had magically gained this extra money.  It happened again when I almost bought new hair product I had heard about; click, click, click, and then I thought, I have hair product.  I don’t need more until this runs out. $30, in the bank.

There is a power in frugality that I had never realized.  I think it stems from overcoming the lure of slick advertising. When I make a conscious choice not to buy something, even though I want it, it is a small victory over the consumerist mentality that has pervaded our culture.  And every time I don’t buy that dress/lip gloss/hair gel, and life goes on exactly the same, it reinforces the realization that it was never something I needed in the first place.

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Other Duties as Assigned

August 2, 2009

In looking back on my work history, and in the midst of the post-grad job search, I’ve come to realize that in job descriptions, so much rides upon four words: Other duties as assigned.  In this unassuming, intentionally vague little phrase lies a whole host of tasks that will inevitably fall to you, the lackey, yet are not described specifically in the list of tasks involved in the position, either because the supervisor is so used to them being done they don’t even consider how they get done, or because if they were addressed, any sane applicant would flee the premises immediately.  Some of my “other duties as assigned” have included:

  • Chopping up a 6 lb watermelon
  • Dumpster diving
  • Watering Natasha, the African violet
  • Wearing a hoopskirt and wide-brimmed hat
  • Picking up trash with one of those sticks with the claw at the end
  • Fetching smoothies for the office
  • Directing traffic in a parking lot for four hours
  • Assembling furniture
  • Driving my boss to LAX
  • Chipping away the ice built up in a freezer
  • Cleaning a three-foot, bright pink juice stain out of the carpet
  • Ordering a life-size cut-out of David Hasselhoff

Were any of these presented to me before I accepted the position?  Certainly not. But I willingly carried them out, as deadening, degrading, or downright disgusting as they were, mainly in the hope that someday in the future, I could come back to that supervisor, look them in the eye, and ask them for a reference, smiling with my mouth, but telling them with the intensity bordering on insanity in my eyes that if they refused, I would reveal the humiliations involved in their filthy work. That or overturn their desk.