Last week in my advertising class, we took a break from writing creative ads and talked about consumerism. You know, the whole idea that we are all obsessed with buying things. My instructor mentioned that some people are actually good at saving money because it’s difficult for them to part with their hard-earned cash. The other portion of the population, however, has no remorse, anxiety or conscience about throwing their money away in return for a shiny, new product. I happen to fall under the latter category.
I spend my money like I’ll never run out. I’m a sucker for brand names and any time I see something else I want, I have no trouble convincing myself that it’s worth the price . It’s a habit that isn’t very compatible with my unemployed-college-student lifestyle. Recently, I had to start leaving my wallet locked in a drawer at home when I go to school to stop myself from buying overpriced coffees and sandwiches, and prevent my irresponsible spending from ruining my entire life.
M is only eight years old and he already loves spending just as much as I do. Only, M doesn’t pine for coffee and shoes. His weaknesses are, naturally, toys. But similar to my spending habits, M doesn’t just like any old toys–he loves the brand names.
This past weekend, I picked M up at his house. Standing in his doorway, I waited for him to put his shoes on. His mom helped him get his jacket on and turned to me.
“He has $20 in his backpack for a toy. He’ll probably ask you to go to Toys R Us later,” she told me with a smile.
M looked at me and wiggled his eyebrows, a wide grin spreading on his little face.
“Yeah Becca I have 20 moneys and we go get toys!”
When M was little, we would spend close to an hour in Toys R Us every time we went. If the experience didn’t go exactly as he had planned, it would often end in an epic temper tantrum. There at M’s house, looking at his dangerously excited smile, I figured I should get his toy-shopping fix out of the way ASAP.
We arrived at Toys R Us after a 20 minute drive and M galloped ahead of me. He went straight to the aisle that had the cars, trucks and racetracks branded by the new Disney Pixar Cars movie. Immediately, he fell in love with a big red truck named Mack, grabbed it off the shelf and was ready to go. The sign in front of the toy read $24.99.
“Buddy…” I started, pointing to the price tag. “It’s too expensive. You only have a twenty.”
M’s brow furrowed. He looked away nervously, then back at the truck, holding the $20 bill with both hands. He looked devastated.
“I don’t have any money with me,” I said, my heart breaking. I thought of my wallet sitting all alone in a drawer in my room. “Can you find a cheaper one?”
M’s face fell even more and he began to panic. He looked for a different Mack truck, touching all of the price tags with his finger. I couldn’t watch his disappointment escalate any further. I caved.
“Okay dude,” I sighed. “Let’s go to my house and get my money. Then we’ll come back and get Mack.”
“Yeah,” M said, his eyes brightening as he nodded. “That good idea Becca, let’s go.”
45 minutes later, we were back at Toys R Us. Mack the red truck was parked happily on my forearm as I stood in line. The clerk ran the toy through and the total showed on the screen. It read $29.99–five dollars more than I thought. I looked at M. He wrapped his hands around my waist and smiled up at me, blinking his dark lashes like a cartoon character.
“It’ll be on Visa,” I said reluctantly and tapped my card against the machine.
I don’t usually like to admit how purchasing things affects my mood, but it does. Whether you’re eight years old or a fully grown adult who’s capable of making well-informed decisions, it feels damn good to treat yourself. And if you don’t believe me, just listen to the song M improvised about our shopping day at Toys R Us. I think it captures the sentiment pretty well.