Failing in My Responsibilities as an American Consumer

Interesting thing I was talking with my friend about earlier in the day: I think I’m pretty much maxed out on the consumer level. I was trying to think of anything I really wanted to get for myself these days — not something I need, like pants or dishwasher soap or whatever, but something I want — and I was coming up blanks across the board. And more to the point, the idea of buying more stuff for myself just doesn’t appeal to me at the moment, as in, I actually had the man, I already have too much crap thought when I thought about adding any more to my collection.

I feel a little bad about this, since I understand the US economy could use a little of me buying more crap I don’t need right about now — indeed, isn’t that the point of this “stimulus” package they just rammed through in Washington: To give folks a few hundred extra dollars with which to buy more crap? — but, you know, look: If there’s nothing I actually want to get, I’m not going shell out money just to get stuff. Rumor is, money’s kind of tight these days. Should be burying it in the backyard in jars and such.

So, anyway: Sorry, American economy, you’ll have to get along without my frivolous personal spending for at least a little while. Try to be strong. And focus more on those twentysomethings. I bet they still want crap.

How is your commercial wantiness these days? Better or worse than usual? Just curious. Maybe you took mine, after all.

100 Comments on “Failing in My Responsibilities as an American Consumer”

  1. Is it consumerist to pay off the debt I sunk into remodeling my kitchen this winter? Probably not.

    There’s so little I want any more (I’m only 35 and making a hair under $50K/yr) that I’ve started suggesting to family members that they make donations to charities rather than send me gifts for Christmas, birthdays, etc. I don’t see myself spending the stimulus check on anything big.

  2. I’m cutting down on spending, too. Not due to lack of money, but due to equal parts of uncertainty (everybody knows job cuts are coming in my line of work, on Wall Street) and lack of interest in toys.

    Mind you, I spent a chunk of my bonus on an iPhone and a Wii, but I saved the rest for a a rainy day.

    I don’t need more crap, though I’m still buying books. Hardbacks are more desirable but take up more space – not good for Manhattan living. I can see a purge coming later this year.

  3. I don’t think that’s a failure— after all, you might end up spending any “stimulus” on services, or good meals, or anything that puts the money back in— and even if you save it, that’s not a bad thing either.

    My “wantiness” has always been kind of strange. Right now, what I’d really like is the ability to rent a house in my price range, seeing as there’s a small fry on the way and apartment space that should be perfectly adequate is much less so when you also have to use it as all of your storage. And people keep giving us stuff. If it weren’t for my parents volunteering storage for stuff that won’t be useful until Squirmy is a year old or older, we’d be choked out of our own place pretty soon.

    But as for what I want… maybe a glider. Unfortunately, the affordable ones, such as Target, are made for small women and I definitely don’t qualify as one of those. I want a chair back that actually supports my back instead of ending mid-shoulder.

    And yeah, I wouldn’t mind paying off debt either. But our “stimulus” is probably going towards WorldCon. :)

  4. My commercial wantiness circuits were burned out a decade ago from over stimulating TV ads. I’m fried on consumerism, and I don’t watch TV anymore either, the commercials hurt. (I know – stop being a luddite and buy a Tivo).

    And that stimulus package! If a car leaks antifreeze, the best fix is to poor in more antifreeze. Yeah, that’ll work – for about a week. Sigh. Can’t we get any fiscal responsibility on the hill?

  5. I always want a new toy. Latest is a MacBook because I’m ready to try something new. Unfortunately my wife wants(and is getting) a new bathroom so I lose.

  6. As I work in the Real Estate Industry in Southern California, my “wantiness” is up over the last year due to the significant downturn in the market (business is less than a third of last year, which was half of the previous year’s)
    However, as a husband and parent, my “wantiness” is about third in line no matter what. No debt to speak of, luckily, so my package will go to our vacation plans, as opposed to any “Stuff.”

  7. B. Durbin:

    “I don’t think that’s a failure— after all, you might end up spending any ‘stimulus’ on services, or good meals, or anything that puts the money back in— and even if you save it, that’s not a bad thing either.”

    To put it delicately as possible, as I understand it we don’t qualify to get a stimulus check. Even if we did we’d just pop it into savings, and from there, oh, probably pay taxes with it.

  8. Coming from the twentysomethings peanut gallery; it’ll be nice to get a big (maybe?) piece of the stimulus package from D.C., I needed to make a contribution to my IRA this year.

    If anything, the only thing I actually want is a new apartment.

  9. I’m a twentysomething, but the crap I want is mostly pretty small: a book on bread baking, real pumpernickel flour, a fleece, seeds for cutting celery and lemongrass. Mainly I want more savings.

    My husband read somewhere that a good investment with our tax “rebate” would be an ounce of gold. Who wouldn’t want an ounce of gold?

  10. Hey if Uncle Sam’s bitch daughter IRiS wants to let me keep the money I “owe”, I’ll gladly spend it on something shiny. But right now, I’m saving up to write a check that should pay the rebate on about 15 of my closest friends. F’n Uncle Sam. Why don’t we just skip taxes this year? It’s all funny money at this point anyhow. What’s another $1.1T in debt? Hell. I’ll be buying myself some KY instead.

  11. How about a family vacation of some sort? It spends teh moneys without actually accumulating more stuff. Well, maybe souvenirs, but not too much stuff.

  12. Well, I’ve yet to upgrade to HDTV, so that’ll be happening sometime this year. We’ve got a tradition here of dumping the change in our pockets into a huge tupperware at the end of the day. When it gets full, we run it through one of those Coinstar thingies and then put the cash back at the bottom of the tupperware. We’re not allowed to spend the money until December.

    It’s kind of fun being able to say you bought that shiny new, does-everything refrigerator with change. I have a feeling the change may only buy half of the new HDTV, but it’ll come at the right time.

    Otherwise, we’re actually going through “stuff” and making plans for a fairly big stoop sale. (We don’t do yard sales or tag sales in Brooklyn).

  13. I’d, uh, like to not be in pain, please. I just found out there is a new treatment for my disease (Crohn’s): a monthly injection that costs around $2,000. A month. Monthly. $2,000. Every thirty days.

  14. There’s not a lot I really want at the moment. I bought a new printer this week because the 7 year old one I had broke (and since it cost $40 there was no point in getting it repaired. it’s well past amortized) and I had a gift card from my birthday that covered all but $5 of the cost.

    Someday I’ll probably get a car, but I’ve always lived in areas with good public transportation, so it’s not something i’m in any rush to buy and sink lost of money into maintaining.

    I don’t need new electronics. Mainly my non-neccessity purchases consist of SF/F books because my library isn’t very good about stocking them. Mysteries I primarily check out of the library or buy cheap at the semi-annual library sale.

    My whole family is like that. We buy something and use it until it falls apart. The 69 Biscayne didn’t get replaced until 1987 when it fell apart. the Maytag washer and dryer my parents bought in 1970 didn’t get replaced until 1995. Same with the refridgerator. My mom still used the 1968 electrolux vacuum. we joke that we’ve been bringing the consumer economy to a halt for a quarter century.

  15. A vacation is pretty much at the top of my wantiness list right now. However, the cat’s due at the cardiologist again, so he wins. Some people probably view that as frivolous personal spending, but I don’t. :)

  16. Nathan@15: We collected our change similarly, but put it in the Coinstar thingy that doesn’t take a kickback if you redeem it in an Amazon card. Got our Tivo Series 3 with money left over for Xmas gifts.

  17. Oddly enough…I’m feeling the same way. It’s really confusing considering I’m really poor. I keep thinking there should be a ton of useless crap that I should be desperate to spend my tax return on. Nope..nothing…I keep coming up empty handed. I’m enjoying it and referring to it as a “apathy for crap” phase.

  18. Re: ounce of gold: It’s shiny, but now is probably not the time. The “Gold is the only real value! Buy gold!” people have pushed the prices up of late, and it’s been suggested that it’s trending towards a bubble.

    I’ve been in a “too much crap” place lately, too. The last chunk of unexpected money I got went into a Roth IRA, and I’ll probably route the tax rebate there as well.

  19. Scalzi wants a Ferrari… No, wait… Scalzi wants a domestic Ferrari. Something built in Detroit.

    Actually, I see your point. There really isn’t anything I want, and those few things I actually might want aren’t really going to be purchased more easily with a check for a few hundred bucks.

    So, I guess it looks like I’ll be spending my economic stimulus bonus on hookers and whiskey.

  20. I would like a new camera.

    Yet, I think with any IRS refund and tax rebate I’m going to get, I’m aiming to be more fiscally responsible. It’s going right into savings. I want to have a nice cushion of three months incase I lose my job. I was never worried until I bought a house. Being a single mom, I can’t not work and expect to pay the bills. It’s sort of a necessity.

  21. My consumer wantness is still quite malignant, although mostly held in check by good sense. I’d love to have the new iPod touch as well. And I’m in serious want of a good entry-level DSLR + accessories. It MAY be that my stimulus check will go towards that. It’s more likely that I will use it to get a little closer to financial freedom, however (i.e. go towards paying off my wife’s car).

    I can’t really think of much else that I’m in serious want of, and nothing that I’m in real need of.

  22. I’m pretty surfeited with crap too, or would be if I could kick my anime habit.

    As I understand the economics of the stimulus idea:

    Remodeling kitchen
    Buy camera lens
    Buy iPhone
    Buy books
    Buy glider
    Buy chair
    Go to Worldcon
    Buy the new 32 Gb Ipod Touch
    Buy a Tivo
    Buy a Macbook or a new bathroom
    Go on a vacation
    Buy photovoltaic cells
    Buy bread making book and food
    Buy HDTV
    Buy refrigerator
    Get $2000 injection every month
    Hookers and Whiskey

    Not Sure:
    New Apartment
    Buy ounce of gold
    Stoop sales

    Does not help:
    Paying off debt
    Paying taxes
    Putting in IRA

    These latter things just end up as money sitting in some bank account. Then the bank looks around desperately for someone to lend it to, and they can’t, at least not anyone who would actually, like, pay them back someday.

    Too much savings and not enough credit-worthy borrowers is what led to the immediate problem in the first place.

    Of course, regarding your own personal economy, the categories should mostly be reversed.

    Disclaimer: I am not a trained economist. Do not try this at home. Actual bankruptcy may be closer than it appears.

  23. Captain Button, I can’t speak for anyone else, but my IRA contributions go mostly into equities.

  24. For those of you of that inclination, noted gunblogger Kim du Toit has a suggestion of what to do with your “stimulus” check: Buy an “assault rifle,” and some ammo. (For instance, an AK-47 type, at around $500, or an SKS, at $200 or under. Not full-auto, natch.) Not only because it’s good consumer spending, but because, after next January, you may not have the chance anymore…

  25. Why on earth should anyone “feel a little bad” for refusing to buy useless crap they don’t need?

    I never that that saving money would become an antisocial, even subversive, act of rebellion.

  26. Erbo @ 29.

    I think pretty much anyone who’s not involved in guerilla warfare can do without an AK-47…

    How bout a nice Macbook Air?

  27. Wow.

    I’ve done so much to support the economy over the last six months (new house, W&D, big TV, Wii, bed), I can’t believe we haven’t kept us out of a recession single-handedly!

    There’s only one thing I have the wanties for. I want a smartphone of some kind. Probably not happening …

  28. i’m not feeling very wanty these days either.

    of course if we really do get a random check from the government (i seriously doubt we really will) it’s going right back to them to help pay off my taxes.


  29. As a married twentysomething, I’m keeping my spending to a bare minimum. These days my wants are in books (Zoe’s Tale, anyone?) and a couple of movies. Other than that, extra money goes into high-interest savings, IRAs and that oh-so-important house fund. Because, really, although my job might seem stable now, and the economy isn’t all that bad, there just isn’t any certainty, IMO.

    In the last year I’ve donated or thrown away most of the crap I somehow accumulated during college. I’m quickly adopting a one-in-one-out attitude towards my junk.

    Besides, there just isn’t enough time in the day to use all the stuff you accumulate. And this is coming from a currently childless code monkey 2 years out of college. When (If) the powers-that-be allow me to reproduce, I suspect I’ll be trimming down my worldly possesions even more.

    To be honest, I’m looking forward to my next purge. I’m getting tired of having, and wanting, stuff.

  30. Nope, no great wants, in terms of consumer durables. If I wanted it, I mostly bought it years ago. That said, I’m finding my fingers quite twitchy on the Amazon and ITunes “buy now” buttons. Books, music, and restaurant meals are basically all of my discretionary purchasing for about the last year.

  31. Given that I’m currently saving up for a big trip in June, my wants are pretty minor (DVDs, music, etc) except for one thing, but given that I’m a part-time photographer, wanting to upgrade my camera is slightly less frivolous than thinking that the new iPod Touch is really cool.

    The Canon 40D is calling to me. ISO 3200 is dead sexy for my purposes.

  32. Eddie @ 31…

    Well, a MacBook Air just isn’t going to cause the gun-fearing wussies of the country to wet themselves the way an AK would.

    (Unless they’re also Apple fanboys, I suppose.)

  33. About a year ago, I came to the realization that I have everything that I ever wanted. I may still want a shinier version of what I already have, but getting another would not really change my situation. I would have thought that I would be glad about this but I actually find it disconcerting and I don’t know why. I still haven’t come to terms with it.

  34. Andres, if you manage to “trim down your worldly possessions” after you reproduce, let me know how you did it.

  35. To use Charlie Stross’ term, I keep making my saving throw versus Shiny! There isn’t a gizmo or toy I gotta have (yeah, I could trade in my boat-anchor GPS for one that talks, has color, and a micro-SD slot, but, well, meh.

    But I could sure stimulate the economy: I need new windows in the living room and dining room. I need new carpet throughout the whole house (except for one room of carpet, and five tiled/laminate rooms, everything is the same crap that was there when we moved in 14 years ago). My asphalt driveway is starting to look like it was imported from Tikrit. And I really need a vacation.

    Odds are one to three of these will happen this calendar year (well, maybe just some of the carpet). There’s still car payments I didn’t have last year which eat up the whole so-called stimulus (teenage driver caused that), and college tuition payments (for the same teenage driver).

    I’m a long way from “being poor” but yeah, there’s stuff to be had. Fact is, the income downward turn between 2006 and 2007 still doesn’t get nearly made up by this little old stimulus.

  36. I’ve really cut down on spending because I just don’t have time to do stuff, between full time school and part time work. I’ve got five video games I haven’t even started playing, another one to finish, and a ton of books I haven’t had time to read yet. The only wantingness I really have is for time.

    Though if I actually did have the money and wasn’t a starving student, I could go for a new TV (Mine is about 10 years old and slowly dying), a new tuner (mine is also dying), and a mini cooper. But those three things are not terribly pressing. If someone handed me $20K tomorrow, I’d be using it to pay off some of my student loans, not buy stuff.

  37. Everyone, give your unused money to ME, and I will gladly spend it for you.

    I am constantly in debt, and I’m ALWAYS seeing something shiny I want. I would do GREAT stimulating the economy if you all would just make me independently wealthy. I would quit my job tomorrow and spend money on travel and worthless trinkets whilst travelling and employ people to clean up after me and take care of my money while I’m away on my numerous vacations. I would also contribute to worthy causes, thus stimulating the less fortunate in the economy and employing those volunteers who need something to do and money to do it with.

    I don’t see the problem here. I will gladly give you the paypal account to send all your “refund” check money to so I can spend it for you! Just let me know. :)

    “Dear Buddha: I want a pony and a plastic rocket.”

  38. Alex @ 39… I suppose what I really should have said was that my possessions would be consumed by my child’s need for its own possessions – you know, like food, crib, clothes and other useless junk :).

    I’m already having difficulty finding time to keep the apartment looking civilized, trying to stay in some sort of shape that’s not “round” and spending time with my wife (who works and does in fact pull her own weight :). I can’t imagine having time for – or needing – anything other than a few good books once some screaming thing comes into my life wanting everything else!

    Although if it comes down to feeding my kid and keeping my sf/f books – well, there are plenty of good families in need of a child. (Just kidding!… i think…)

  39. Well, not interested in buying too much crap, anyway — I already have more than any one person needs to own. About 10 years ago I started campaigning for consumable gifts — I am happiest when there isn’t One More Thing to keep in the house.

  40. I’m also in the “have too much stuff” camp. I despise dust collectors and trinkets. I have too many already. Don’t give me more. I am the type of person at professional conferences who turns down or throws out all the cheap plastic trinkets and desk toys that companies pass out.

    That said, I do have a few things I want:

    1) new camera (though my D70 is still serviceable)
    2) a few camera lens
    3) high end ink jet printer

    As these are all on the expensive side, I will be waiting a long while. I need (and want) to upgrade my work wardrobe, but I’ve started donating old clothes whenever I bring home new clothes so that my total clothes volume has a net gain of zero.

  41. more pc games! yay!

    sadly, i will not be purchasing anything with my economic stimulus check. i just read on that the IRS will be taking back whatever they give you this spring from your tax refund in 2009. thanks uncle sam, you’re giving us a LOAN.

    ironically, i went back to cnn to look at the article again and someone cut out that part about taking the money back from you. maybe the IRS stormtroopers kicked in the doors at cnn headquarters and made them remove it at gunpoint. ignorance is bliss…

  42. Well, I have an eight-year-old computer that runs on Windows ME, so I sort of have to spend this year. Also, I always want more yarn with which to knit. Terrible addiction.

  43. As good a time as any to trot this out again.

    Personally, I’ve cut way back on “consumer spending”, although my children do their level best to convince the parental units that they’ll just die without some plastic piece of junk that’ll be abandoned within days.

  44. I received two gift certificates at work totaling $100 which I applied to an credit. This was in late December. I still have the credit, because I don’t really need the stuff on my wish list. I’ve got a second kid on the way, so I’ll probably use the credit for diapers.

    I do want a chunk off my credit card bills – which is where my “stimulus” check is going.

  45. I’m pretty tapped out on space to buy any more crap, and not all that interested, save for a few dozen books. That’s not so consumey either, considering most of them have been in print for some time, so I’m really just relieving Amazon of some inventory. And I was going to buy those books anyway, that’s just what I do. So my rebate wouldn’t really change my spending on jonx anyway, since it’s not like I’m buying a grilled stufft burrito and pallid watery Taco Bell sauce, where there is a more immediate impact on the economy.

    Some will go into the boy’s college fund (and he’s one year old today!!).

    I think the best way I have to stimulate the economy is to put a good chunk into the general election fund of the D candidate.

  46. In general, I don’t spend a lot of money, or really want to, with the huge exception of books… I could pretty much spend an infinite amount of money buying books… especially since I read pretty fast, and thus usually go through any new books I buy in the same day that I aquire them. I checked out 13 books from the library on Saturday, and was finished all of them by Thursday :(

  47. oh, I lied… I also could spend infinite amounts on beads/fabric/yarn/scrapbooking stuff/other craft supplies. There goes my thriftiness

  48. Have you considered a windmill in the back yard?

    Having multiple sprog in college means a money rat hole with no end but the bits of extra dough I gather goes towards artists.

    I buy your books. I also really like hand made marbles and have bought some of them, but they are getting popular and kind of expensive. I figure the artists are doing something I like and can use the money more than, say, some obscenely rich person or corporation.

  49. Well, since my idea of a splurge is getting the “expensive ramen” (and yes, I know that link is for udon, not ramen; work with me here…), I can’t see myself stimulating the economy much, either. I don’t even spend as much on books as I used to; there are a few benefits to being a librarian! Of course, one of the downsides is that I can’t even afford a back yard to bury my money jars in…or the jars….

    *wanders off into the corner to cry and write emo poetry about how much our country’s fiscal policy sucks*

  50. I might buy a nice big flatscreen TV at some point, and I could use some better cookware (when I get a working space that’s not a galley kitchen, at least), but mostly, eh, I’m sated. I decided against getting a next-gen videogame console because I didn’t think my productivity could take the hit. Otherwise, I want nothing but books.

  51. I guess I must be just the sort they’re targetting with this stimulus check. We have a stretch of drywall that needs to be replaced after a roof leak – that’ll employ a skilled professional for a day or so, plus the cost of the drywall, mud, tape, texturing, etc. Then we’re going to have someone come in and paint the whole great room. More professionals getting paid from our money, more materials being purchased.

    In addition, because we seem unable to find the happy medium between “we owe how much???” and “why did we give them all this money to start with?” with regards to the feds, we’re getting a sizable refund from both the feds and the state. That will go towards replacing a ten year old television in our living room (HDTV is coming, ready or not), some new furniture for the same space, and probably a Macbook for myself.

    It’s less about need – the walls are ugly, but not really in any danger of falling down, I have a five year old PC laptop, etc – but I’m definitely getting in a mindset of clear out the crap you never use. I think this weekend may see our basement and our garage lose a little weight…

  52. Heh. This is the year I graduate, so…

    1.) Moving expenses,

    2.) My first student loan payment,


    3.) A nice business-y suit.

    Oh, and a new computer. I had smoke coming out of this one yesterday. I don’t think that’s a good sign.

  53. I think I’d buy an entire prosciutto. Hang that mother up in the closet, snack on the occasional slice when the mood struck me, give some to visiting friends and family. Forget gold: invest in ham.

  54. I actually don’t have much ability to do much in the consumer market. Why? I’m a University student and all of my income is paid through your taxes and all of that money ends up paying for living expenses and school. So, beyond what is standard to pay for I’m not doing much except buying some books. I’m not buying cars or gizmos or whatever.
    But thanks to all of you who pay for me to go to school. I’m making good use of it!

  55. Lisa @ 45:

    I’m with you. I’m actively decluttering my house at the moment and deflecting any incoming stuff. I’m finding Clear Your Clutter With Feng Shui by Karen Kingston to be a great help. Clothes, papers, books, and kitchenware are on their way out.

    However, I have to make room for anime/manga and photography. I try to be careful, though…

    Incoming: D300
    Deferred: new lenses, HP9180 printer

  56. I want shiny electronics with partially eaten fruit etched in them. Alas my house ate my money. It does this to annoy me.

  57. My husband and I just retired (early) and are comfortably off. We don’t *need* these, but are considering buying these:

    A cell phone.
    High speed internet.

    It’s hard to justify something we don’t need, though. We’ve always lived a simple, use-less-stuff, recycling kind of life.

    But I could spend a small fortune eating out every day. Kentucky Fried chicken, Taco Bell chalupas, bbq poke ribs, caramel frappacino, mocha boba, etc. etc. Mmmmmm….

  58. SMD,

    But thanks to all of you who pay for me to go to school. I’m making good use of it!

    You’re welcome. I can’t think of a better use for my tax dollars.

  59. I do my bit for nation economy, retail and internet sales, publishers’ profits and authors’ income by buying more books than I have time to read.

    But I need a new digital camera and the video recorder is packing in so need to upgrade to one of these modern DVD/HDD recorder things.

  60. As a twenty-something who’s currently putting her husband through college, there’s a lot I want but can’t afford. Like owning a house that’s big enough to hold everything on my Amazon wishlist…

  61. I’m on the same page with you, John. I’ve been out of law school for a little over five years now and finally have a little extra dough to spread around. The problem is, there’s nothing I really want. The last big “want” was an iPhone, which I got, and which I love with all my heart. I guess I could get a nice car like every other law grad, but my ’99 Civic is paid off, runs great, and gets excellent gas mileage. The thought of a new car with its monthly payment doesn’t turn me on. I had a “cool” car in the late ’80’s that people always commented on, but after a few months, to me it was just my car. I didn’t get a big thrill out of it anymore. I think I broke the consumer part of my brain from being a starving grad student / starving baby lawyer for too many years.

  62. What I say to the famn damily every Christmas Winter Stuff Exchange season, “Don’t need nothin’, don’t want nothin’, don’t have room for nothin’.”

    So. Maybe it’ll go in my Roth IRA. Or a term CD, if I can find one with a rate to beat inflation (unlikely, with the current cuts in the fed interest rate). Or it’ll kick around in my savings account until we need to fill the oil tank again – and it won’t buy half a tank.

    Wish I could get the fed to pay in $CAN, it’d be worth more in the long run…

  63. Paypal mutual fund account. :D Higher interest than a savings, yet comes with all the access perks of one.

    For those who have no idea what to do with all that extra money, you could always pass it on down to someone else who could really use it for something important. Modest Needs will probably end up getting some of mine.

  64. I have plenty of stuff I’d like to buy.

    1) Macbook Air – $2100 with warrenty
    2) New desktop PC – $1200 with monitors and all that
    3) Home server $600
    4) Mazda 3s – $20000
    5) Wii – $300 with games etc.
    6) New big HDTV – $2000
    7) Down payment on a house – $20000
    8) Max out a Roth IRA – $4000

    That’s what springs to mind off the top of my head

  65. John, Athena can probably help you be a “consumer” once more. How do you feel about getting into My Little Pony figures?

    Or does she have better taste than that?

  66. Until you have cleared out your parents house after they have passed on, and filled two dumpsters of “stuff”, you really don’t have any perception/conception of all the junk that is absolutely superfluous. We now give gift cards for Christmas, and we always ask for Amazon. When it comes time to de-junk this house, there will be 8 bookshelves crammed with books, of which Scalzi will be in attendance. Unfortunately for his coffers, they will be paperback because we just don’t have room for the hardbacks.

  67. I generally have the spendiness down pretty low for everything but books, comics and occasionally music. I am lucky enough to be able to afford to buy books new and would make every effort to do so anyway because it’s the only way I know of to get a little money in the creator’s pocket. Same goes for music and comics. I rent movies as I will rarely watch them more than once. The exception, of course, are movies for the kids. Try telling my son that “Cars” has to be returned!

    Now, my regular tax refund will go towards paying next year’s property taxes with any remainder will go into savings for something. Got to talk to the wife about that one.

    Mr. Bush’s extra bonus prize for having a job, wife and kids will be spent. These are my wants:

    * ~37in 720p HDTV
    * beds for the kids (cribs and toddler beds don’t cut it anymore)
    * xbox 360 for and DVD play back
    * an energy star dish washer that works

    Can I live without any of them? Yeah. Would I still be happy? Yeah. Can I convince the wife that this is the appropriate thing to do with the money? Maybe. So is this wantiness or just wanting to do “the right thing” with the money? Not sure…

  68. No change in level of wantiness here. A new battery for the iPod is being saved for.

    I do buy books, but alas mostly second-hand. And beads (which bring out my inner cross between a magpie and a dragon).

    I got all excited this week; found a cast-iron Dutch oven at the thrift store for a ridiculously low price, and I’ve wanted one for years. Beyond that, just keeping up with the copays on my doctor visits, medical tests ($80 is my share for the bone density scan? Crap. At least they let me pay in installments…), and the premium and copays on the Medicare Plan D stuff takes the place of any so-called discretionary spending.

    (Yeah, a MacBook would be cool to own. So would an iPhone. But I don’t even really *want* either…)

  69. I’m in the same boat. There is absolutely nothing I want to buy. Not only do I have everything I want, I have MORE than I want.

    Honestly, I need to start hauling stuff off to Goodwill. Buying new stuff just doesn’t interest me.

  70. I just realized I didn’t quite answer the question. As far as the things I actually want if I could afford to buy them…
    –Well, I’d like if I could just pay someone 50 bucks to get my freaking retirement plan rolled over into an IRA, but the stupid company that has my money right now is a pain in the butt and won’t let me do it the easy way…that would be nice. I’d pay for that.
    –More books, as usual, would go on that list. I’m a book-freak.
    –Maybe some movies (DVDs) and some TV shows on DVD.
    –A new car (since my decided to bust on me), nothing fancy though…a Toyota whatever would be nice.
    –A good quality video camera (so I could make my own little movies)
    –Magic software that prevents me from connecting to the net at all or using certain programs or accessing certain webpages during certain outs of the day so that I’ll only write or read in those hours…I need discipline.
    –A house (ha, if I could afford it that is)
    –A plane ticket to England (getting that luckily, so I can visit my girlfriend)
    –Nintendo Wii (cause it’s fun)
    –A new TV (something better than this old White Westinghouse)
    –A new printer (this one is okay, but it’s not as good as new ones obviously)
    –Japanese candy (cause it’s awesome)

    I can’t think of anything else really. Honestly, the only things I buy on any consistent basis are DVDs and Books, and more of the latter. I’d like those things above, but there’d never be a rush, even if I had the money (except the plane ticket, which I’m actually going to use partly to visit my girlfriend and as an opportunity to go to the University of Liverpool to talk about graduate school there). I have a laptop, a desktop, a TV, some movies, a Gamecube, CDs, lots of books, an mp3 player, and a digital camera. I think I’m set for a while (except on books, you always need more of those). So maybe I really don’t want anything after all…

  71. I have the usual wantiness level: books, music, etc.

    I am, however, still trying to figure out why instead of Bush’s “have a (cheap) bribe to vote for my buddy McCain”, we didn’t see the money go twords things like fully funding homeless shelters (blankets, food(!), rent, misc.) and other such like stuff. And they’ll spend it quickly, too.

  72. I’ve been on a downward cycle of stuff for the past several years. Only habit and the veto power of the hubby is preventing me from pretty much living a monastic lifestyle.

    Dunno where it started, but I keep having experiences like the one I had last year: I was reading a book on global social change. In the book were several descriptions of various lifestyles and communities from around the world, including tribal villages and places where poverty had really hit hard. I remember very clearly being immersed in this book for an hour or three reading the stories of people living in these very different lives, and then taking a break and looking up and having a huge moment of psychological vertigo when I realized that in my one-bedroom apt, I had more stuff than many of these communities had as a whole. It felt downright obscene. Took me a good half-hour to recover from the culture shock well enough to quit sitting on the couch like a stunned ox thinking about it.

    And the thing is, that was before hubs and I had gone back home to retrieve a second pickup-truck load of stuff. Pretty much everything we owned at that time, with the exception of a few “acquired here” possessions, came over the mountains in the back of our truck. Now I have two truckloads of stuff plus various additions here, with a few more left back in storage – and our personal cache of stuff would be considered pathetically anemic by most American standards.

    And yet, I still can’t get the taste of obscenely bloated consumerism out of my mouth. I think that in that one moment of perspective, I may have caught something akin to material-goods anorexia.

    Anyway, I pare down, hubby fights for our/his stuff and we do this ongoing dance of attrition. I’ve made it a point to see how long I can go without buying new stuff, and generally speaking my only notable expenditure aside from bills is eating out, which is my only real personal vice/hobby/pleasure (no tv, so no cable bill, either). I drive hubby insane with my “McGyver it until the duct tape gives, and then duct tape it some more” approach to hanging on to stuff (My last monitor got pitched only when whacking on the backside of the CRT with my metal Ganesha statuette no longer restored the color. I swear to God you could hear it sobbing, “Please…oh God, no…please, just let me die…” for the last few weeks there).

    This year’s stimulus check is going right out again to pay off debt. In one door and out the other. No toys for me. Toys make me queasy right now.

    I’m doing my best to figure out how to go zero waste and still manage to do what I do, which is work from home online. What with all the required computer stuff and internet service and whatnot. I’m thinking about taking some computer building and repair classes though. There are enough tossed-but-still-strippable electronics out there (and we even have a local computer recyclery) that I might actually be able to swing it, mostly.

  73. #42 Salome,

    That was just pathetic. Too timid, too hesitant, too eager to accept rejection. Listen carefully and learn.

    Ladies and gentlemen, I have heard your cries for succor. You say you have money spontaneous combusting in your pockets. You say your bank balance is giving computer systems around the world fidgets. I have heard your cries and I’m here to help.

    Can’t think of anything to purchase? Satisfied with what you have? Does the prospect of spending money like a drunken sailor make you sick? I will spend that money for you! And I will keep the stuff I purchase with your cash, so you don’t have to.

    That’s right, I will take your money and place it back into circulation. In addition, I will keep all that I purchase with your money and make use of it. Printer, scanner, iMac; all will stay in my possession, thus you will not only be rid of that troublesome excess currency, but unburdened by the crap I buy on your behalf.

    And giving me your unwanted money couldn’t be any easier. Just visit my blog (‘linked’ to my name :) ) and click on the donations page in the table of contents. You can send a donation to PayPal, or buy direct from Amazon using my wishlist (but don’t feel you’re limited to what’s on the list).

    Age, race, species, national origin, planet of origin, I discriminate against none. After all, American money is spendable at an American location.

    This PSA presented by Alan Kellogg, an equal opportunity sponge.

  74. If you are falling short on your consumer duties, help plan a wedding. I can’t believe how much crap I bought so far. Invitation paper, favors, flowers, gown, shoes, etc. I’m off to buy the wedding rings today ($$!) and 200 stamps.

  75. My wife and I recently listed everything we need (non-urgent) or want beyond the monthly budget. The long list of near-necessities (water heater, replace worn out furniture furniture and bed, carpet cleaning, re-stain the deck, etc.) really put the wants in perspective.

    Before that, I had been desperately wanting an external flash for my camera. Now, not so much.

    Also, the knowledge that many of those near-necessities will suddenly become actual urgent necessities whether we’ve specifically budgeted for them or not is particularly sobering. The water heater is about to cross that boundary, but fortunately, we dodged a bullet on the new roof.

  76. All I want is a government competent enough to invest my taxes in something useful (like education) – rather than imploring me to go out and buy a TV.

  77. I could use a better guitar amp. But yeah, mostly I’m thinking more about getting rid of crap than about buying more of it.

    Yesterday I dumpstered an immense quantity of old computer software I’m never going to use again. Some of it was on 400K floppy disks. (Pause for the murmurs of “That’s nothing, the other day I threw away ten trays of punchcards and a PDP-10.”) I don’t even want to think of how much money I spent on it over the years. But what’s the worst thing that will happen to me if I turn out to desperately need a copy of Freehand 1.0 for a 1989-vintage Mac II? I’ll probably turn out to know someone who hasn’t been able to bear to throw their copy away. I don’t see why I should have to be that someone.

  78. Glad I found your blog. Like to see that you write all the time. I must have been aware I’d read this a few days ago, cause I had the same thought. Or maybe it’s a mass thought. And I own very little, being a writer and student and quite happy with my small bit. Have gift cards I haven’t used from Christmas. Well, there’s no Best Buy within 60 miles, but still, I haven’t spent 20 bucks to drive and spend the 100 on the card. Economics? Nah, ennui. I’ll be back. To this site for entertainment, eh.

  79. Laura: I am absolutely amazed at the “average” cost of a wedding. It’s more than I make in a year. Heck, I think it’s more than Evil Rob makes in a year, and he’s getting above the median for our area of California!

    We got married for under $1000, and over $600 of that was for the dress. I really don’t see why it has to be so very expensive, but then we did things like get our cake from a snobby supermarket for about $30. (Chocolate raspberry torte… mmmm.)

  80. There are always books I want, but at our house we say books are not part of the budget. We buy books no matter what.

    Truth is stores are selling a lot of the same old crap and, yanno, I have the same old crap already. And I am not dumb enough to shell out lots of dough for the same old crap IN A NEW COLOR or the same old crap THAT FAMOUS PERSON USES. If they want me to spend my money they need to come up with exciting, new crap.

    Also a lot of the things we buy will help the economy of some other country more than the U.S. economy.

  81. I won’t be getting a check so won’t be buying anything.

    Actually, paying off debt and/or investing both stimulate the economy as both free up money to lend. The best way to use this amount of money(for the government ) would be to give it to the poorest people as it would instantly be spent.

    If one feels guilty spending it on oneself or saving it, give the money to a local charity.

    Whatever you do don’t spend a lot of time deliberating on it. It’s only a few hundred dollars anyway.

  82. I am not an American, so this is pretty much moot, but if I were… I’d use the money, first and foremost, towards paying off whatever debt I had. Getting out of debt is almost universally a good thing.

  83. Assuming I get a check, and judging by what usually happens when I get a tax refund, I’ll probably make one yarn purchase and one purchase that I’d have otherwise put off, and the rest will sit in my savings account until actually needed for an emergency. (Though this year I might buy a new dishwasher and some genuinely needed clothing rather than yarn & books/music/DVDs.)

    What I really need more than electronic toys or fashionable gizmos is *time*, a reliable stretch of two or more hours at least once a week at a time when I’m alert and not exhausted (i.e. not starting at 9pm), where I can work on a project without interruptions. Alas, that’s not something I can expect to get anytime soon.

  84. I have never, ever, ever, been in a position where I didn’t want more books. I think I am probably certifiably crazy on this particular point, given that I am unlikely to live long enough to read all of the books I already own and have a perfectly good public library available to me. They just make me insanely happy.

  85. man, I already have too much crap

    I had that thought for the first time in my life about a year after I broke the $100k-a-year income line. I suspect for many people it’s a marker of new-found prosperity.

    There are still things I can list as “wanting” in a vague sense, but they all cost upwards of a couple of grand, and when I consider buying them, the internal committee usually comes back with “yeah, I’d enjoy owning that, but for that kind of money? Nah.”

    The new aspirations are more situational — travel and real estate. From where I sit it looks like somebody would have to be pretty astonishingly super-rich to have the “no, thanks, I’ve already got one, it’s verrah nice” reaction to all the shineys on offer in those categories.

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