what would I buy today… if I could? [day 218]

  • Some setting materials for the pile of slate in my driveway.  I can make two countertops and finish my patio.
  • Some gray paint.
  • Caulk and wood filler.  (I got liquid nails for Christmas!!  Thanks Lloyd and Susan!)
  • A modern bathroom light fixture.

I guess I would only be buying stuff to repair and finish my house.  Nothing big.  The big stuff, I try to find used, like the modern light fixture.  Impossible to find used, even on eBay.  The couple I found were WAY expensive.  Overall, my shopping habits have changed.  It’s much easier to live with my means and to be able to help others that don’t have enough “means” to cover the basic necessities.

sometimes I want to shop [day 217]

Sometimes I have a desire to shop.  Not because I need anything, but because I just feel like it.  Maybe it’s because I was raised that way or because it’s the cultural norm, or maybe because it’s human nature.  I don’t know exactly.

I still shop on eBay and craigslist, only for used stuff though, as these online sites are inundated with new stuff.   These sites started as a place to sell used things, but retailers quickly caught on to the extra venue to sell things inexpensively, and to a wide audience.  That’s not bad, but it does make shopping for used things a little more challenging.

This desire irritates me.  I don’t like it.  I do, on occasion, give into it.  I go shopping at the thrift store or poke around on craigslist.  I don’t buy much on craigslist, mostly because I don’t need anything.  I do buy things at the thrift store, but even there my shopping habits have changed.  I don’t make impulse buys anymore, I don’t buy stuff just because it’s inexpensive and I don’t buy things unless I have an immediate purpose for it.  My garage is still filled with “things I’m going to alter”, much of it that I’ve had for years.

Maybe if I can figure out this desire to want something new, or something I don’t have, then I can combat it.  I have some ideas…

a year in pictures [day 216]

Honestly, some of these might be more than a year old, but they’re all the same, year after year… lots of stuff.  Most of these were taken in abandoned places, houses, farms, buildings, vehicles, you name it.  No matter where I go with my camera, I always find lots of stuff to shoot.  There’s something about each place that intrigues me, saddens me, excites me and disappoints me.  Take a look.

my kids are okay with it [day 215]

Here’s the answer to the big question, “Were your kids okay with this no retail shopping Christmas?

Yes.

I’m very proud of them.  I’m imposing some of my challenge on them, but just by the stuff I get for them.  They both work for their allowance and they are allowed to spend it retail if they choose to.  My 11 year old could care less about money or buying anything.  My 10 year old, who likes money and shopping, has had $150 in his wallet for over 2 months now.  He’s had several opportunities to spend it, and has not.

When it came to Christmas, my kids didn’t really want much.  As a matter of fact, I got a text from their dad saying he had no idea what to get them for Christmas, as every time he asked, they didn’t really give him an answer.  The one thing they both showed an interest in was an iPad.  After ignoring that for the first 20 times they said it, I thought about it.  I told them they would have to share it, but I would put some money toward it if their dad and grandma would too.  Grandma agreed, dad did not.  It was a bit of a relief, as I really didn’t want to give them a lot of money.  It would be better than them having a bunch of small stuff that will be used for about a week, then end up at the thrift store.  Anyway, no iPad in the Wissing house.

So what did my kids want?  Books.  The Bones series and some of the Pokemon series.  We shopped together on amazon.com and got everything they wanted… used.  I got a book too, Journal Junkies.  I also got them each a gift card from Gamestop, as they have used games, fitting that into my no retail plan.

When they came home from their dad’s house, where they didn’t get anything extravagant for Christmas, they were excited to come home and have Christmas at our house.  Driving home, I was thinking how disappointed they’ll be, as their friends got electronics and lots of toys, and all they’ll get is some books.  I didn’t even wrap anything, the mailer envelopes under the tree, displaying my lack of Christmas consumerism.  We got home, they opened their gifts, and guess what?  They were happy.  They spent the next hour reading, and it would have been longer if I hadn’t made them go to bed.

I don’t know if what I’m doing is good for them, but I’m doing it for the right reasons and I’m sensitive to their reactions to it.  I’m not sure what I would have done if they were disappointed, but I know I would have tried something to make it good, yet still doing what I feel is the right thing.  After seeing from my mom right before Christmas, and hearing how “ridiculous” I am for the no retail shopping challenge and for recycling, because after I’m gone, nobody will care and there won’t be any less trash in the world, I felt okay.  I’m encouraging my kids and I’m not shoving this down their throats.  Christmas will never be good for me, but hopefully it won’t be bad for my children.

the story of stuff [day 214]

I have an idea.  I know, no surprise…

I stumbled upon this little video called The Story of Stuff.  It’s a little over 20 minutes long, but I watched the whole thing.  Before I get into the details here, take a look if you haven’t seen it.  If you don’t have time to watch the whole thing, skip around and take a quick look.

Although I like the overall message, I was questioning the statistics as I was watching it.  The presentation is awesome, the content easy to follow.  Again, the overall message here is a good one, but I have a few things to discuss and challenge.

The big picture of stuff. The message here is that we, as Americans, are abusing our planet, taking advantage of the disadvantaged and that we have all fallen victim to materialism.  On many levels, this is true, but some of the statistics seemed a little off to me.  After a bit of research on this video, I found they are using it in schools to teach children about materialism and “stuff”.  I’m not opposed to that at all, but this video is not just creating awareness, it’s trying to impose a guilt trip, and as Fox News stated, “Other critics have called it a “firehose of paranoia” meant to scare children into becoming environmental activists. They say the video romanticizes poverty in its attack on industrial nations and corporations.

I hope we’re teaching our kids to watch something like this and process it in a healthy way, as they should do with everything.  My kids question things, think about everything they take in, and sometimes have a viewpoint that even I haven’t thought of.  This video’s overall message is a good one, and unfortunately, it does paint an accurate “big picture” of our wasteful society.  The reason I say that, is because this video could be remade without all the statistics, showing both sides of the message about consumerism.  That’s a hint for my idea…   Continue reading

A post Christmas story of be longing [flashback]

This was written 4 days after Christmas last year on my blog iembracechaos.com.

What is out of the ordinary?  Choosing to help others and live differently in a way that changes life as we know it.  My kids really didn’t seem all that bothered by the lack of gifts they got from me.   They still received the mandatory 27+ gifts from my mother, gifts they will never give a second thought to once they are put away.  They were both on board with the plan of donating money to their favorite charities, but I just wasn’t so sure come Christmas, they would still feel that way.  I was pleasantly surprised.  Christmas evening, after the kids came home, we rented a few movies and enjoyed some time together.  After all, I had not seen them for almost a week.

Yesterday we ventured into the stores, only for the purpose of grocery shopping and finding a small rug for my closet floor.  No store was exempt from the typical long return lines and post-holiday sale events.  Seriously, I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

I decided yesterday to clean out my closet and get rid of the mountain of unused linens.  Why do I feel the need to hang on to stuff that I will never use again?  I made the compulsory closet purge, filled up the Infiniti sleigh and headed for the thrift store.

After unloading our surplus of worldly possessions, we went treasure hunting.  No, not shopping, treasure hunting.  Shopping is buying overpriced new ‘goods’ at large chain stores.  Treasure hunting is finding something special, previously owned by someone else at a price that doesn’t break the bank.  My kids quickly made their way to the toy section, disappointed that it was mostly baby toys.  I headed for the crowded book area, my kids not far behind.

I found a Man Ray photography book for 50 cents, which in the bookstore, was probably closer to $50.  Man Ray is one of my photography inspirations, mostly for photograms.  My photogram ‘Coffee Addict’ is one of my favorites… not that I have coffee issues or anything like that.

Cole found a Star Wars picture book, which he kept directly in front of his face in the entire time we were there, miraculously not walking into anyone or anything.

As we were making our way toward the front of the store, I stopped to see if there were any jeans or sweatshirts for the boys.  I guess everyone has been doing their Christmas purge, as the racks had three times the amount they usually do.  I found this t-shirt that pretty much sums up what society is teaching our kids.  “WARNING: allergic to lame gifts.”  I wanted to buy the shirt just so I could destroy it and take it out of the clothing circulation.  I would have saved the small candy cane skull icon though, as it seems appropriate to use as a symbol of our cultural Christmas consumerism.   Continue reading

shopaholics are cute :) [day 213]

I had to go to the grocery store for a couple of things, and as I was walking through the store, I found something that seemed a little off.  Shopaholic wine glasses.  Cute, right?  Not so much.  The definition of a shopaholic is “a compulsive shopper“, also known as “compulsive shopping disorder“.  A person with CSD will buy things they don’t need, cannot pass up a deal on anything and will go into debt to support their habit.  How is it that we think this is cute and should be announced to everyone?

Would we give an alcoholic friend a shopping bag saying they’re an alcoholic?  Cute gift?  I’m pretty sure that would be a disaster.

Too much of anything, even good things, is bad.  Addictions are serious business.  There are intervention programs, rehabilitation programs and usually some life adjustments to prevent relapse.  So why is it that shopping addictions are socially acceptable and encouraged, while drug addicts, sex addicts, gambling addicts and pretty much all other addicts are supposed to kick their addiction?

This makes no sense to me.  Shopping is legal, where drugs are not.  But then again alcohol is legal.  No theory there.  Shopping supports the economy, so maybe that’s why this is okay.  If your addiction gets you in big time debt, just file bankruptcy.  It screws up your credit, but at least you don’t have to pay for most it.  Seriously?  I have a problem with this.  I’ve had debt, and I paid it all off.  I don’t do that anymore.

Shopping will give you a temporary high, just like most other addictions, but with long term affects if you really have a shopping addiction.  Shopping is not bad, but if you or  a friend have a shopping problem, don’t make fun of it, do something about it.  Happiness is not found in the bottom of a bag anymore than in the bottom of a bottle.

returns [day 212]

It’s the day after Christmas, the day where everyone returns the gifts they don’t want.  I gave myself a Christmas gift yesterday, and that gift was to take a day off of blogging.  I’m a couple of days behind and will get caught up.

I did go dumpster diving on Christmas day.  It was way too cold to be doing this, so I only hit a couple of them, but I did find some interesting things.  I found one full of books, CD’s and DVD’s.  The sad part about it, is that most of this could have been placed in a recycling bin, not a trash bin.

At least if I don’t like the stuff, it’s easy to return.  :)  The fact that return lines are longer than purchasing lines, the day after Christmas, supports the theory that not only do people not need all this stuff, they don’t want most of it either.  I guess I should go diving in residential trash bins, although I hope the unwanted things make it to a thrift store.

twas the night before Christmas… the culturally correct version [day 211]

Let me me be perfectly honest here.  I really hate holidays.  And, I’m an equal opportunity holiday hater, I don’t like any of them.  I love Christmas, that is the true meaning of Christmas, but I hate the cultural crap that comes along with it.  I just want to skip all this and move on to the new year.  I don’t want to spend a bunch of money I don’t have, I don’t want to eat a bunch of sweets, I don’t want to do the holiday dog and pony show, I don’t want to go to holiday parties alone, I don’t want to go to them with a spouse I don’t have, I do not like it in a box, I do not like it with a fox. I do not like green trees, this sham or culture’s Christmas, mad I am.

Some people think the Grinch stole Christmas, nobody cared, so he gave it back and everyone lived happily ever after.  That’s the fictional version of the story, because you and I know darn well, that if someone stole all of the things in our house and all the gifts from under the tree, we would not all be in the street holding hands and singing.   The story would be a little different…  Here it is, in the form of “Twas the night before Christmas.” Enjoy…

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the town

Many creatures were stirring, using credit around;

The plasma tv was unloaded with care,

In hopes that the credit bill was lost in the mail;

My kids wanting toys, finances in red,

While visions of electronics danced in their heads;

Me on my laptop, looking for deals,

Wondering where I will get the next meal;  Continue reading

the most referred to blog post… [flashback]

This is a blog post I did in October of 2008 on iembracechaos.com, and the one post I send people to most frequently.

is it coffee or an investment?

Anyone that knows me well, knows that I cannot live without my latte machine.  It’s a Pasquini machine, basically a smaller version of the ones in the trendy coffee shops.

This is a pricey machine, but after doing a cost analysis on how much I was spending at Starbucks, Seattle’s Best, Caribu Coffee and many other coffee addict hangouts, I decided it was time to make a purchase.  (Yes, I did the cost analysis, I used to be a financial analyst)  Being the thrifty person I am, I had to price shop it to death.

The best place to buy beans, is also the best place to buy a machine. wholelattelove.com I bought this machine about 4 years ago.  It retailed then for $1700.  Again, being “one of those people” who will not pay full price, I bought it refurbished from whole latte love through eBay for $1300.  Yes!!!  A great deal.   Continue reading