Saturday, 21 May 2011

Shopping - then and now

Yesterday's trip into town set me off thinking about how much shopping and our spending habits have changed.

When I was a teenager we had little money.  Although we had enough for the basics in life and we were certainly well fed, always warm, decently clothed and had enough left over for a holiday every summer, we didn't have loads of surplus money.  We didn't have enough excess cash so that we could afford to go into town every Saturday and amuse ourselves trawling round the shops seeing what we could spend it on.  More importantly, there was no such thing as a credit card.  Our family was never in debt, and we saved up for big purchases. Not that I can remember there being many of them, as  household items weren't replaced until they had worn out . I was sleeping on a wartime utility bed over 30 years after the war had ended!

Most families lived like this and we certainly never felt poor or deprived.  We just knew as children that there was a finite amount of money and if mum said there wasn't enough for something we wanted then that was it.  Saturday afternoons were spent shopping for the necessities, in individual shops rather than the supermarket, then often a visit to my aunties house for tea.

Shops at the time reflected the lack of disposable income people had.  New and different stock did not arrive weekly, instead it changed by season.  You could go into a clothes shop, spot something you wanted, and know they would would still be stocking it in several weeks time, so you had time to save up for it.

These days, because people shop every week, the stock needs to reflect this.  If you see something you like you better buy it now because chances are it'll be gone and replaced by something else next week!  It's a  very clever marketing trick by retailers.  Create a sense of urgency. Magazines have been created which seem to exist purely to encourage constant spending on material goods.  All those monthly 'homes' magazines and 'celebrity' weeklies, fostering the idea of a lifestyle which we must all attain  - constantly buying, throwing away and renewing  our clothes and household goods.  How can this ever make anyone truly happy?  As I've said before, going down this path means you can't possibly be satisfied because there's always something new you must have.

I know it sounds a cliche, but life was simpler in the past, and so were our needs. And this, I suppose, is what I'm trying to get back to.  Material goods aren't important, it's things such as family, friends and leisure time that bring true happiness.

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