Thursday, October 28, 2010

Buying CRAP - Just Stop Doing It!

Bed, Bath, and Beyond sells this useless Mouthwash Dispenser for $19.95.  That buys a lot of mouthwash.  Many Americans go broke with Credit Cards, buying this sort of trivial bullshit that is utterly unnecessary to living and moreover never works quite as advertised.  It take 20 pumps of the handle to dispense even a 1/8 cup of  mouthwash.  What was the point, again?

Debt!  It is like a cancer that slowly spreads over your life.  And yet many folks in America are heavily in debt, and they are not entirely sure why.  Yes, there are "big ticket" items like cars and toys that take up a lot of your money.  And over-paying for a house is another way to get heavily into debt.  And unexpected medical bills can sink anyone's finances in a hurry.

But many Americans get into debt over junk - small items purchased over time, and charged to a credit card.  $20 here, $50 there, it all adds up.  And restaurant meals and other entertainment purchases add to this debt.  Pretty soon, you are staring at thousands of dollars in credit card debt and you are not entirely sure how you got there.

The useless mouthwash dispenser shown above is a case in point.  My spouse decided to buy one of these - two actually.  The first one, of a different design, didn't quite work right.  It leaked mouthwash all over the place.  So, not taking the hint, he goes back to the well, thinking that if he spends MORE money, this time it will really work out all right.

But of course, the dispenser shown above doesn't work worth shit.  You pump and pump and pump, and tiny amounts of mouthwash come out of it, if any.  So you end up just taking a swig out of the bottle, like always, and this useless piece of counter-top cutter just gathers dust.  Meanwhile, it is $22.50 (with tax) added to your credit card debt and paid off over a period of years, with interest, coming to probably $30 when you're done with it.  And you know what? It will be in the trash before you're done paying for it.

Oh, but wait, you say, there was that $5 Bed, Bath, and Beyond coupon you used!  Nice try.  That sort of gimmick is for chumps.  The item above probably cost about $2 to make in China.  So even when "on sale" and with a $5 off coupon, you end up still paying a lot of money - and they end up making a lot of money.  It was no "bargain".

And even if it was, if it (a) doesn't work and (b) is not necessary to begin with, then was it really a bargain?  Even if it was 10 cents, it was still no bargain, as it was not necessary and it doesn't work!

This is an interesting case study, as it shows how "shopping" can be so damaging to your finances and how "coupons" and other deals which distract you from the real bargain determination, can end up causing you to not think clearly about the purchase.

What is the point of this purchase?  The idea was, in theory, to eliminate the "clutter" of having a mouthwash bottle on the bathroom sink.  Of course, one way to do this is to put it in the cabinet next to the sink.  Problem solved, net cost, zero.  Instead, we spend $20 to fix a "problem" that doesn't exist in the first place and end up with a useless piece of consumer Tchotchke that doesn't work worth shit.

If I sound angry, it is because I am.  We squander away a lifetime of wealth this way - spending, spending, and spending, on "things" that neither enhance our lives or make us happy.  And the only way out of this mess is to just cut it out, entirely.

And in some marriages, this sort of spending can be disastrous.  A spouse likes to "go shopping" looking for "bargains" to put on the credit card.   They are convinced they have gotten "bargains" because things were "on sale" or they "had a coupon" when in reality they are just spending, spending, spending, faster than they are making money.  Some wives spend all day doing this, riding their husband's into the ground like a cheap mule.

And when the husband complains about the bills that result, he is made to feel bad for not being a sufficient "breadwinner".  But maybe the reason they are broke is not that he isn't a sufficient "breadwinner" but that his wife just squandered $89.95 on an electric bread-maker. Marriages like that quickly become a "race to the bottom" as each spouse tries to outspend the other before the credit card is maxed out.

We are moving to a smaller home and downsizing, and it is great.  But part of the process is finding these embarrassing little mistakes, hiding in closets, pantrys, and cupboards.  Small purchases, which alone, are not enough to sink one financially, but taken together, end up costing you thousands and thousands of dollars in purchases, interest, and effort.  And things that were stuffed in boxes and closets, so they are no longer visible as painful reminders of bad purchasing decisions.

Less is more.  The material is mortal error.  Learn to make do with less.  Having the latest and greatest gadget is not going to make you happy - in fact, it will make you miserable in the long run.

I am tempted to throw away this stupid mouth wash dispenser.  But perhaps I should keep it - in some conspicuous and inconvenient place, as a constant reminder that consumer spending can ruin you, a nickel and dime at a time!

And I am only sorry we didn't save the packaging and receipt so we could TAKE IT BACK and get a refund.

If you find your spouse buying crap like this, take action, before your marriage is ruined.  Cut up the credit cards and put them on a budget.  If you see garbage like this being brought home in shopping bags, grab it and take it back the next day for a full refund.  You have to take action to save yourself, your finances, and your marriage.  If you don't, you will end up in a slow-motion form of financial death, bleeding every month in credit card debt, until one day you wake up broke, and wonder why it happened, and what happened to your marriage.

More than half of all marital troubles are related to finances.  Working TOGETHER on financial issues can be very rewarding.  But it requires that both of you confront these issues rather than shirk them.