“If we skipped Thanksgiving dinner to wait in line,” Matt’s dad said, leafing through circulars before the big meal, “we can get a free door prize worth up to $100, like a grill or some camping equipment.”
This was not a thing I wanted to do, but I tried to keep an open mind. “Do you want any of those door prizes so badly that you’d pay full price for them?” I said.
“No,” he said quickly, his tone implying otherwise would be the height of stupidity.
“Then why take it for free? If you don’t want it enough to buy it, you obviously don’t really want it.”
“Because I could get it for free then sell it for half price on ebay,” he said, sipping his Starbucks.
I nodded. “I could just pay you $50 to stand in line all day and miss Thanksgiving dinner…”
“You’re right,” he laughed. “It’s not worth it.”
I have nightmares about it.
The crowds overwhelm me.
So many people, so many of them angry.
I stand no chance against them and have no right to be there.
And that’s just going to the grocery store on an idle Wednesday in July.
Obviously, I don’t shop the Black Friday sales.
In fact, I avoid the mall and the big box stores throughout the Christmas shopping season.
I continue to avoid them in January, when the stores are filled with people returning the things other people painstakingly bought for them in December.
I may not set foot in a store again until February. Or maybe March. Or maybe never.
I don't understand Black Friday because I have a bit of a spending problem.
Not the kind of spending problem where I buy things on credit and swim in a mire of debt.
I literally have a problem putting myself in situations where money will be spent.
When I was a child we didn’t have a lot of money. The rest of my family enjoyed window shopping: they could spend hours at the mall without buying anything. For me, it was torture. I developed this philosophy that if I never go to the store, I’ll never see anything new. If I never see it, I’ll never want it. It was the perfect defense against feelings of poverty and lack.
I built up defenses against spending so thick that even now, years later, I have trouble convincing myself to go to the grocery store for life-sustaining food. Unnecessary expenses like clothes and electronics require a heavenly chorus and a sign from God before they even rate consideration.
Besides, stores are busy, scary places, full of overwhelming choices that make me feel tiny and alone in a vast and infinite universe.
So I don’t go shopping.
Or is it a budgeting system brilliant in its simplicity?
It’s not that I don’t have wants. It’s just that I can never justify them if I’m being totally honest with myself.
Say I decide I want new yoga pants.
I won’t go to the store just for yoga pants; I’ll wait until I have a list of multiple wants.
But by the time I think of something else I want, perhaps a movie I like that I want to get on DVD, well, by then, the yoga pants thing is soooo two months ago! Why, I’ve been making do with one pair all this time and we’re quite happy together. I’ve only just washed it to the desired level of softness, you know! Why get another pair?
So forget the yoga pants. But I won’t go to the store just for that DVD, so then I have to wait until I want something else.
Except I could just get the DVD from the library, so maybe I don’t need anything from the store after all.
By the time I actually make it to the store, for anything, it’s not about the money anymore. Whatever it is that I want will have been wanted for so long, price is no longer an issue. There will be research beforehand. Circulars will be consulted. Reviews will be read. The yoga pants I eventually pick up may be expensive and they may not be on sale, but I will be so focused on finding the perfect pair of yoga pants that I won’t see anything else in the store.
I will wait at the door for the store to open in the morning and I will run directly toward my prize, trampling any hapless shoppers who get in my way.