Monday, November 17, 2008

Shopping in a Depressed Economy

The economy is depressed. It's been running around in sweats, leaving the house without socks on, sleeping a lot, and eating ice cream strait out of the carton--no scratch that, ice cream is too expensive.

Shopping in a depressed economy is stressful. I am by nature a frugal shopper. I will often go without or make due with what I have. I don't as a practice buy name brand groceries, and I improvise a lot. This I know has not been the norm in recent years. Most recently, we were encouraged to spend, consume, gratify, pamper, and spoil. But that binge is over and now we have an economic hangover. The American public is hugging the toilet, hurling with much regret and even remorse that we thought living beyond our means was sustainable.

So now we need to transition from that destructive practice and I've seen a palpable change in the market place. The spell is broken and suddenly people are beginning to think in terms of what they need as opposed to what they want. I've seen it in the grocery line most.

I do the bulk of my shopping at a grocery close-out store, where there aren't tabloid headlines to entertain me as I wait in line. So I've become a grocery voyeur. I'm always interested in what other people buy. I've noticed that like me, people are buying more ingredients than prepared food and more staples like potatoes and rice than snacks like chips and cookies. And everyone has a new look of stress. Not the kind of stress that comes from being over committed in social activities, but the kind of stress that comes from fear. People are genuinely scared, despite our recent election of Hope. It's the kind of fear from the realization that maybe we got carried away, and maybe some of us knew better.

There's a point when drinking alcohol between tipsy and drunk, where if you stop right there, and start drinking water, you wont have a hangover, and probably wont embarrass yourself. I think this is what could be called drinking in moderation. And it's this same point that we need to learn to recognize to avoid future economic hangovers. Yes, now, people will be forced to spend less because of the lack of availability of credit, but the important thing is to realize where excess begins.

Maybe this is just a cycle that we have to go through, but I actually hope that some of us not only learn this lesson, but pass it along.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Stay away from Costco. 400-pound people buying corndogs and frozen pastries by the pallet-full.