“Conspicuous consumption is lavish spending on goods and services acquired mainly for the purpose of displaying income or wealth. In the mind of a conspicuous consumer, such display serves as a means of attaining or maintaining social status.”
There is no doubt we could add meta meanings upon meta meanings to further define this social phenomenon. We could sip lattes or a fine Merlot and hyper-intellectualize this subject until we are personally drunk and awe-struck by our magnificent conclusions. For the sake of brevity in a blog post, let’s just keep it short and use the above definition.
There have been times when people challenge that I’m just acting out conspicuous consumption in the reuse market. My answer? No.
Comments have appeared in past posts that I often cite brand names like Banana Republic, Pottery Barn, Tiffanies, Coach, Anthropologie, Nordstrom, etc. Guilty as charged.
Here’s the catch, I don’t reference brand names to snob out. I don’t look down my nose. When I do, I’m cross-eyed and that gives me a headache. Any more, a name brand does not often represent quality, merely a name and – often times - a higher price point.
My point is that while the majority of Americans go to malls and buy such brands, I shop in thrift stores and buy the same, often with tags still dangling, for about 5% of the conventional retail price.
Why can I do this? Many reasons. I’d wager retail therapy is probably the biggest. If retail therapy really worked, I imagine our nations major thrift retailers wouldn’t be so well stocked – at least like they are in Denver.
Still don’t believe that I’m not a conspicuous consumption junkie? Our TV is thrift and it does not have any form of cable. Nor do we have a Wii or any other electronic games. We’re a modest one-car family of four in a 1,800 square foot home, which I consider ample.
I’m not going to keep up with The Jones’. I cannot afford to. Well, my credit limit will let me compete but – as I’ve written before – no lender is going to pull me down into so much debt I need a pressurized submarine. Besides, I don’t even know what The Jones’ have.
Yes, many of the items I purchase were made overseas. But, I’m saving them from a landfill and by extending the life of a sweater; a new one need not be produced to fill my need. I’d love it if more manufacturers came home, like if the idea behind the Locavore movement turned to dry goods. But, that’s going to take time and legislation – a lot of it. But, "There will be retail lobbyists"
I don’t scoff at people in shopping centers, though I am annoyed by how slow they walk, like they’re enjoying the retail sensory overload. I see them as potential converts and quietly wait for them to ask where I found my boots so I can say, “thrift”. I understand that many of these people have never considered thrift as an option. There’s no mass marketing campaign asking them to. We have recycle bins from our cities, we’re told to turn off lights and turn down thermostats, but there are few media outlets that even whisper, “try thrift”.
I love it when a person converts to thrift, finds a Flinch Point, has a little Retail Remorse, and earns a set of Snake Eyes.
If dropping name brands that can be found at thrift stores catch the attention of a few eyes and ears, I think it worth it.
Okay! Okay! Three weaknesses. Children’s books for my Legacy Library. Premium scented candles I buy on sale. I’ve a chronic fear that our home smells of cat litter thanks to our three cats. Vintage coats – but I put a stopper on that one years ago when I figured one for each day of the week was sufficient. Oddly enough, the purchase of all those coats combined doesn’t even compare to the cost of a new quality dress coat.
Truth be told, I’d love to live a home similar to The Burrow of the Weasley family from the Harry Potter series pictured below. Or how about Famer Hogget’s home in the movie Babe? If you like, click here for a brief tour of the Golightly home.