The Need to consume

Over a year ago, I dropped off Nancy at school and was driving home when George asked to go to the supermarket. George was two years old and an avid supermarket fan. I'm not exactly sure why. Maybe it's the fun trolley ride or putting a coin into the cancer kid's money spinner. Whatever the reason, his day was (and still is) made when we have a supermarket visit.
I was about to say that we didn't need to go today, when I remembered that I had been wanting some tomato chutney for my boiled eggs. Maybe we could stop in and grab it quickly. I'd also grab some more milk because we were almost out. I didn't even have to use my card! I was confident I had enough in spare change to pay for those two items.

40 minutes later I was driving home with two full shopping bags, a new kettle, and $90 less in my bank account, when it occurred to me what I had just done. I felt pretty stupid. I'm generally really good at passing by things I don't need. I usually stick to my list. But not that day. True, I could give a reason for every purchase on my receipt. Those radishes were on clearance and I have them almost every day with lunch. We've been without a kettle for a year and even though we'd been making do I had just picked up some new flavoured herbal tea that I'd like to try (I rarely drink herbal tea) so maybe I should just get a kettle now too. Some more meat to stock up the freezer so I wont have to buy any next supermarket visit (???), and strawberries and grapes because they're also on sale.

Fortunately, I did use everything I had bought. No waste, so no harm done, right? Yet for the next few hours I couldn't stop thinking about all the other things that $90 could have been used for. I could have purchased some more enamel dinner plates that I've been wanting for over a year. Or a couple of how-to books. It could have gone towards some much needed new bedlinen that is always so expensive. My family could have gone out for a nice dinner.

It's no secret that supermarkets and retail stores use marketing to promote their products. It makes sense, of course. If you want to sell something, you do what you can to get people to buy. But the way supermarkets have it is like a fine art. We're conditioned pretty well to purchase when there is something on sale and to buy more than what we intended. If I don't enter the supermarket with a firm, conscious decision to only buy what's on my list, I will always spend more then I intended on stuff that I will use but almost always don't need.

So next time George asks to go to the supermarket, I think I'll suggest the park instead.

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