Can’t tell you exactly when, last year, the penny finally dropped. It doesn’t matter anyway. What’s interesting is, the subject seems to be on the minds of a lot of folks. Not surprising really, considering the state of the economy. But what is surprising is, we all seem to have caught on, at the same time.
You’re probably sitting there, shaking your head, saying to yourselves, “What the hell is she talking about?”
Am I right?
Well, there’s been endless talk about debt lately. Global debt. America’s debt. Canada’s debt. The European debt. But no one is really talking about our individual debt. And because every where I turn, everyone seems to be talking about the changes they’re making, how they’re cutting back, I’m thinking this is a good time to share my eureka moment.
Luckily for those of us living in Canada, our economy during the last several years, has been much better than most of the world’s. As a result, while we may have been a bit more ‘prudent’, we’ve never really stopped shopping. For homes, cars, clothing, furniture, electronics, vacations, you name it.
Suddenly there seems to be a shift.
Last week I was out with a friend. In passing, she mentioned one of our major department stores, The Bay (same owners as Lord & Taylor), was having a huge sale. As in 60 and 70 per cent reductions. Across the board, not just on a few select items, here and there. “Figure out if there’s anything you need”, she said. “Now’s the time to get it”.
I looked at her, and without even thinking about it, I said: “Nah, there’s really nothing.” And right then and there it hit me. I realized, when we say we need something, what we mean is, we want it. Maybe not all the time, but more often than not. Certainly in my case.
Sure, I could have bought some jeans. I’d like another pair of jeans. I might have bought a sweater or two. I’m bored with mine. I could have looked at the sheets. It’s always nice to have a nice, fresh set. It’s been a while since I bought new ones. I came across a great recipe for smoothies, just the other day. I suppose I could have bought a blender. I could use it for other stuff, too.
But, did I need any of it? No. Not even one item.
I’ll bet you anything, a couple of months ago I would have gone anyway. I would have thanked her for telling me, and I would have told her I needed a pair of jeans, a sweater and maybe, the blender. And off I would have gone. Never thinking even 70% off something I didn’t need, is still too much money. Because I didn’t need it.
What I finally realized is, there’s a difference. A difference between ‘wanting’ and ‘needing’.
Yesterday morning I had a client meeting. He was on the phone when I arrived, so I was sitting and chatting with a gal who works for him. What were the first words out of her mouth? How she’d bought a pair of boots, took them home, thought about it, decided they were too expensive and returned them. She said she realized she hadn’t really needed them. Which is why she decided they cost too much. Right after Boxing Day she happened to be near the same store. She went in, out of curiosity, just to browse; and she saw the boots, reduced by 50%. It was an incredible deal and she bought them.
She’ll have them for at least a couple of years, maybe more. At the price she paid, I would have bought them too. In this part of the world we always need boots.
At the end of my meeting with the client he started telling me about a book he’s been reading. About a particular chapter. And the next thing I know, he’s going off on a tangent, explaining how we have to learn the difference between ‘want’ and ‘need’; and how, as a society, we have to stop going into debt, simply because we want too much of what we don’t need. How we don’t know how to say “no” to ourselves. Can you believe that? I couldn’t.
All I could do was stare at him.
Three virtually identical conversations, with three totally different people, in the space of a week. Conversations I hadn’t started. Or at least two of them weren’t. Of course, the downside of this epiphany I had is what followed closely on its heels. The inevitable adding up of all the money I’ve spent on things I needed, like a hole in my head. It was the obvious thing to do. Wasn’t it?
So now I’ve made myself sick. Nauseous, in fact. I need a Gravol.