The Cost of Consumerism

I am writing this column a few weeks before our family trip to Montreal. Lately, I have been reminiscing about my late teens and early twenties since I will be seeing some of my girlfriends during this visit.

This reminiscing made me think of my first significant purchase in the late eighties, a pair of Vuarnet sunglasses. They were a $100 and my father asked if I had realized that I had worked 22 hours to pay for these (the minimum wage in Quebec was $4.55 back then). I still have them but unfortunately they haven’t come back in style like the Ray Ban Wayfarer’s I bought in 1995, which I also kept and have been wearing again!

How often do we take into consideration the hours we will need or have had to work when making a purchase? Or has it completely escaped our mind? I think a lot of us may have forgotten to do so during the years of excessive consumerism leading up to the recession, and have had a hard time shaking the habit.

Also recently, I was sitting in our basement surrounded by the numerous toys and clothes that our daughters have outgrown. It made me realize that there was a lot of money surrounding me, meaning a lot of hours worked by our very generous family and friends. These items of course have been enjoyed by the girls over the years, but can also lead to a lot of frustration as “guess who” gets to put them away - often. I have also been frustrated when sitting at my desk only to find that my printer is out of paper and my post-it notes, high-lighters, pens, tapes and paper clips have disappeared. However, I have found beautiful drawings on my desk and have been adorned with necklaces and bracelets made out of the missing items from my desk. All this to realize children do not need so many toys, they are so creative that they can make their own with whatever they have.

The same goes for adults. Consumerism has taught us to want the new, easily tiring from items we have purchased just a year prior. These items have cluttered our lives and depleted our wallets, and it’s more important than ever to be an aware consumer, perhaps taking into consideration the hours you would have to work for an item before purchasing.

I personally am going to make the time to organize toys, outgrown clothes and gear and bring them to the consignment stores in town or post them for sale on-line, allocating the proceeds towards previously loved gear or new gear for the upcoming ski season. We are so fortunate to live in a town that has consignment stores for sporting equipment and clothing, holds annual bike and ski swaps, and has great websites we can utilize. Let’s take advantage of these resources and save and use our money for better things than consumerism.