Thoughts on a trip to the mall

It’s a rare occurrence when I visit one of the local shopping malls that I come home empty-handed. In fact, when I do leave without purchasing anything I feel rather virtuous and self-satisfied having once again narrowly escaped the sirens’ call. Giant, shiny shopping malls that sprang up in the suburbs across the country in the last few decades are modern cathedrals—a holy gathering place where humble worshipers go to deify the goddesses of consumerism. The bright window displays of the latest fashions draw us in and tempt us to lay down our souls and over-loaded credit cards in the name of instant gratification. How many times have we gone out to purchase a single needed item like a new pair of winter boots only to leave with multiple bags of not needed and not appreciated extra items of clothing, jewelry or skin care products?

The curse of consumerism hasn’t escaped me. If I’d purchased fewer pairs of shoes and purses during my working years and been less concerned about strutting out in the latest disposable fashions, I’d have a lot more money in my RRSP to draw from now. But, that’s all past history. The important thing is I learned something and that lesson affects my behaviour today. If I could give young people a word of advice it would be financial freedom = overall freedom. Save for the future.

A lot of my boomer friends reached a plateau around mid-life. Many of us had been at jobs that were unsatisfying or highly stressful and wanted to consider other ways to spend the rest of our days. We wanted options. That’s not possible when you’re broke, have crushing mortgage payments or onerous consumer debt. By middle-age things should be getting easier but because of profligate spending in our glory years we were chained to our weekly paycheque.

Now that I’m retired I’m free to do what I please. Doing what we like doesn’t have to be expensive. It can mean having the time to ride our bikes on a beautiful day, visit friends during the week for a cup of tea and a chat, even during the day which is so lovely. There are so many little benefits that come with retirement but let’s face it, retirement is that much more fun and satisfying when we can scrape together enough toonies and loonies every year to indulge our hobbies, take a vacation or splurge on a golf or tennis club membership. If we’re creative types, we need money to purchase canvases, paints, craft supplies, or a little fishing boat or RV if we’re outdoorsy. During our retirement years the one thing we all have is common is we have to watch our spending habits. Some may continue doing part-time or volunteer work after retirement. The beauty of it all is now we have options.

Seniors have made a science out of pinching pennies—although now that Canada has discontinued the use of pennies, I guess I should say pinching loonies. Not only does it give us an intellectual challenge, it helps ensure we’re going to be able to finance a comfortable lifestyle for as many years as possible. There is no way in the world I need another pair of shoes. I have more than enough of everything but going to the mall to get my hair done on a quiet Tuesday morning still requires a hefty dose of discipline to not pick up that cute pair I saw on sale in Ron White’s window. The best way I’ve found to keep myself in check is to not visit the mall unless absolutely necessary. When I see a gorgeous white blouse at Hudson’s Bay on sale, I remind myself I already have too many white blouses hanging in my closet that are barely worn. Although I admit, I feel somewhat vindicated when I think about a mother I saw interviewed on Oprah once who confessed to owning ninety-three (93) pairs of jeans—and her five children didn’t have health insurance. I’m not that bad!

Then there’s the online shopping issue and it’s not to be underestimated. And, as we get older and less inclined to get out and drive to the mall or local store, we’ll be increasing our use of online shopping. It is convenient and allows us to price shop from our livingroom LaZgirl. But we have to watch those sneaky advertisers. Once we purchase an item online, we’ll be forever bombarded with ads for the same or similar items available from different retailers making it sometimes too easy to click “Purchase”.

It’s all so seductive.

I have more success with staying away from the mall altogether and constant vigilance is necessary. Who isn’t a sucker for a good sale, especially when it’s a brand we favour? They’re always trying to outsmart us. Many large retailers are closing bricks and mortar stores in favour of fewer outlets and expanding the online experience. I wonder what shopping will look like in a couple of decades. Considering all the changes that have taken place in the last few years, it’s hard to imagine what things will look like when drone delivery and digital technology amps up further.

Even the grocery store can be seductive these days with their Joe Fresh clothing line and too many tempting edible treats that should never land in my grocery cart but somehow do. But the biggest culprit is still THE MALL. Breathing that hallowed air with sunshine streaming in through strategically placed skylights, wearing my most comfortable and stylish ‘shopping’ shoes, it’s far too easy to succumb to temptation. Just like losing that last 10 or 15 lbs., it’s all up hill and takes a lot of discipline. Sometimes it helps to remind myself how lucky I am to have such first world problems and nothing exemplifies this better than a trip to the mall.




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