One of the issues I’m learning to deal with in retirement is the switch from a monthly paycheck to a smaller pension. It’s a tradeoff I’m pleased with overall: less money for more time. We have enough savings to cover our needs, and even our wants, if we’re wise about our spending. But I now have to think more carefully about my purchases, rather than just mindlessly buying stuff because I can. If I were to blow a few hundred dollars on clothing I want but don’t need, for example, then I wouldn’t be able to afford a trip or a concert—which I really prefer to more clothing.
I think that this sort of prioritizing is good for me. Rather than just buying stuff willy-nilly in an effort to entertain myself and polish up my self-esteem, I’m forced to consider which things and experiences will give me the most satisfaction. This kind of self-knowledge makes me a happier person.
And I really think that “retail therapy” is bad—for the planet, for the closet, and for the spirit. I know that buying crap helps the economy, but perhaps an economy based on buying crap we don’t need is an economy that needs to change.
In retirement, I’m becoming a careful, mindful consumer. In fact, I don’t like being called a consumer. Is that my function: to buy stuff? I like to think I contribute more important things than spending. And, now that I have more time at my computer, I’m bugged more and more by the unrelenting wheedling of online marketers. Wasn’t the internet supposed to be about the free exchange of ideas?
Sure, I get it—everyone’s got to make a living. If a local plumber wants to drop a flier in my mailbox, that’s fine. I may actually need his services someday. If that flier arrives in electronic form, that’s OK too. And I enjoy hearing about local events I might want to attend: concerts, festivals and the like. What makes me sad, and a bit nauseated, are the unrelenting online pitches I must climb over to get to the information I’m looking for. So often I click on what appears to be an interesting article or video, only to find a sleazy sales pitch for an overpriced webinar, conference call, newsletter, or some sort of “amazing, life-changing experience” that I can have for the low, low price of $299.
How could any two-hour video be worth $299? There are many fine self-help books out there, and if a favorite blogger or columnist takes the time to edit and organize her best work into a book, I’ll probably buy it. I’ve bought indie-published books and e-books on fashion, healthy eating, writing advice (most not worth the money, alas), and organizing. What they all have in common is a reasonable value-to-price ratio. And the bloggers/authors offered plenty of free samples of their work before pitching their books—not just a long, tedious sales pitch promising to “revolutionize” my fitness/writing/health/closet…whatever.
But a conference call, video or audio recording for hundreds of dollars? Perhaps if Sue Grafton or J.A. Jance want to offer me an hour of their time to talk about my novel in progress. Otherwise, that seems ridiculously overpriced, and brazenly greedy.
An example: I enjoy weight training, and I’m interested in expert advice to help me get stronger and fitter without hurting myself. There’s not that much out there geared toward the needs of healthy older women who want to improve their fitness, but aren’t starting from zero. I tend to see the same basic advice over and over again, whether online or in print. Recently, I clicked on a website that looked promising, but what I got was a series of slickly-produced short videos and an ensuing barrage of emails, all designed to sell me an overpriced series of instructional videos. And you know—if she’d offered a book or a reasonably-priced video, I’d probably have bought it. But I can go to a bookshop or a sports shop and purchase those items for $30 or less, not the $300 she’s demanding.
Who buys these overpriced webinars and recorded “lessons”? As for me, I’ll take my cheap self to the library. If I really like your work, I may buy a copy of your book or video. But for $300, I expect something worth the effort it took me to earn that sum: say, a weekend at the beach, with live music and a few marvelous meals—so much more fulfilling than sitting at my computer, watching some “life-changing” video. Meh.