Aug 2, 2010
Good grief, it's August already! Yesterday we did something we haven't done in longer than I can remember - we went shopping! Ali loathes shopping, unless it's for hunting and fishing gear but even he had to admit he needed new clothes. We also have Liam's birthday coming up next week, so poor Liam had to stay at home while Ali, Alex and I enjoyed a fun day browsing the shops. Our destination was Hamilton and our first stop was the new shopping mall, Te Awa. This is a shiny new mall which has been built slap bang next to an already large existing complex, so now we have a massive 'shopping village' only half an hour away from us. The mall is only half finished but this didn't stop people coming in droves to check it out. The place was HEAVING! I'm such a cynical shopper these days and look at everyone else in dreadful disdain, silently saying to them 'Look here matey, let me tell you I'm only here because I have to be, there's plenty of other things I'd rather be doing. But what about you? What's your excuse? Why is everyone wasting this beautiful weather trailing round the shops? Look around you, it's a glorious day! Can you seriously not think of anything better to do?'
Whatever their reasons, the new shop owners would have been rubbing their hands with glee; in particular one called 'Parallel Imports', which sells all sorts of items such as mobile phones, cameras and perfumes at bargain prices. The place was so packed you literally couldn't move in there. I've no doubt it's a great place to pick up a bargain - but as the SS mantra goes 'It's only a bargain if you were ALWAYS going to buy it' and I couldn't help wondering to myself as people were parting with hundreds of dollars all around me, how many of them had actually planned to buy any of that stuff when they left the house that morning, let alone needed it. Told you I was a cynical shopper! Not everyone is happy about the new mall though - such as the retailers in the city centre. The new mall is on the outskirts of the city, meaning anyone north of Hamilton no longer even needs to enter the city to be able to get everything they want. Although it worked out very nicely for us because we actually had to go to the city centre and for the first time ever on a weekend, the car parks were almost empty as everyone was at the new mall! Still, if I was a shopkeeper in the city I'd be worried too; in particular as every store these days is a franchise. Almost every store in every mall is the same. Seems to me the only ones set to make money here are the actual brand owners. It's no wonder Hidden Gems are so hard to find these days!
Anyway, we were there to shop and shop we did. Have you noticed that stores seem to have permanent sales these days? Until a year or two ago, most stores would only hold a sale once or twice a year but not any more. Stock just isn't moving any more so they have to do whatever's necessary to get it out of the store. Wherever you go, everyone is trying to undercut everyone else, which worked out very well for young Master Ali. We often joke that his wallet must have moths in but they definitely flew out yesterday! He had a ball picking up his favourite brand shirts at ridiculous prices and saved himself $60 on a pair of new sports shoes. A man and his wife were standing in the queue behind us at the shoe store were most impressed to see Ali paying for his own shoes. 'I get more pocket money than my friends but I have to pay for EVERYTHING', he explained. 'I don't mind though! It saves Mum heaps 'cos me and my brother only buy what we need. I buy all my own clothes and stuff too' he said proudly. 'Wow, good for you!' the couple beamed at him. 'Wish we had done that with our kids years ago!' they rolled their eyes at each other. I have to admit, it's been one of the best SS tips we have ever implemented!
While Ali was on a clothes shopping mission, I was on the hunt for birthday presents for Liam. Liam's wishlist is simple. Basically it's the same every year!
Big bag of cashew nuts
Something for Hubble
Jerky, lots of beef jerky!
If only everyone was so easy to please! Still, we wanted to get him a couple of surprises and once again had great success shopping around, saving over $30 on one thing and a whopping $130 on another (obviously I can't say what they are in case he reads this before next Wednesday!) Alex picked up some great bargains too and the three of us were very pleased with our swag. 'Now it looks like we've been shopping!' grinned Alex as he surveyed all our bulging bags. By chance I spotted something else in a sports shop (sorry, can't tell you what it is!) and said 'Ooh, that's just what Liam wanted! I must get it for him'. Now this thing was pretty ordinary to be honest. It certainly wasn't expensive and in fact, I'd even go as far as to say it was even boring! But I knew it was something Liam really wanted and would appreciate so I grabbed it. 'Are you getting that, Miss?' came a voice from behind. I turned to see three boys about Ali's age. 'Those are really cool, I've used one and they're definitely the best', the same boy continued. 'Oh really? Thanks! That's good to know. I was going to get one for my son's birthday' I replied.
We continued to make smalltalk and as I went to pay for the unidentifiable object I was joined by Ali and Alex, clutching all our bags. The boys' eyes almost popped out of their heads. 'Jeez, are youse fullas rich or something?!' they asked. 'No!' I laughed. 'We're just shopping for clothes and a birthday present or two'. 'Woah! Look at their shoes!' they caught sight of what Ali and Alex had on their feet. 'Those are MEAN! Youse guys must be loaded!' 'No, not at all! We're just smart shoppers!' I told them. You could tell from the looks on their faces I may as well have been talking Greek. It was true though. The clothes and shoes we were wearing wouldn't have cost any more than what those three boys were wearing - in fact they may well have cost less! We just know how to shop around and the best places to shop. That's all it is, plain and simple.
I started thinking about being rich and what 'rich' actually means and - as often happens - I realised how much our family has changed since we became Simple Savers. Back in my Sad Sally days we were far from rich. In fact we were tens of thousands of dollars in debt - but everyone thought we were rich and who could blame them? We had a brand new 4WD and a brand new boat in matching red. We looked the part, so naturally everyone thought we had pots of money. Nobody knew how we struggled for five years to pay them off. The ridiculous thing was, back then I liked it that people thought we were well off. Rich was good! Rich was a desirable image.
It was only when I became an SS'er that I discovered that most people's perception of 'rich' is just a crock. Owning a lot of flash gear doesn't make you rich. It's funny how people automatically think that because you have heaps of stuff you must have heaps of money, when in fact the truth is usually the exact opposite! I also discovered yesterday that I no longer like being thought of as 'rich', even if it is by three adolescent strangers. These days we get what we have through smart spending, smart saving and good old fashioned hard work. I would much rather be thought of as frugal than rich!
Still, compared to many people out there I know that we ARE rich in comparison and yesterday was another good lesson learned. We stopped for a drink and a bite to eat in the food court. Ali chose a kid's size meal with a water bottle for his drink. I was oblivious but apparently there was a dishevelled elderly man sitting behind me, who kept staring at our table. A little while later we got up and left and Ali was absolutely horrified to see the man immediately jump up from his chair, grab Ali's near-empty water bottle and start swigging out of it. 'Did you see that man?' he said, aghast. 'Did you see him staring at my water bottle? What did he want with MY water bottle! I mean, who DOES that? Is he a paedophile or something?!' Ali asked, visibly shaken. 'No,' smiled Alex. 'I think you'll find that man is a homeless person. Sometimes you do what you have to Ali'. For the second time that day I was embarrassed to be 'rich'. But this time, in comparison to that man, I really was.
Being 'rich' to me is more about having the things money can't buy, rather than the things it can. The peace and quiet of where we live. Not having to go to the supermarket to buy meat. Finding half a dozen freshly laid eggs in the nesting box every morning. Sending Noel out to cut me enough broccoli from the garden for dinner at a moment's notice. Sitting together at the dinner table every night, enjoying the best food that money CAN'T buy. Deep down, I know that we are indeed rich - just not in the way others may think!