The Powers of Persuasion

Posted March 15th, 2006 by Penny Wise

I couldn't believe what found its way into my mailbox earlier this week. It was a party style invitation from Pacific Retail Finance, letting me know in no uncertain terms that all I had to do was say the word and they would lend me whatever money I wanted in order to purchase a top of the range new car, go on my dream holiday or whatever my heart desired. It made the whole idea of borrowing ridiculous amounts of money seem a fun and lighthearted thing to do - in fact, they treated the whole idea as a cause for celebration. To top it all off, included in the envelope was a cardboard 'make-it-yourself' party hat complete with the lender's logo! Before Simple Savings, I would have thought it was a clever, novel idea, but since I have learned to see through these kind of marketing ploys, I was actually quite disgusted by the whole proposal. Is it any wonder people find themselves helplessly in debt when companies such as these are so 'helpful'?

Children are always an easy target for companies to make heaps of money out of totally useless items. The latest fad to be found in every NZ supermarket and corner shop are plastic cartoon figures of The Simpsons - boxes and boxes of them - and every child for miles around is queuing up to spend their pocket money on them, including my boys. What a bargain these toys are too, at only $2.00 each. Before long every family can be like ours, proudly displaying extensive collections of bizarre looking yellow creatures that do absolutely nothing. Actually, that's not completely true; I have heaps of fun fishing them out of the kids' bath every night and meticulously lining them up to dry. At last count there were no less than 16 Simpsons figures adorning the bathroom shelf, meaning in the last few weeks we have somehow parted with $32 in our mission to acquire such an impressive range. How embarrassing, and just when you thought it was safe to go back to the shop, they've opened another box. Mr Patel, our local shopkeeper is understandably very excited about the whole thing.

Forgive me for sounding somewhat cynical, but every so often I am reminded how horribly influential clever advertising or the right well-chosen words can be. Being a dab hand at menu planning these days, I was interested to read a 'super easy' recommended menu plan for busy people in a magazine last week. This was designed to feed a family of four for five nights, so it sounded as though it could be helpful. However it didn't take long to see that the whole plan was made to revolve around a certain brand name - none of which find their way into my shopping basket as a rule, all far too obscure or non-family friendly. I couldn't believe it when they printed the total cost proudly at the bottom - $220. More than $200 to feed a group of four people five times in a week? And that was just the evening meal - no breakfast, lunches or weekends. When I think how I manage to feed our family all our meals for seven days, including baking and the odd luxury item for far less than that, I had to chuckle. It was a pretty sobering thought though to think of all the busy women who might have read that feature, thinking it was just what they needed to make life easier and rushing out to fill their shopping baskets with the necessary gourmet items.

Still, at least I can always find something of interest in That's Life! I know it's not the most intellectual magazine, but at least it's got real people in it, doing real things. I would much rather read about the average Joe's triumphs and tribulations than the latest Brad and Angelina instalment. I find their articles regularly tie in with the Simple Savings philosophy somehow too. Take this week's issue - I was reading an interesting story about a woman from Queensland who took her weight problem of many years into her own hands and reduced her weight from 100kg to 65kg. What an inspirational woman! It was only when I got to the end of the article that I realised I was reading about Annette Sym, author of the Symply Too Good To Be True healthy cookbook. Thanks to the Vault, I already knew how fantastic her books and website are ( I turned a few more pages to find a feature entitled 'Queens of the Bargain Hunters', about a mother and daughter who save thousands of dollars a year with their savvy shopping skills. Brilliant stuff, but to me it felt like old news - I couldn't find anything in that article that wasn't already mentioned in the Vault!

I was doing pretty well this week savings wise, getting back on track after last week's illness blowout. Until today, when I received yet another unwelcome piece of mail - well, actually Noel did, but it was meant for me! Noel was horrified to see he had been sent a speeding fine from a couple of weeks ago - only 8km over the 50km speed limit, but it still incurred a $30 fine. I thought this was most hilarious until he studied the ticket further - and found that the number plate on the speeding ticket was actually that of my car. When we bought my new car last year, he was the one who made the purchase; therefore my car was registered in his name. Unbeknown to both of us, I got nabbed by a speed camera five minutes from home and thanks to me, Noel now has a blot on his impeccable driving record! Classic! I'll never hear the end of it though...

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