Born to shop

In Shopping on December 17, 2010 at 7:00 pm

Maybe a lobotomy would do it. That might be the only way to curb my insatiable enjoyment of the act of shopping, if the scientists who are researching genetic predispositions to love – or to loathe – spending money are right.

I read about the research in an article by my esteemed former colleague Fenella Souter (the person who had the idea that I might have a go at writing these columns twelve years ago…) and I’ve been obsessing on it ever since.

The feature, which I did of course tear out to file for future use and immediately lost, centred on an Australian couple whose life’s work it is not to spend money. By following a disciplined regime and pre-planning, they maintain themselves and their three children on a weekly budget that would just about cover my toiletries spend.

They would never, for example, leave the house without a damp cloth in a plastic bag and be forced to buy their toddler a new top after a food spill, as some mothers have been known to do (*whistles innocently*).

They’ve made a business out of such sensible habits, with a website of money-saving tips which is enthusiastically embraced by many thousands of people who feel as they do about parting with cash. Horrified.

There’s a similar phenomenon in the UK with Martin Lewis, of Martin’s Money Tips, becoming something of a daytime TV celebrity, with his excited updates of money-off vouchers for Burgerking, 40% off at Matalan and three-for-two deals at Legoland. Barely a day goes by that I don’t delete one of his newsletters from my Inbox.

But it seems I’m wrong to see such penny pinching as a Scrooge meanness of spirit when it is, according to the scientists in Fenella’s article (who I cannot find on Google despite all my best efforts), a genetically determined setting.

So that friend who always seems to disappear off to the loo when it’s their turn to get a round in, and excitedly haunts the reduced section of dented, sell-by date achieved goods at the back of the supermarket, may actually find it emotionally challenging to part with money. Painful.

Then there are people like me who bloody love it.

Even apart from the simple base appeal of wanting stuff (see previous post, Inspector Gadget), I have come to understand that I get a bit of a hit at the moment of handing over the moola.

It’s a bit of a risky thrill, which is presumably why some people get clinically addicted to it. And shopping is, in it’s way, a form of gambling, isn’t it? The odds I’ll ever wear that polka dot vintage dress that was a last-minute impulse buy at the Sydney Antiques Centre? About 7 to 1.

And during this annual period of particularly intense and focussed shopping, I’ve realised I also really adore the lead up to the purchase moment.

I relish the planning of the expedition – preparing a list, researching the sources, setting off – then the active part, making choices, and finally best of all, carrying home the loot, gives me a sense of satisfaction unmatched by almost any other activity. I really feel I’ve achieved something. Job done.

Presumably this is exactly how the Scrimpers feel when they push their way through the Legoland turnstile, munching on their bargain burgers, sparks flying from their Matalan outfits. Wallets still well stuffed.

Most pleasingly, both genetic settings make sense according to my long-held Darwinist theory of shopping. Spenders like me, who get pleasure from searching for and acquiring stuff, are descended from the most successful gatherers of the hunter gatherer period.

Our antecedents survived because they were the ones most skilled at locating and collecting the choice nuts and berries. So I can only assume that the Scrimpers come from the line of prime hoarders, the guardians of the clan’s food store, who hated parting with it and always had some stashed away when the pickings were thin.

Now I know it’s biological, I can see the merit in both mindsets. And with the money I’ve saved on the lobotomy, I’m off to buy a new gadget.

PS Just to let you know I won’t be posting next Saturday, because it’s Christmas Day, innit? And you’ll all be too busy having a marvellous time to read it. There will be a mid-week extra, though.

  1. I always have a frisson of excitement when I go shopping..even if it’s only to look, but always more exciting when a few purchases are made!

  2. Woops..meant to say wishing you Maggie, and your loved ones ,the Merriest and Happiest of Christmases x

  3. Good Weekend not read yet on the table, but Stylenotes on my ipad on Saturday morning, fabulous!
    Thanks Maggie, and Merry Christmas!

    • Joan – your comment has made me SOOOO happy. Everything you describe is how I’m seeing the future and I’m taking a big punt on the belief that you and I are ahead of the game. Thank you SO much. What a lovely image as I go off to beddie-byes. Maggie xxx

  4. Hi Maggie, I too have always been a passionate shopper and get quite a rush with purchases, but this Xmas I have done most of my shopping online. I just LOVE my parcel deliveries by the postman much more than shopping in my horrible local Westfield! Of course our strong Aussie dollar has helped fuel my online shopping addiction as I love buying from overseas sites. I still buy lots locally too and I find I make more careful,considered purchases. How about you? Do you enjoy online shopping? Have a wonderful Christmas Maggie xxx

  5. Maggie, yet again another psychic column (courtesy of my iPhone 4 and not an Age in sight). Here I am visiting home town of Hobart and in less than 24 hours have already purchased two pairs of oh so comfortable Morrison pants ( yes, two following your wear and a spare rule) gorgeous deep red georgette blouse and perfect black dress that hides the lumps and bumps for summer. I know what genes I have been blessed with! Merry Xmas to you and yours and look forward to a fab year ahead (online of course)!

  6. As a teenager, when others dreamt of love, travel & careers, I dreamt of walking about the city with handfuls of shopping bags. It just seemed to be the height of sophistication and decadence to have the time and funds to shop for multiple items on one shopping trip. Now I have the funds (and sometimes the time) I still love the planning, selecting, touching and trying-on; the decision making and finally the transaction. I love talking to the shop assistants in my favourite stores, and I listen to (and sometimes even accept!) their advice about what things might work together. I truly never understand when people say they hate shopping- whether for me; for friends who ask for my help (all that practise makes you VERY good at it); and especially for my loved ones. I can’t wait to see my nephews faces on Christmas morning…hope you and yours have a delightful day, too.

  7. It’s wonderful to read this in bed on a Saturday without having to fossick through the garden barefoot looking for the paper.

    Merry Christmas Maggie xxx

  8. Almost missed Style Notes this week as I have been so busy – shopping! Found those wonderful Country Road pants too – and bought two. Never having had a great deal of money to spend hasn’t stopped me from enjoying a great shopping expedition. For me it’s about finding great quality at a good price. For the more miserly amongst us, well, to each their own I suppose, but there is living and there is living! Taking this opportunity to wish you and yours a beautiful, stylish Christmas Maggie. xx

  9. Wonderful!

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