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.
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.