How to beat inflation: quit buying stupid crap

Ah, it’s Christmas catalog season. Although I almost never buy anything from a catalog, I still seem to get a half dozen or so each week in November and December. 90% don’t even make it into the house - I dump them in the recycling bin in the garage.

Growing up in the 50s and 60s, the Sears Roebuck and JC Penney and “Monkey” Ward catalogs were treasured by my sister and me. These great tomes would arrive in the fall and become our go-to list for Christmas gift ideas (for us, not for others). Sears, Wards and Penneys sold lots of clothes, appliances, tools, toys, and who knows what else. The lingerie pages were this farm boy’s version of Playboy magazine - a guilty pleasure. Today, the surviving merchants have moved their “catalogs” mostly online, of course.

Catalogs of today are much skinnier, much more plentiful, and more targeted in their content. LL Bean, Sharper Image, and Signals contain page after page of specialized clothes, handy-looking gadgets, and silly coffee mugs. I don’t find it difficult to resist the lure of these well-designed marketing tools. It’s mostly stupid crap*.

A friend and I spent an hour or so at a local high-end shopping mall a couple weekends ago. Stores like Pottery Barn and Tumi and Ampersand were brightly lit and busy and contained not a single item I was tempted to buy. The new Hy-Vee grocery store in the neighborhood is the size of a Wal-Mart and contains not just a deli and a bakery, but a restaurant and clothing department and pharmacy. 90% of what grocery stores now sell is frivolous - an unhealthy. What do Target and Best Buy and Macys sell that we actually need, not just desire?

So here’s the thing. If you pay to drink flavored water or energy drinks, stop bitching about the price of groceries. If you drive a pickup or SUV that gets less than 30 mpg and never haul anything, stop complaining about the price of gas. If you have so many clothes, your closet is jammed and your sock drawer is stuffed, don’t whine about supply chain problems.

Most of the people I know, even those of us who are on “fixed incomes”, can easily beat inflation by beating the temptation to buy stupid crap. 

To be fair, I know few people on the lowest income level and I am sure inflation hits them quite hard. And there are some stupid purchases I would find difficult not to make, even knowing doing so would save me a lot of money (already hard boiled eggs, premade salads, cut up fruit, premium ice cream, too much wine). I’ll try not to look down my nose at you for buying Gatorade if you don’t sneer at my Ben & Jerrys. Let’s just neither of us complain about rising costs. 

* I would rather more accurately say “stupid shit” but I’d be setting a bad example for my grandchildren.