The Dubliner magazine - June 3rd 2010
I got my credit card bill the other day. Staggered at how much I spent, I took the time to scoop my jaw off the floor and assess the damage. iTunes, Asos, my-wardrobe.com – the list of e-tailers with whom I do business is, well, ‘robust’. Pity my disposable income doesn’t share the same constitution. Determined to get back in black, I vowed to examine my spending patterns with the help of some DIY behavioural therapy. Can’t afford a real financial advisor; hmm, wonder why?
My virtual shopping cart doth overfloweth; this cannot be denied. Why this month I bought a Charlie Chaplin bowler hat, chainmail shoulder epaulettes and Janet Jackson’s entire back catalogue of hits is anyone’s guess. My Google shrink calls it the ‘cognitive disconnect’ – that sense of non-spending when clicking virtually at will. I suppose it’s a bit like ‘the Boots effect’ where going in to buy toothpaste, you invariably come out with an obscene amount of 3-for-2 offers and no idea of what you actually purchased.
Acknowledging your weakness is half the battle according to the popular psychology community. Clearly these folk haven’t heard of TheOutnet.com. The last time I bid on their ‘Going, Going, Gone’ reverse auction, I clicked ‘Add to Bag’ too early and overpaid for a pair of Chloe wedges. Compelled to address my trigger finger issues and have a more salubrious tale of haggling to tell, I raised my virtual paddle just in time to snag a Marc Jacobs tote for a mere €85. In isolation, this is a prime example of chic-o-nomics; cumulatively, it speaks of a shop-a-holic.
Identifying one’s danger zones is another suggested way to kick the habit. Fancy a glass or three of vino on a Friday night? Step away from the laptop lady! Maybe Google Labs could invent an add-on similar to ‘Mail Goggles’ whereby a series of math questions must be answered before being allowed access to eBay. ‘What is your current credit card balance?’ would do nicely or ‘How many months would it take to pay off that Tibi silk dress at a 9.5% APR?’
I prefer the idea of a real-time Skype intervention with one’s bank manager each time that ‘purchase’ button is pressed. Much scarier. I just need a savvier excuse than ‘it’s for a photoshoot’ or ‘my job requires it’. Or, I could just apply some old-fashioned restraint. Insert chuckle here.