Mrs. G and I were walking through the mall last week and, not being shoppers, were astounded by the sheer volume of completely worthless stuff, or should I say sh*t out there. If you’re frugal and you value Financial Independence, what you see below will horrify you. I call it sh*t because most of it is completely nonessential and designed solely to separate suckers from their money. I’m talking about designer cell phone cases, leather baseball caps, everything in Brookstone and Spencer Gifts and, to my puzzled horror, Brow Art. Apparently you can walk in to the Brow Art store and let a MALL BROW ART PERSON STICK A NEEDLE INTO YOUR SKULL! “Hi. You look fully qualified to safely THREAD SOMETHING INTO MY EYEBROWS. Here is my money! What’s the worst that could happen??”
But enough about brow art, because it makes my brows hurt just thinking about it.
Of course, essentials like clothes, shoes and food are available at the mall, but so much of it is marginally functional and designed to last one fashion season before being relegated to the garbage can or donation box. Almost everything I saw that evening is superfluous or can be bought at higher quality or for less money elsewhere.
After I recovered from mall-shock, I immediately felt an obligation to save humanity from impulsive stupidity and help lead the way towards a more frugal, financially-secure life (I’m a giver). So, here is my heartfelt, hyphen-filled and hilarious post about irrational consumerism called Sh*t You Don’t Need (and some stuff you might).
Celebrating the Birth of Baby Jesus with $7 Cards
Pop-up Christmas cards- $6.95 EACH! Holy shit. Here is a better idea: Get a box of cards almost anywhere for $1 or less per card. Even better: The Frugalwoods pay $4.99 for 50 cards by using an online service and buying business greeting cards, which for some reason are far cheaper than personal cards. The Grumbys will be following suit next year. It will be nice to reduce our $100-for-100 cards down to $9.99 for 100 cards. That’s a 90% savings, all of which will enhance our Early Retirement nest egg and my bobblehead collection! Smart and snappy, doncha think?
Water here! Get Some Fresh Water for $10/Gallon!
Boxed Water is Better? Yes, the big bottled water syndicates are branching out into boxed water! I suppose that paper cartons are better than plastic bottles, but the bottled water phenomenon is ridiculous. The industry has convinced millions of people to buy water at prices inflated 5000% over plain tap water. How? They created a phony perception that tap water is dangerous, and then marketed their product as “healthy”. These evangelist-haired marketing clowns have been laughing at us all the way to their yachts ever since, stepping over the millions of discarded plastic bottles along the way.
Aside from the terrible impact to water supplies and the environment, the cost is preposterous. $1.25 for a 16 ounce bottle of water is $10 a gallon! If gas was $5 a gallon, there would be rioting in the streets, but we happily pay this premium even though the water available from our kitchen sinks for mere pennies per gallon is perfectly fine. In fact, many companies just bottle MUNICIPAL TAP WATER, but still mark it up 5000 percent. I’m not a scientist, but evidence shows that good old tap water is as safe (probably safer) than bottled water.
Yes, there are times when bottled water is convenient and appropriate. But mostly it’s a huge scam. Here is what you can do: get a Hydroflask, fill it up with cool, delicious tap water and enjoy the clean coolness for hours.
But Mr Grumby! Waaaa! I don’t like the taste of tap water! Waaaa! You know what? Buy a faucet water filter or a pitcher with a filter, and be thankful that you live in a country that has clean, safe water straight from the tap.
I’ll bet you $8.99 you can’t tell the difference.
Some Other Must-(not)-Have Bargains
A $25 “Collector’s Edition” of a To Kill a Mockingbird (or other classic books), because where else in the world can you find classic books? Here’s where: Get a slightly used paperback version on Amazon for $.01 (plus shipping), or your library for FREE!
Winter Sparkly Candy Apple Cinnamon Vanilla Root Beer Lavender Teriyaki bubble bath or something- I didn’t check the price because it would have meant walking into the creepy, shudder-inducing bath store at the mall, but my guess is that it’s far more expensive than Mr. Bubble at Costco. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb and say that there is no reason for a grown adult to take a bubble bath. Save your money and buy a bobblehead, or put it into your 401(k).
Emoji pillows- I couldn’t get close enough to find out how much they were because the kiosk attendant was having a loud phone argument with someone about how smoked the rest of his weed and I wasn’t going to get in the middle of that. I have a feeling that the people buying emoji pillows are the ones who can least afford them.
Balls in a Glass? Video Fans? $5 Coffee? Financial Independence?
Message Fan- $39 for a 6-inch fan seems like a lot, but you can program personalized messages! “Happy Birthday Jim”, says the $39 table fan! Yes, you can get a similar fan on Amazon for $13.99, but who needs and extra $25?
Balls in a Glass- A set of glasses, each with their own pair of balls- $29. If you know a reason why balls in a glass might enhance your drinking pleasure, let me know. Or, perhaps don’t. I’m sure you can buy a whole set of glasses, without balls, for a couple of bucks at Goodwill or anywhere else.
$4.45 coffee drinks- I’m not saying you should never to treat yourself to one of these artificial whipped-cream, high fructose corn syrup-infested, pancreas-destroying delights. But maybe limit them to a couple times a month. Your future self will thank your present self.
Some of you might be saying, “Now just hold on there, Mr. Grumby! What’s the problem spending a few bucks here and there? Why shouldn’t I reward myself? After all, I work hard! I deserve it.”
Do you also deserve to work until you’re 76 because you spent your FU Money on useless crapola? How about rewarding yourself by letting your money grow in a mutual fund instead of handing it to the weed-smoking emoji pillow salesman? The pleasure you get watching your cash grow will far exceed the fleeting pleasure you get from those seven Frappuccinos a week or the overpriced digital display fan that will lose its novelty in about 4 minutes. Every dollar you waste delays your freedom. If you don’t believe me, then listen to Mr. Money Mustache.
Here are a few things you should buy:
Underpants- But not just any crappy (HA!) underpants. Ex Officio and Duluth Trading Company boxer briefs that last for years, dry quickly (great for traveling) and are incredibly comfortable. Ex Officios are about $25 a pair. Duluth’s Buck Naked are a bit less expensive and, in my opinion, equal to the Ex Officios. Life is too short to wear crappy (HA again!) underwear.
You might be asking ask how I can justify spending $25 on underwear and still claim to be frugal. The truth with most things is, the higher the quality, the longer it lasts. These drawers last a long time. So the Grumbys can continue downsizing and accumulating FU money, all while wearing the most comfortable underbritches known to man (and woman).
A Surly Long Haul Trucker, or similar bike- Get a bike. You’ll have fun and get in shape. And resist the bike shop salesman’s effort to convince you that you need expensive skin-tight spandex racing gear and clip-in bike shoes. Unless you are a serious racing cyclist, racing gear is a waste of money. And let’s be honest, no one wants to see a middle-aged guy looking like the Michelin man in a leotard.
Before you buy the steel, awesome goodness that is the Surly LHT, read Just Ride: A Radically Practical Guide to Riding Your Bike by Grant Peterson. His funny and opinionated take on cycling is just what the world needs.
Keen Newport Sandal– Awesome and comfortable. I wear them almost exclusively all summer. Great for walking, biking or hiking.
There is a lot of Sh*t You Don’t Need out there, so maybe I’ll post a follow up one of these days. In the meantime, let me know what kind of worthless consumer Sh*t you have encountered by posting in the Comments section below. We would love your input and suggestions on our blog, so comment away! Also, please share with your “friends” and “social medias” on the “interwebs”.