Something strange seems to happen every weekend. I like to call it the great shopping centre rush.
Let me explain.
Here is a typical thought pattern for Pat the Shuffler on a Saturday or Sunday.
Pat: What am I going to make for dinner tonight to impress the hell out of my girlfriend?
**shuffling through fridge and pantry**
Pat: I know, I’ll make a great Thai green curry. Hmm looks like I have almost everything I need, but I need some fresh vegetables. I’ll just head down to Coles and pick some up.
**Picks up bike and rides over to Coles at the nearby shopping centre. Wind in his hair, as free as a bird gliding on the bike paths along the water**
**A few moments later arrives at shopping centre, parks bicycle and walks in**
Pat: Holy shit it is busy in here. Not that many people seem to be carrying bags of groceries…what the hell are they doing in here then? It is beautiful outside, but I can’t tell from inside here. This extreme level of bright white fluorescent lighting and excessive air conditioning is really quite unpleasant.
**Walks into Coles, buys a few key vegetables, shoves them in his backpack and walks out**
Pat: Well all these people are buying groceries! Though I find most of what they shove into their trolleys to be quite hilarious (a post for another time). However they all seem to be walking straight into the closest car park entrance when done. So what is everyone else here for?
**Weaves through crowds of yet more people, past any number of stores selling expensive clothing, gadgets, trinkets, presents**
Pat: Holy f**k, are these people actually here because they want to be here? Is this where they choose to spend their free time? Or where they go when they are bored?
In this over lit, air conditioned giant box, where you can’t see the sun, the crowds are insane, and you are assaulted at every opportunity with over the top promotional advertising.
**Continues to weave through crowds of people, making a beeline for the exit**
Pat: There are people here just sitting at cafés. Haha oh goodness, I wonder how much that eggs on toast cost, I might make some of that when I get home. At least they get to see through a window how beautiful the sun is outside, they can’t taste the crisp air from inside here though..
**Exits shopping centre, rides bicycle home**
Pat: Man I am glad I am out of there, what a shitty place to go to during my free time!
I am always amazed at how much traffic these places get on the weekends. I am also amazed at just how incredibly quiet the roads seem to be whenever all these places have closed i.e. on public holidays.
This got me thinking…
Is a large portion of the traffic on our roads created by people rushing around to shopping centres? Anecdotally I also know a fair few people that will go shopping for no other reason than to alleviate boredom!
This sounds completely and utterly bizarre to me – that people that have no defined need to buy anything will go to one of those awful places, just so they can fill some of their free time up.
So I have a message for everyone out there. Stop treating a shopping centre like a great, big damned playground for adults. Not only is this a very stupid way to spend your precious time, but it is (probably) costing you a truckload of money as well.
Going shopping should be done for the following reasons and the following reasons only.
- To obtain the items necessary for survival, i.e. food, clothing etc.
- To very carefully and after much thought and deliberation and only after exhausting other free, cheaper or second hand options, go out to buy some very specific items of value for the joy it brings you or your family.
A shopping centre is not somewhere you go for any of the following reasons:
- To catch up with friends
- Because you are bored
- To browse in the hope you can find something you want.
Whenever you walk into a shopping centre without a specific goal of purchasing a particular item, you are complicit in the onslaught of advertising that pervades all of your senses. You are essentially giving permission for advertisers to shape your buying habits, to convince you to buy something you have no need for. You are participating in the wasteful consumerism of modern society. In the process you are sending yourself broke, and robbing yourself of the chance to be financially free sooner.
Let’s run some quick numbers on how much your weekly expedition to the shopping centre is costing you.
Suppose you are quite responsible so you only spend $20 on some trinket or piece of clothing each weekend. Let’s also say you spend $10 on lunch, a juice, or coffee and pastry. A pretty typical Aussie would drive there in a late model, medium-sized family car which averages 78c/km (all costs, including depreciation, finance, registration fuel etc*.) So driving just 10km each way costs you $15.60. Your weekend shopping expedition has actually cost you $45.60.
If you would prefer to take only the marginal cost of driving a car on the weekend (because you have bought a cheap second hand car in cash and would own a car regardless) Then the car costs are $3.55* and the total is $33.55. .
Don’t get me started on the anxiety inducing traffic in and around these behemoths of modern consumerism. A car is definitely not an ideal or elegant solution for travelling to the grocery store.
Over a 10 year time frame, a weekly $45.60 habit turns out to cost over $34,000. A weekly $33.55 habit costs $25,230! These include investment returns.
Now I know this is far from exact, you can tweak the variables up or down to match your situation. But it does demonstrate how a seemingly innocuous habit can cost you serious cash. This habit also adds to the environmental impact of consumerism. All the while, being a very unpleasant environment and taking away time to do things that will actually make you happy.
If you must go to one of these decidedly unpleasant venues to buy some sustenance, then please first check out my post on how a shuffler saves on their groceries.
Surely as fully grown adults, who for the most part only have a couple of days off every week, we can come up with more creative, productive and fun ways to spend that limited free time than going to great big buildings designed with the specific purpose of taking our money from us.
By avoiding shopping centres, spending my time having actual fun, and keeping expenses as low as possible I plan to retire in 10 years. Find out more of the crazy things us humans do that prevent us from escaping the rat race.
Shuffling away from the shopping centre
Pat the Shuffler
*More on these car running costs in a future post I have been working on for a while