Friday, January 30, 2009

China Syndrome

I hit Wal*Mart the day after Christmas 2008, looking for presents for Christmas 2009. I found a cute Santa mug, a Santa plate, some scented candles and ornaments, and a bamboo tray loaded with bath and body products reduced to $7.50. The tray itself was worth that, I reasoned, and I needed a body polisher bad, not to mention bath crystals and a rubber massage thingy. Yes, I bought it for myself, but when I got home and opened it, there was a curious sticker on all the potions and lotions: Do not apply around eyes or lips. Keep out of reach of children. Hmm. So now I'm freaked out, wondering if I'll go blind or kissless...or if the poison will go directly into my bloodstream when I nick myself shaving.

There's been so much talk of dangerous products coming out of China, yet so many items are made there. My Wet n Wild lipstick? Fabrique` en Chine. The wide-mouth thermos my husband got for his lunch? Made in China. My black velour sweater? You guessed it. I read an amusing article about one family who tried to go without buying Chinese products for a year, how difficult it was not only because of prevalence but pocketbook. Things cost a whole lot more when they don't have those three magic words on the label.

And even if what you buy is made/assembled in the U.S., there's this: almost 80 percent of the world’s wheat gluten (found in most breads, cakes and cookies) comes from China, and 80 percent of all sorbic acid (a preservative in almost everything) is made there too. I'll never look at a Twinkie quite the same way again.

In these tough economic times, many people want to buy American, shop locally, shop green, concepts which should be easy but aren't. Most of us are being conservative with our money. As someone who used to easily spend $25 a week on books, I spend much less than that a month now. I haven't been to the movies in ages, or out to dinner anywhere fancier than our local Chinese restaurant, LOL. Yum to chicken lo mein and crab rangoon.

Has the economic downturn affected your entertainment choices? Are you buying fewer books/reading less? Got any tips for stretching my allowance? I'm working on a display for the library and looking for ideas teens can use to consume less and conserve more.

And just because I'm hungry, what do you order when you go out to eat?


Gillian Layne said...

Maggie, do you make a wonderful romance book display for your library in February? I've been thinking of giving our local library a gentle "nudge". They rock in all areas, but romance is a little neglected.

Our Sonic now has a dollar menu, which happened after a simple burger, fries, and drink went to almost seven dollars. Sheesh. For that I can sit in a booth! Now that I'm paying "adult" prices two of the three girls, we don't each out so much.

Elyssa Papa said...

I don't know what's more brave. You hitting Walmart the day after Christmas, or you giving yourself a budget? I vote for both.

I don't think---and my UPS delivery man would agree---that I'm ordering less books. I know I'm certainly not reading less. And I don't care what some people in the business say, the penny deals on Amazon for "used" books are awesome. Especially when you can't find said book anywhere else or aren't sure if you want to spend full price on the author (because he/she is new and in that "iffy" category).

Janga said...

I'm spending less on everything--food, clothes, gas, books--and clipping coupons, buying store brands, and hitting the Dollar Store for cleaning products and such. I'm trying to spend less on electricity, but so far that bill keeps going up. :(

One good thing is that all the saving has made me aware of how much I wasted. I make two trips to town a week now; I used to think nothing of making two a day. And while I don't approve of Walmart's policies on books and other things, the money I save makes my book budget go further. I compromise.

terrio said...

In the past few months, I've spent way more on eating out and movies than I have in a long time. But no more. With the purchase of the new car, and the resulting LEAP in car payment, the days of cutting back have returned.

I find there are things I'll spend money on, and things I won't. I hate to pay full price for a book. I used to get more pages for two dollars less. Just doesn't sit well with me.

I won't pay much money for a purse. I'll never understand spending hundreds of dollars on something that just carries my crap around. I won't even spend $20 on a purse. I must have missed that girl gene.

But I'll pay more for make up and shampoo because I've finally learned you get what you pay for. And I need all the "pretty me up" help I can get. :)

I'm a steak girl. Love me a good, melt-in-your-mouth steak. And I bet the food you get at the Chinese restaurant is the only thing around that doesn't come from China. LOL!

Maggie Robinson said...

Gillian, a couple of years ago I did a romance display, and was surprised when hardly anything went out. Right now I've got biographies and a Darwin bicentennial birthday thing up. Next is "Cutting Corners" with some useful money strategies and Great Depression books. Just a barrel of fun, LOL. Not very romantic!

Ely, I know---when all you're paying for is shipping, it's pretty exciting. And I STILL have two boxes of books to send you!!!

Janga, ever since my husband retired as a school principal (before he could collect retirement!!!), we have been super-careful. The only thing we splurge on is travel, but I've stopped buying all sorts of things. I truly don't need anything (except for the snow to go away).

Terri, one Christmas John gave me a Gucci purse. When I found out how much it cost, I almost fainted. I did have it for years and years though until the zipper broke, but I usually get my bags at Wal-Mart or TJ Maxx. I miss department store make-up, mascara particularly (there's no big store within an hour's drive here). Even tho it was expensive, it worked. I know I could order from Sephora or Ulta but I haven't bit the bullet yet.

irisheyes said...

I think we're all kind of in the same boat, Maggie. I wanted to add the kids to our cell phone plan and I know we're going to end up needing a new (or new to us) van this year. So back to work I go...

I try to cut costs where I can, but it's never really been my forte. I missed the coupon cutting, sale watching gene, Terri! My friend could tell you how much a gallon of milk costs at 4 different stores. I could never be bothered. If I want it, I buy it! Kind of drives the DH crazy, but on the upside I don't want a lot! I told him he was lucky when he found me cause I'm not a shopper, clothes horse, or jewelry fanatic. My purses are from Target or Walmart (no Gucci for me) and I own maybe 5 pairs of shoes. I have a couple of weaknesses - shopping for things for the kids and books!

The books, however, I've always bought conservatively. I use the library and the UBS quite a bit. I very rarely pay full price for a book and I've never bought a hardback. I do buy to support my favorite authors but I stopped purchasing new to me authors a long time ago.

I hate to admit it, but my fast food spending is way more than it should be. I think I'm coming to terms with the fact that I'm never going to be a "dinner on the table at 6 every night" kind of mom! If I make 4 out of 7 nights I think I'm doing good! One of my treats is a sit-down dinner out with the DH! - We've got great steakhouses here, Ter, you've gotta come visit!

Stephanie J said...

I don't think anything could change the way I looked at Twinkies! :)

I've definitely cut back on my book spending but not so much because of the economy as a simple budget for myself. I want go to RWA Nationals, after all! I have a HUGE TBR pile (as I'm sure we all do) and I figured it's a good excuse to tackle those reads. I'm also trying to support my local library so it gives me another good excuse. Still, it's really hard to go into B&N and refrain from a purchase...

Shoes are my ultimate weakness...I have torn up my feet way too much and it's gotten to the point where I won't buy cheap shoes because you can usually tell how cheap they are -- not by the look but by how they hold up and feel on the foot.

Maggie Robinson said...

Steph, I used to have such cute shoes in lots of colors. I haven't worn anything but dull beige boots in months. And I rememeber you're a Twinkie fan! I prefer the orange cupcakes myself.

Irish, my husband doesn't want me to go to the grocery store often because I spend too much on too little. I wind up throwing body lotion and books and magazines in the cart, and you can't eat them!

MsHellion said...

Yes, I'm buying less books and going to the movies less. Biggest indicator: I'm buying less used movies at Blockbuster--because I'm not buying them at all. And that's a total knee-jerk reaction. I love buying DVDs.

I bought three books in January--a huge spending spree: Tempt the Devil; Dawnkeepers; and Revolutionary Road. The first two were 25% off; and the other was 20% (though I had to walk to two different stores to find that discount for the 20% one. It was worth the walk. I saved $3.)