Spending your way to happiness
There was lots of shouting at the telly going on in our house last night, thanks to Anne Robinson’s documentary on Britain’s spending secrets. The programme showed a variety of people with different spending habits. One woman was repulsed at the thought of car boot sales and spent £100s on sunglasses and bags on a regular basis; another who, despite living in a small flat with little money for food, scoured discount and cheap clothing stores like Primark for bargains – only to add them to bin bags full of never worn clothing. Another more cautious shopper saved every penny, buying second-hand and from markets, but splashed out for weekly takeaways to appease her husband.
Then to the ‘ethical shopper’. This woman spent £2000 on curtains made of all natural materials which took her years to find. She very rarely bought new clothes, proudly declaring that she wore the same (painfully dull) top every day.
In their own ways perhaps they were spending their way to happiness. They certainly all seemed convinced their way was the best (except perhaps the Primark shopper who clearly had other problems). But what was frustrating about the show, was that it didn’t address the wider impact of some of this conspicuous consumption. The ethical shopper was provided for contrast, but that sort of rigid approach is never going to create much happiness! If only Anne could have spent five minutes talking to a fair trade fan. They would have been able to explain that YES, you can have lovely things and be ethical, YES, you can create happiness – and not just for yourself but for the hardworking producers of the things you buy.