Jan 22 2011

a 25¢ lesson cost me hundreds [day 241]

Yes, I made a judgement call based on 25¢, a quarter I thought I would loose.  Listening to some bad advice, I decided not to try a new grocery store in my area, a store that opened over a year ago.  Some person (I don’t remember who) told me that the new Aldi grocery store charges 25¢ for the use of their carts.  What this yo-yo neglected to tell me is that you get your quarter back when you return the cart.  So instead of checking this out, like I normally would, I decided not to.  My 25¢ lesson?  Make my decisions based on my own research, not something someone says. Of course I will always take advice and opinions into consideration, but I should always see things for myself.  I do this with people, I should do it with everything.  Lesson learned, but not just one.  There were many great lessons from this experience that I would love to share.

What is Aldi? “ALDI is a discount grocery chain that operates over 1,000 stores in 31 states. Through a select assortment and convenient grocery shopping approach, we’re able to offer our customers the highest quality everyday items at the lowest possible prices—honest to goodness savings.” Read more about them and why they’re different at aldi.us.

So why the quarter for the cart? “At ALDI, we cut costs every way we can to keep prices low. Our shopping cart deposit system is a good example. You insert a quarter to release a cart. When you return the cart, you get your quarter back. This system cuts down on the labor of collecting carts left in the parking lot, damage to cars, and we pass the savings on to you.” I like this.  In addition, it keeps the carts from hitting the cars in the parking lot and the carts seem to be in better condition.

I decided to shop there a few days ago.  It was the closest store and I just needed 2 items.  After the great experience, I decided to go back.  This time was to shop in efforts to try some of the different brands, buying one or two of each thing we normally purchase.  After seeing first hand, the incredible savings, I decided to do a cost analysis.

Last night, my kids and I went to our local grocery store to compare prices.  It was nice to get out of the house and I forgot my phone, which was nice, as my kids and I had fun doing this.  Who would have thought?  Here’s the results.

Aldi price: $65.40

This is pre-tax.  There was only one thing that was a name brand I usually buy, Amy’s vegetarian meals.  All of the other things were Aldi or generic brands.

Name brand price: $139.51

I priced the name brand items that were comparable in size and type to get this number.  The name brands cost 113% more than the Aldi brands.  Whoa!  that got my attention!

Off brand price: $99.33

To get this number, I used the same criteria as above, but with generic  or off brand items.  There were a few things that didn’t have generic brands, so the brand name item price was inserted.  Shopping at the major grocery store for off brands cost 52% more than Aldi.  Again, wow!

I’m sure you have some of the same questions I did before going in here, so I will address them now.  I had some very unexpected shopping results, that were much more than just saving money.  I also got me thinking about my shopping habits and how I have some room for growth.  Continue reading

Dec 14 2010

name brand god [photograph]

This photograph was light painted for a gallery collection called “Excessable”, showing how we worship stuff, particularly name brand stuff.

Jun 19 2010

playing dress up [day 23]

Most people would argue that I’m an extravert, and although I do have those tendencies, I’m very much an introvert.  On the continuum of ‘E’ to ‘I’, my slider is much more toward the ‘I’, which is one major reason I’m not comfortable in large groups of people.  I feel exposed and awkward.

Last night I had a wedding to attend.  It’s not only the large group thing, but I also don’t like to wear fancy, dressy clothing.  I know this because I really don’t own anything besides casual clothing.  I also know this because of the bulging eyes and gasps from my friends last night, as they’re scrambling to find their cameras, in complete disbelief that I was wearing a dress.  That is, my $3 thrift store dress with sandals I dug out of the back of my closet, that were broken and stapled together to stay on my feet.  I guess I fit in well enough with the current trends in clothing, which was good, because a wedding is no place for me to make a statement about society’s pressure to conform to ‘socially acceptable’.  The photo on the ‘right’ shows how I feel about fashion.  This was part of a gallery showing I had a few years back called ‘excessable’.  It says more than I could ever put into words.

I’m quite sure my feelings on clothing stem from my childhood.  My mom had me in beauty pageants and I was never allowed to choose clothing I liked.  I was taught from an early age that you are judged by your appearance, which explains a lot about the way I dress myself today.  If I’m going to be judged, I do not want to be thought of as a conformist to our culture.

Don’t get me wrong here, I like style and a lot of my clothing is what would be considered ‘in style’ by our current fashion trends.  It’s the excessiveness, the name brand gods and the financial prostitution that bothers me.  Yes, I know those are harsh words, but allow me to explain.  I really wouldn’t mind having a new top, or for that matter, a whole new outfit.  The excess in this industry makes it difficult to choose an outfit, and if I can finally select one, it becomes my identity.  People don’t see me first, they see what I’m wearing.

The financial part?  I use the words financial prostitution because it means money and using your talents for an unworthy cause.  80% of my wardrobe is from thrift stores and the rest from discount stores.  Sometimes I wish I had a new outfit, but I’m not willing to make the financial commitment that is associated with it.  The retail establishments are making a killing off of clothing, many of them using cheap labor overseas to make it even more profitable.

Finally, the name brand god.  One of my favorite pairs of shoes are my Ed Hardy shoes, although I only wear one at a time, the other being a Converse or Sketcher.  My EH shoes were free, but they make the statement that I spend a lot on my clothing and that I support major retailers.  I like the artwork on them, but I think people see the name, not the art, then they judge.  Cynically, I do this too.  I see name brands and here’s the process I go through.  First I judge them, thinking they have spent a lot of money and have been sucked into the excess of our culture.  I get angry with them for being wasteful with their money.  Then I get angry with myself for judging, as it’s not right, I should treat others like I want to be treated.  I don’t like being judged so I shouldn’t do it.  After my conviction, I realize I don’t know their story.  Maybe their stuff was free, maybe they paid full price, not for me to worry about.  I need to worry about me and my actions, which brings me to my latest experiment.

My most comfortable pair of shoes is a beat up pair of Nike shoes.  I’ve had them for about 6 years?  I paid full price for them when they first came out.  I’m not sure it was money well spent, but I have gotten a lot of use out of them.  I was looking at these shoes one day and realized I’m a walking advertisement for Nike.  Each shoe has the name or the swoosh on it five times!  I got a razor blade and cut all of the logos off.  Sadly, they still look like brand name shoes, even with giant holes in them.  I’ve worn them at least five times, in different settings.  Not even one person noticed anything or said anything.  It really makes me want to go cut all the logos off ALL of my clothing.  Don’t be surprised…  Oh, here’s a pic of the shoes.

Society’s expectations of style and fast moving trends are a reality, and not something I want to eliminate.  What I would like to see?  Balance.  (you just thought of New Balance shoes, didn’t you?)  Money spent wisely on sensible clothing purchases, supporting companies that support fair labor practices and all of us, including myself, not to judge people by what they’re wearing.

I have to wonder if I would be as uncomfortable in large groups if I knew we all embraced each other’s outer and inner individuality, without judgement?  Probably not, but it might make it more tolerable.  Am I the only one that struggles with this?  I would love to hear your thoughts.