Fantasy Shopping Using Store Catalogs

by Silicon Valley Blogger on 2006-11-284

The Objective

To see how much imaginary money I can spend on unnecessary fripperies touted by retailers and advertisers out to get a slice of our hard-earned cash by year end, the underlying purpose of which is to shock myself into conserving and watching my holiday spending more carefully.

What’s This All About?

The time of year is nigh when I receive the customary cartfuls of holiday shopping catalogs which pile up unendingly on my kitchen table just aching for attention but instead find themselves unceremoniously weeded out. Each year, the number of catalog and web-based businesses (those with or without a brick and mortar storefront) that have decided to pay a visit to my doorstep has increased by 25%, fueled most likely by the innocent and unsuspecting orders that I’ve made to a few of them in the distant past, which unsurprisingly somehow worked my name and address into mailing lists and marketing campaigns.

There are no less than 40 such catalogs that I’ve already received so far, and the flurry is just beginning, I’m sure. Before I get rid of the mass of paper I have stocked on my table along with junk mail and bills, I decided to indulge myself in an imaginary shopping spree for seasonal baubles, to see exactly how much I would end up spending if I picked a random frill item representative of a particular store, chosen from the batch of holiday clutter. I was curious to see if I could create something along the lines of a Holiday Catalog Pricing Index (or Cost?), to see how much a seasonal basket of goods from mail order sources would ring up. [Fun and games aside, I am astounded at how much waste there is generated, particularly these last few months. Two words: global warming.]

shopping catalogs

I settled on those catalogs that were obviously geared towards the bustling, end-of-year buying crowd notorious for looser purse strings; where offerings gave me pause with thoughts of “Wow, can I really resist that thing-a-majig?” or “Even if I had the spare cash, would I buy that?”

Some Rules

No, this is not another Neiman Marcus ostentatious show-and-tell. That extravaganza seems to be receiving healthy coverage already. I tried something more down to earth and even mundane in some circles, and looked into stuff that people may actually pick up (no gift cards, sorry).

The things I chose were

  • From a catalog with a holiday themed cover: The fattest, most resplendent magazines of the year!
  • Seasonal: Of limited use since most of this would be boxed up and stuck in your basement or attic most of the year, and the food will just give you extra poundage.
  • Novelty Pieces: Amuse yourself for all of an hour.
  • Unnecessary: You can find alternatives at Target or K-mart.
  • Redundant: See Unnecessary.
  • And picked with personal preferences aside: Not all the things here would be something I’d buy if I had the money… but a pretty Christmas they can make.

But first…

The Disclaimer

I am not advocating any of these products nor any form of wanton spending — in fact, I am hoping that this “test” will have the opposite effect and will demonstrate how way too simple it is to burn through money and other materials.

The List

So here is my list for Year 2006, including price, grand total and some accompanying commentary. You can click on the links for each item, as they lead to their actual pictures for your amusement. Descriptions are straight from the catalogs.

  1. Horchow’s Comfort and Joy Wreathe and Garland
    Rich greens accented with gold and copper make traditional decorations especially enchanting.
    Price: $260 for the garland and $400 for the wreathe. Way too ornate and grand for my simple abode.
  2. Gump’s Peacock Tree and Sea Life Ornaments
    Adorned with hundreds of iridescent spangles, our tree has the vibrant green and azure palette of a peacock. Inspired by the ocean’s bounty, these playful ornaments are fun and festive accents for the tree.
    Price: $155 for 9 ornaments and $145 for tree. Now this is steep! Great if you have a living room that has the Little Mermaid theme going on.
  3. MacKenzie-Child’s Jester Christmas Stockings
    Silk fabrics trimmed with checked cording, glass beads, brass bells, and a red pompom. Lined.
    Price: $65 each. Whimsy for a price.
  4. Pottery Barn Luxe Faux Fur Bean Bag
    Irresistibly soft faux fur covers our plush beanbag. Made of a silky frosted-taupe acrylic/polyester blend filled with polystyrene beads that bounce back to the original shape.
    Price: $249. If you have one of these, then you have arrived.
  5. Land Of Nod’s Elf Sock Puppets
    Our elves are cute. They’re totally soft and cuddly, too. Our elves are really wonderful, if we don’t say so ourselves.
    Price: $29 each. Yikes! Cute stocking stuffers that are outrageously priced. I’ll settle for the do-it-yourself variety.
  6. American Girl: Samantha’s Holiday Coat Set For Doll and Girl
    Snuggle up in this matching coat set for you and your doll. Girl’s coat is cotton with polyester lining and felt interlining for added warmth.
    Price: $104. Make your neighbors’ kids envious.
  7. Frontgate’s Sleigh Card Holder
    Our Velvet Sleigh Card Holder is a dashing way to display your Christmas cards. This handcrafted sleigh can showcase holiday mementos or display an heirloom ornament collection — it’s ready for your seasonal creativity.
    Price: $149. Space hog.
  8. Plow and Hearth Cuddle Blanket
    Here’s a leisure-time idea that’s simply ingenious. Cuddle Blanket™ has a deep pocket to keep your feet tucked in and warm. Keep your remote control, book, glasses or other items in the handy accessories pocket.
    Price: $49.95. Me Buy? No. Gift for me? Yes.
  9. Sur La Table’s Gingerbread Advent House
    Doors and windows are marked with the 24 days counting down to Christmas—open them to reveal tiny treats (not included).
    Price: $99.95. Another space hog.
  10. Hickory Farm’s Holiday Sparkle Tower
    A basket of sausages, crackers, mustard, almonds, granola, pretzels, nuts and bonbons.
    Price: $49.99. Not bad, but I’m no fan of sausages and mustard.
  11. Alsto’s Three Kings’ Magi Gifts
    What an extraordinary gift for a very special person – gold, frankincense, and myrrh, the legendary gifts given by the Three Wise Men to the Baby Jesus. Three Kings’ Magi Gifts have a handsome satin-lined wooden gift boxes with brass embellishments to complete the exceptional presentation.
    Price: $79.99. Huh?
  12. Sharper Image’s I-Pod I-Pets: IDog, I-Cat, Flower Power
    Connects to an iPod or other music player and it comes alive — playing your music through its built-in speaker; happy expressions on its LCD face; flashing colorful LED lights. Responds to music.
    Price: $29.95 for the pets, $24.95 for the flower pot. Novelty items for the weak-willed.

Lessons Learned

A pretty Christmas for a pretty penny.

So how much did this shopping spree ring up? The damage set me back a grand total of: $2,014.73. That would be a good bulk of most people’s monthly employment check, including mine!

Amazing how much can fly out of our purses with scant effort, little thought and for trivial pursuits, without us having to leave the house. Sure, there are loads of ways to save money on online purchases, but the best way is to ditch as many of these store-in-a-book collections as I can, before I cave in and mess up my budget.

< This is a goal setting exercise expressed with a twist and instigated by the Instigator Blog, during which I intend to keep my spending at bay from now till Christmastime! Thanks Ben! Please visit his site for more on this goal setting project! >

Copyright © 2006 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Andy November 28, 2006 at 4:05 pm

That’s an interesting exercise. Back when I was trying to date my wife (and she was too busy studying) I tried to get her to help me spend an imaginary $500 out of the J. Crew catalog — it didn’t take too long.

Now she has piles of catalogs that she swears she’s going to get to, and I keep recommending that she simply throw them out. Either that or properly identify them for what they truly are: a form of entertainment!

Silicon Valley Blogger December 3, 2006 at 7:37 pm

Andy, thanks for your insights! This will be quite helpful to readers at this site.

Contact December 6, 2008 at 7:03 pm

Great Christmas shopping tips and links. Thanks

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