Shopping at the mall resisting the urge to spend

I scanned the bookshelf and held a new copy of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo in my hands. The binding was unbroken, and the pages were cut like perfect rectangles — the book hadn’t been read.

It’s a favorite of mine, and it was being sold for the bargain price of $3.99. Looking at the back cover, I could see that this regularly cost $9.99. Alarm bells pinged in my head and I thought, “This is a steal! Does anyone know about this? Oh, I can’t let this stay on the shelf; Stieg, you shall be mine.”

I promptly proceeded to carry the new book around the store. My insides smiled as I clutched this deal that others had stubbornly missed. It was my prize, and I had won the shopping game.

But nowadays, in my frugal state, I’m a bizarre shopper. Instead of purchasing that “steal,” “find,” and “treasure,” I held the book throughout the store, and when it came time to actually checkout, I stuck it on some random piece of furniture (no doubt, annoying the shop’s attendants — I’m sorry!).

This goes against everything we are told about the psychology of shopping, but it feels oddly exhilarating. See, marketers know that if they can just get you to touch, feel, and hold an object, your likelihood of purchasing said object skyrockets. If their cameras were trained on me they would’ve seen me flip out about the deal with my friend, predicting a subsequent checkout — book in hand. But in the end, they’d be dead wrong.

There’s an oozing potion that comes from having things. To covet and hold seems so… American. We buy bigger vehicles for bigger homes to fit more stuff. We are a nation of filler-uppers; yet, the favorite part about shopping is in our imaginations — that split second when our minds scream, “buy, buy, buy.”

When I pick up that book, I imagine flipping through the thriller’s tantalizing pages and having the book forever. I picture it sitting on my shelf, a testament to that one time I read it and a beacon of conversation among friends. “Oh, yes, let me tell you about crime, affairs, and sordid protagonists in Sweden,” my imaginary voice already quips to a non-existent audience. The reality is far simpler and boring. I’d read it, stick it on a table, and be done with it.

There’s an alternative choice. I could rent it from the library for free. The $4 — deal of the century — is still more expensive and takes up more room than a temporary library book. What could be a better deal than free?!

To hold the book is like picking up a favorite drug and almost getting high. And at the last moment saying, “No. I’d rather spend my money on something else. I’d rather travel to France with my rudimentary language ability. I’d rather save up for a more comfortable future — one not spent working endless hours on a treadmill that always runs towards death.”

These days, I can hold the magic potion that I struggled with so much — spending wantonly. I can smell the elixir that is the rush of a purchase.

And I can say, “I don’t need this.”