I fail at retail therapy

If someone handed you $100 right now, could you spend it? How long would it take you to decide what to buy?

Not long at all, right?

Well, I seriously fail at retail therapy. I was given a $100 Visa gift card as a Giftmas 2008 present, and I can’t think of a single thing I want to buy with it. Is that pathetic, or what?

I thought about picking up a video game or two, but I really don’t have the time nor motivation to play them. Modern video games totally lack the necessary charm and appeal of older games. They use advanced graphics and cinematic sequences to “wow” people, but the gameplay is empty. You can’t compensate for a boring game with eye candy alone, at least for me.

I thought about movies or music, but there hasn’t been music released in the last 5 years that I thought was good enough to own except for a few songs which I picked up on iTunes or through Amazon MP3. Same goes for movies — the ones I care to watch, I’ve already seen and I haven’t seen a movie in years that was good enough to be worth watching twice.

Ah, what about books? Goodness, there’s that free time issue again! I still have books sitting on my shelf that I want to read that I haven’t read yet. Buying more just seems wasteful, at this point.

Surprisingly, as a technology geek, I’m not a big gadget junkie. I went through the phase of collecting shiny doo-dads and frankly, I got tired of throwing them out when they lost their shine. Is there really such a thing as a must-have item? I haven’t found one, yet.

About the only thing that I still really like is food. I love to eat! I guess the best way to spend this money is to take the family out and enjoy a nice meal. Oh, but then the dilemma of deciding where to go sets in …

I guess there are worse problems to have than not knowing how to spend $100, but it really bothers me that I don’t have a go-to list of reasonably inexpensive things that I’d want to buy. This is why I’m such a hard person to buy gifts for: I truly don’t want anything. I don’t mean this in the polite “oh, it’s okay, don’t worry” sort of way, but in the “oh, please, not another thing that I have to find a place for and hold onto until I get tired of it and throw it out” kind of way.

Maybe I’m truly able to find happiness with what I already have. But, a part of me — probably conditioned and programmed through advertising as I was growing up — feels like I’m “incomplete” without more material possessions. Part of me asks “what’s wrong with me?” because I don’t already know what I’d go out and buy with this money. Do you know what I’m talking about?

What would you go and buy with $100 right now? Or, are you like me, without any clue what you’d do with it?



  1. I’m with you 100%. Material possessions do not make me happy. Obviously having a certain amount of comfort is good, but I’m not acquisitive. Spending time with people I care about is what makes me happy. I’d rather put money toward a good party or a trip to see some friends.

  2. easy: 1tb and 10,000 RPM in a laptop.

    unfortunately, I think we might have to wait a year or two on that one. no way to put that thing away and earn a little interest, eh?

  3. David K: Thanks, it’s nice knowing I’m not the only one.

    Steve: Indeed, a 1+ TB 10K RPM laptop drive would indeed be sweet, but yeah — not something I can get right now.

    Sadly, it’s a Visa gift card, so it won’t accumulate interest. If there were an easy way to transfer the balance to my banking account, that would be nice. Perhaps I could send myself the money via PayPal from the credit card, but then I’d “lose” 2.9% + $0.30 in fees, or $3.20 on $100. How long would it take for me to accumulate 3.2% interest on $96.80 in an average savings account? A year?

  4. Take the family (or just the spousal unit) out to a nice dinner and maybe a movie (most theatres take Visa, now that tickets are past the $10 level).

    Make yourselves a little memory.

  5. Mike: I think that’s the right way to go, spending time with the family. Those are the priceless moments that can never be bought with any amount of money later on in life.

  6. I also fail at retail therapy and am extremely difficult to buy presents for, so I was able to empathize with your dilemna over the gift card. However, that said, a gift card or “Dead Presidents” as we like to call cash gifts, are much easier to utilize than yet another useless gadget that I have no space for. I have informed my family that, having passed the half-way point of my life, I am interested only in experiences and memories, so now our focus is on spending time with people who matter to us.

    One note of caution, however – check the fine print on the gift card and make sure that it isn’t decreasing in value over time it sits unused. Some of them levy a charge for bookkeeping and, like money orders, those will eventually have no buying power. If that’s the case, use it at the grocery store to make your normal grocery purchases, then take the cash from your checking account and put it where it will remain viable for future purchases.

    (I like the layout of your blog – it’s very easy to read and navigate.)

  7. Janelle: Good point regarding finance charges. On this particular gift card, a $2.00 monthly fee is charged after twelve months. I would hope I can find a way to spend this thing before then, though!

    And thank you for the compliment on my blog layout! Frankly, I’m not much of a designer and struggle with trying to make the layout “work” well. I definitely think it could be further refined and improved but I really don’t know how – any suggestions would be greatly welcomed.

  8. Suki Fuller says

    Pay a bill…oh wait you can’t do that with a gift card. Darn, still in a quandry!

  9. I’d buy shoes and clothing for my job, but you don’t exactly have a dress code for yours. ^_^

  10. Suki: Yeah, it would be kinda “wrong” to pay bills with a “gift” card.

    Blue: I own one pair of shoes and I wear them for about 800 days, then buy a replacement pair. I hate buying clothes, so that’s not much of a “gift” for me, either.

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