Friday, July 23, 2010

Alternative Consumption

So, lately I've been thinking about alternative consumption.

Is that a thing? If it's not, then I hereby claim that as of today, it is.

Finding cheaper ways to do things is nothing new for me - I am a longtime coupon user, thrift store shopper, and bargain seeker. I'm one of those people that turns a $200 grocery run into a $50.00 spree, with a crazed look in my eye, a sales paper in my left hand, and white-knuckle clutching a stack of coupons in the other.

Up to now, my consumption has all been cash-based. Granted, I use less cash than other people, but still . . . when I get things for my family, the bottom line is, cash changes hands.

I am attempting to teach my children the ways as well. They are well-versed in the ways of Play and Trade (game swapping store), Goodwill, yard sales, thrift stores, etc., so much so that I can proudly say that my 9 year old often walks through retail stores scoffing, "Yeah, right . . . I can get that for like a DOLLAR at a yard sale!"

It brings a tear to my eye. It really does.

This past week, I have been seeking out other ways to make my junk/stuff/assets work for me. It started innocently enough when I started taking stock of my "priceless treasures" (aka junk) in anticipation of a mammoth yard sale that I plan to have as soon as Atlanta reaches temperatures that WON'T melt my face off in my driveway.

See, I have a whole list of things that I want to do in the house. Painting, redecorating, fencing, sprucing up, yadda yadda yadda.

I also have lots of things that I no longer want, so that's where the yard sale comes in. Except yard sales are really just a way to throw things out. Generally, yard sales aren't a way to generate any real cash, they're just a way to free up real estate and eliminate clutter.

So I started thinking about that, too. This "clutter" is comprised of things that I purchased. Cash traded hands. Cash that was earned by my work, which is the fruit of my labor. My energy and labor are finite resources.

That made me look at the junk differently.

For instance, I looked at a bulging rack of DVDs that has amassed over the past several years. These days, we don't watch DVDs. We have streaming Netflix, so these movies are gathering dust. At a yardsale, I could reasonably expect to get a couple of dollars each for them.

Which is a shame, considering that they cost $15 apiece new.

Most of them have only been watched once.

Now, is it cheaper to buy a DVD than go to the movie? You bet. By the time you buy tickets, popcorn, candy and drinks, a movie costs a typical family of 4 about $60, so the DVD looks like a great buy in comparison.

But when you have watched the DVD and it takes up space in your house, it quickly turns into clutter, and appears to be of no value.

But you don't want to give it away, either, since you PAID for it.

This guilt has pretty much stopped me from purchasing movies, or music or books altogether. Between the notion of "Pffth, I can get that at a YARD SALE!" and the stash I have at home already, I can't really enjoy walking through a bookstore to contemplate purchasing anything.

But I do love books. And music. And movies.

Imagine my glee at my discovery of swaptree.com. This wonderful place allowed me to create an account and list all of my DVDs and books and games that would have either continued to sit dormant or be given away for pennies at a yard sale, and also create a wish list full of all of the DVDs and books and games that I wish I had instead. Instantly, this magic site matches MY unwanteds with others that have things that I covet, and facilitates a trade.

No money changes hands, yet I am supplied with new movies and books and games. It's like having a big circle of real friends that let you borrow things.

(LOL! Just kidding! I don't actually have a big circle of real friends, since I mostly live in my basement, and rarely go out, but I IMAGINE that this would be what it's like to have a circle of real friends that let you borrow things.)

I've already made 5 trades, and instead of dusty Scooby Doo and Barbie DVDs, I now have 4 really good books that I have wanted to read for a couple of years now.

It's a simple concept, I know, but I think it is going to revolutionize the way that I approach the "consumption" of media.

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