Sunday, February 28, 2010

Zero Spending: Why I Can't Do It: Coffee & Books

Zero spending! I love the proposition. I admire radical groups of non-consumers who vow not to spend money for an entire year.

Can I get through a single day without spending? No.

I spent $1.60 today on a cup of coffee and it was entirely worth it. The cinnamony warm atmosphere of the coffeehouse, the kindness of the barista (who made a special blend for me because I was in too great a hurry to wait for a new pot), and the group of long-haired Peggy Fleming figure-skater types and half-shaved barbarian lads who mill around the latte station, laughing. I drank my coffee at leisure outside in the sun. Remember that story in The Martian Chronicles where it rains every day and a bullied boy is locked in a closet in school during the only hour of sunshine in several years? Well, that's how I feel about the sun. I can't miss a minute of it. If only I lived in the South! North Carolina, anywhere. My skin is dry and itching from the eternal winter, fifteen-inch banks of snow intimidatingly line the sidewalks, and a cold miasma rises from the snowbanks. Zero consumerism in coffee is impossible this time of year, because it warms me up.

Books: now there's an area I could save on. Zero spending! But would that be a good thing? Aren't booksellers and publishers THE most important people to support? And don't they need somebody like me to buy books? I own stacks and stacks of books. Do I want to read Plutarch's Lives? Or The Picture of Dorian Grey? Or perhaps Barbara Kingsolver's The Lacuna? They're all right here, people!

I buy a LOT of books.

I'm not like dovegreyreader or random jottings of an opera--bloggers who announce their packages of free books almost daily and apparently get thousands of readers every day to whom they can SELL the books (though my husband, who is very funny about blogging, suggests the thousands of readers they get are themselves clicking on their blog over and over. He thinks blogs are worthless)!

I can't accept free books: I don't know what to do with them. I have a huge stack of books from a very good publisher who were kind enough to supply me last summer. I didn't expect so many books--and they haunt me. I've reviewed three or four. I stare at them gloomily from time to time, wondering if I'll ever get around to them. And then I realize, scandalized, that I should probably send them back. But they're review copies, and it's too late now. One feels like such a whore when one writes a paragraph or two about the book, not reading it, but just doing a little publicity. I'm writing a book journal, not running a book news bureau. But perhaps I should do some of those paragraphs because I ACCEPTED the books. Or I could write a review of one of them for a small mag I used to write for. They're printing shorter and shorter reviews, so it COULD work out.

I can't even read all the books I've bought, and these are generally the books I really want to read. So zero spending is not the way for me to go in books. I'm committed to the rich selection on my coffee table.

As for zero spending, I've got it down in one area: Isn't it better to spend zero on clothes than zero on books? That's my current practice. A couple of pairs of black jeans and I'm fine.

So let's do zero spending on fashion and call it a day!


Hannah Stoneham said...

Hi - this post made me laugh so much! I too am a hopeless case in the spending department and spend money on all sorts of stuff, books being quite high on the list. i am currently living in a French town where there is only one small English book shop - so I have developed a world beating amazon habit aagghh - thanks for sharing! Hannah

A Bookshelf Monstrosity said...

I'm with you on this one. Zero spending on clothes? I'm down. Try to take away my coffee and book budget? Stand back, the lady's getting angry!

“When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes.”


Frisbee said...

I entirely agree with you and Erasmus!

Frisbee said...

Hannah, thank goodness you and I are supporting Amazon. How could they possibly survive without us?

The one English bookstore in town might be intimidating. I do have some other choices, so I spread the joy around. But France must be lovely.

Vintage Reading said...

Yep, I buy coffee and books, too. I like to support the industry. My Austen hardback collection was quite expensive but my thinking is that as I bought them while I'm working I can enjoy them when I retire!

Frisbee said...

The Austens are definitely worth having! Most of mine are paperbacks, but I've come to appreciate hardcovers and wish I could replace mine with those beautiful Everyman editions. They have nice print and good-quality paper. You absolutely can enjoy them when you retire and now, too.

Ellen said...

I don't think I could go by for one day without spending something beyond the use of heat, gas, light, food in the fridge and everything I use all day long which I pay for at the end of the month. Today it was stamps that I bought.

I did have an unnerving incident which will halt my use of credit cards until I get new ones with new numbers.

About 2 hours after Isabel and I returned from a movie, I had a phone call from the Federal Credit Union from which we get one of our credit cards. It seems someone had spent $2000 at a Wall-mart with my card. To make a long story short (3 phone calls, much stress) I realized while at the movie theater I had felt my handbag somehow pushed or gone under my feet and not thought about it as it was there (like a ghost story maybe) but what happened was someone behind me pulled my handbag which I had left on the floor under the seat, stole two credit cards from the place I keep them, returned the bag. Then he and/or she went and began a shopping spree; they used the other card at a Marshalls (very cheap clothing). They must have watched me carefully, and more than once and followed me into this movie house. Both credit card companies called. I have not one record of buying anything ever at WalMart, hardly anything for a place like Marshalls (probably near nothing for 30 years) and certainly not thousands all at once, but the companies did not catch the people. The phone calls came to them after the heist was done. We will not be charged.

Jim and I have stopped the cards' numbers, will get new ones, but it's scary to think about. The people must have my name too. I shall have to get a new wallet as my old one is a mess and too big for my handbag, one reason the guy could filch it as it bulges out. I wonder if this man or woman has been watching me for weeks to see my behavior. I've been gong to this theater for a few years, often on Sunday, usually with Isabel and use my credit card for tickets. If I go again, I'll take cash, no handbag, but as you may surmise, I think I'll stay away from that theater for a while.

As to the blogs: there is great delight in writing out our thoughts and discovering what we think, pleasure in imagining others are at least curious and a few read, and pleasure in looking back and remembering. The way to make the past remembered is to write it down and that makes it more available to us. True, no money, no outside reward beyond the doing of it. So? what people are rewarded for in this world is often awful. Henry James has characters who are proud to be perfectly equipped failures :)


Frisbee said...

Ellen, I am so sorry to hear about your wallet. It is terrible to have to start all over with new credit cards, very stressful. I had my wallet stolen from my purse once and it was just awful. Zero spending really IS the way to go, to discourage thieves if nothing else.

Ellen said...

Well I've not been able to do it. Since getting my new card and remembering a third I have had for a long time and rarely use, I've bought two books!

A little more on blogging: I think I'll write a blog on this: why I blog and post to lists. Yes no money and no "official" recognition from "le monde" which counts. I have a genuine desire to reach people with ideas or thoughts about books and art. And to hear from others who care about such things seriously. For me who have no connections to publish and don't write in a way that's commercially wanted, it's an outlet. I genuinely enjoy writing out my thoughts about books and like to reach others who feel and think the way I do. And it's enough, even when only a few post or blog or common offblog or offlist in return. It does bring genuine friendships too.

And by the way I am impressed with how much you read and your interesting thoughts about such a variety of experiences in reading.


Frisbee said...

Ellen, I agree that blogging is valuable. It is a terrific way of keeping a journal. From glancing at my blog for March 2009, I see we were enjoying spring thaws this time last year and I was reading out-of-print writers of the '40s, '50s, and '60s. Your blog is a scholarly journal with valuable notes, reviews, and personal musings.

But I have trouble finding blogs that are uncommercial, if you know what I mean. Most of them on my blogroll are big-time enterprises, promoting their own books or publishers, and referred to again and again on countless other blogs. If anyone knows of some good quiet blorgs kept by individuals who are just quietly talking about their own impressions of books, let me know. I'd like to add some new blogs to my blogroll.