Sunday, August 1, 2010

Conspicuous Consumption Reset

Although as a rule I prefer to keep things upbeat , airy, and silly, I’m going to hit you with a caveat from the heart. Today the family and I ventured out to an Estate sale. Yes, no big deal since I have written many times about our recreational shopping excursions at garage sales, thrift stores, and even in dumpsters.

But this sale today was a little bit different since it was held in an upper class section of St. Louis (no jokes please as I have already written ALL of them on this topic). Immediately upon entry to the foyer of the house, I knew this was going to be an enjoyable adventure. We were greeted with an ornate giant bronze fountain priced at $8000. Now believe me this hunk of iron WAS expensive but there was no doubt in my mind that it probably cost the owner close to double that. Even if I had ‘8 large’ burning a hole in my piggy bank for a one ton water fountain, I would spend half that amount again just getting it trucked to the house, site prep – well you get the idea.

We continued through the house and though the visual treats of opulence continued in every room, I noticed something else too – ORDINARY things. I mean really ordinary things, like lunch boxes, shoes, kids books, water glasses, kitchen plates – stuff people use EVERY DAY? In the garage, the surprises continued as it was clear the owner was a high-end house builder and a local councilperson for the city. He had won tons of ‘quality’ awards and received recognition from all strata of society for his contributions to helping promote home ownership and ‘develop’ the local economy.

By now, you are assuming this is a tale of a ‘big shot’ who lived beyond his means and suffered the plight of countless other hard-working souls in this recent economic downturn and went bankrupt. Well you are half right, but the story has nothing to do with the economy - the owner was a crook. He ran a Ponzi bank scam to take new home deposits to cover his expenses. He would borrow funds from company accounts to always try and stay one step ahead of his spending habits, cocaine use, and bank fraud crimes. Eventually the FBI got involved and in the end he got caught and convicted to the State pen for a 51 month sentence.

Now what’s the big finish moral to this depressing story? Well I’m sure every day you and your kids are bombarded with ads, neighbors, and workmates who are always ‘in need’ of pitching MORE. You know those folks up the street – the Jones’? Yeah they just bought a new Mercedes and a Pinball machine – “why don’t we have that stuff too since we obviously deserve it?” Do yourself a BIG FAVOR and get off this train to nowhere and FAST. I am all for you blowing your cash any way you please as long as you know that your reserves and lifestyle are adequately in check. If you start finding yourself heading towards a cliff of working MORE simply to keep up with MORE debt, MORE wants, and MORE TROUBLE, then remember this ‘un-fairy’ tale and stop - RESET. Do you think this guy’s kids needed all the best new video games or clothes, or could they have benefited a bit more from having a normal life, with ordinary stuff and an ORDINARY Dad at home instead of in prison? Think about it, I sure did … and then I went shopping – for handcuffs!


  1. Good advice, which should be taught in every school. Then the lessons need to be taken home, read and signed by the parents, who need it even more.

  2. So true.

    I don't even have anything witty or cocky to add. Strange, isn't it?