Monday, May 23, 2011

Did mom over consume ?

My mom passed away recently. I'll miss her a lot. But boy did she have a lot of stuff. I mean she had 5 closets full of clothes. She had bags of clothes, shoes and purses. I was trying to figure out how much money she spent on clothes. And then being and economist, whether it was too much, too little or just right.
Just like a stupid economist, I am always look for a optimum.

When we were growing up we never went hungry and we always had bikes to ride and books to read. But my mom may have been a hoarder. She used to say, she was a child of the depression and ate "grass" biscuits for dinner when times were really tough. I never believed the grass biscuit part but my eyes would get pretty wide at that part of the story. They lived on a farm so I know they had something to eat during even the worst times this country has ever faced.

Now that we are relatively prosperous, I was trying to guess how much money she spent on all those clothes, shoes and bags. First, I will calculate the amount of money, then discuss whether is was a good use of the funds.

Note: All figures are current dollars. However, I know, thanks to Chinese manufacturing and American corporations, clothing prices have dropped by 50% in the past 20 years.

I estimate we gathered up 25 good bags (purses and the like), so I am going to put her down for 50 bags at a price of 25 dollars a piece. This whole calculation depends on on inflation and chinese manufacturing. So, I will assume the inflation adjusted bag of the 1970 costs the same as the fancy bag of the 1990, adjusted.

50 Bag @ 25 Dollars = 1250 Dollars

Next, there were about 50 pairs of shoes so I will assume about 150 over the shoe buting lifetime of 40 years. The shoe's average cost is going to be 20 dollars. So thats $3000 dollars.

150 EA @ 20 Dollars = 3000 Dollars

Next is coats: She had about 100 or more coats. Coats are expensive. They will be priced at 75 dollars. So that's $7500 in coats. I took some to the salvation army, but she would not let me take the rest.

100 Coats @ 75 dollars = $7500

Now for the hard one: Outfits(skirts, pants, blouse, shirts) I would estimate at more than three hundred. And I forgot another 100 in the attic. Each outfit I would guess costs, on average, 20 dollars. So thats 500 x 20 or $10,000.

500 items @ 20 Dollars = $10,000

The total is about $22,000 ($21,750);

When I total it all up, it is not really that much money. And what else would she have done with it. But did she really need all of that stuff to be happy?

Well to some extent yes. Consumption is ingrained in us when we are kids here in the US. Some people argue that material acquisition is genetic.

I also know, later in life, when they had nothing to do they would go shopping. Shopping definitely makes you feel good. My mom also like to look good especially next to her contemporaries. So she got some happiness there also. And then satisfy here desire for clothes though shopping also earned some happiness.

So, she may have over-consumed, but I would say it brought some happiness. The question is could she have reached the same level of happiness without consuming so much. Could she have given the money to charity or relatives.

For that, we have to turn to friends and family. We are all looking for a much less consumption oriented path to happiness. (See related post)


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