The Best of Andy Rooney

The other day, one of those newspaper columns that gives advice on how to lose weight, make money and live happily ever after gave some suggestions on how to stay within a budget when we're shopping. The suggestions were to shop alone, stick to a list and don't shop for food when we're hungry.

The only part I accept is the advice to shop alone.

I like to shop alone because I don't want to move through a store at anyone else's pace. If an aisle doesn't interest me, I cruise through it with my shopping cart at the speed limit.

I don't want to stand around staring at detergents with someone who's turned on by detergents.

Shopping alone is the only way to go. The person who wrote the column suggesting we buy only what's on our lists doesn't understand that shopping is recreation in America. Recreational shopping is more popular than television or the movies. Anyone who thinks we go to the store for the single purpose of getting food enough to keep from starving to death doesn't understand us. Some of the easiest, cheapest fun I have is shopping.

Often, I don't even buy anything, and I can spend as little or as much time as I wish.

I can shop for 20 minutes or three hours. On Saturdays, I often do some chores around the house for as long as I can stand it and then I announce that "I have to go out." "Where are you going?" "I have to go to the store." Well, I don't "have to" at all, of course.

It's just that I'm tired of what I'm doing and want to take a break and get out where the action is. If this house in which I sit writing were suddenly transplanted to a remote wilderness area, we could survive in it for months with what we have in the refrigerator and on the shelves. Last weekend, I "went to the store" five different times.

If I hadn't gone at all it wouldn't have mattered.

I went twice to the supermarket, twice to the hardware store and once to a big clothing store. On the first trip to the supermarket, I did have a list of seven items and I went to the hardware store specifically to get one type of screw.

I went to the clothing store because I'd convinced myself I needed new socks. Let me try to recall what I bought.

The following items were strictly recreational purchases, acquired more for pleasure of acquisition than for need. At the supermarket, I bought a bag of walnuts, a pint of sour cream, a half pound of dried apricots and a bottle of imported olive oil. Hardly items critical to survival.

As much as I enjoy shopping for food, it doesn't compare with the pleasure I get from going to the hardware store. My shop is filled with things I've bought just for fun over the years.

I have tricky tools and gadgets lying around everywhere.

It may sound as though I'm a spoiled kid with too much money, but I spend less and get more pleasure out of a little recreational shopping than most women spend on cosmetics or some men spend on golf, a boat or bowling.

The biggest kick I get out of my hardware collection is looking at what I paid for the items last year and the year before compared to what they cost today. Saturday, I came across one of those three-prong adaptors I'd bought two years ago for an electrical outlet. It was still in the bag and was marked 15 cents. Later that day, I went to the same hardware store and they'd packaged two of those adaptors in plastic and marked them $2.50. It made me feel pleased all over for having bought the one I didn't need several years ago.

This is my idea of a good time. At the clothing store, I forgot to buy the socks I went there for, but I came home with a new waterproof nylon jacket, a leather belt and two sports shirts. I wonder what fun the lady has who wrote the column giving advice on how to avoid buying things.

(This classic Rooney column was originally published Feb. 24, 1986.)

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