By Susan Tompor, Detroit Free Press –
People talk and talk about the latte factor when it comes to saving money, believing that if you skip the $3.50 a day on fancy coffee, well, you could retire at 35. How did that one work out for you?
But what about the loopy factor? You know the list of loopy little things you buy at $10 or $15.
I ask this because, well, I went a little loopy and spent $7 on a hot-dog-in-a-bun costume, with relish and mustard, for my dog Phoenix Tiger, who is hot stuff with the ladies. Size medium, the only size left.
Just seeing the dog try the costume on at home, though, triggered thoughts about other loopy ways people spend.
Does my 14-year-old son Matt need a $25 T-shirt to celebrate the Detroit Tigers’ road to the World Series? Does my husband Richard need a $20 Chevy T-shirt and a fancy $10 piece of apple pie to make the story line complete?
Get it: Baseball, hot dog(s), apple pie and Chevrolet?
This is how it all starts. One small purchase builds to more. It becomes too easy to string together a bunch of impulse buys from now through New Year’s Day.
Spoiler alert: We’re now two months from Christmas.
The National Retail Federation said shoppers are going to “remain conservative” for the jolly holidays — including Christmas and Hanukkah, which starts Dec. 8.
Based on a spending survey, the retailers group said the average holiday shopper would spend only $9 more this year. Holiday sales are forecast to increase 4.1 percent to $586.1 billion — the most optimistic forecast released since the recession.
It doesn’t sound bad.
But like any good investor, let’s dig through the footnotes.
Does dishing out on average $23.48 on co-workers; $28.13 on others, including pets, and $51.99 on decorations sound like people watching every penny?
Did we just spot a few ways to slash about $100 out of an average holiday budget of $749.51?
It doesn’t help that little things, like dog costumes, start creeping into shopping bags minutes after school starts. About 4 in 10 Americans say they will begin holiday shopping before Halloween.
Take the trick-or-treat season — which is expected to set consumers back about $8 billion. Consumers are expected to spend on average $79.82 on Halloween decorations, costumes and candy — up about $7.50 from $72.31 from last year.
It can start out with a $5 witch hat. Or a $5 pumpkin that looks lonely on the porch, so you decide to add two or three more.
And is your dog or cat getting a new costume, too? Be honest.
Phoenix Tiger certainly needed one. He had a shoddy homemade costume last year, one we threw together just before trick-or-treat time. “The secret on impulse items is to somehow convince ourselves that our want is really our need,” said Michael Bernacchi, a marketing professor at the University of Detroit Mercy.
About 15 percent of consumers will dress up the pet in a costume, according to the National Retail Federation. A record $370 million is projected to be spent on pet costumes. (That compares with $1.1 billion for children’s costumes and $1.4 billion for adult costumes.)
Target ran an ad last week with 30 percent off pet costumes that originally started at $4.99 to $14. Dogs were dressed as skunks, brides and grooms, and alligators.
So it appears I am not the only crazy lady on the block. The hot dog costume is the third most popular this year for pets, according to the retailing group. No. 1 is a pumpkin and No. 2 is a devil. No. 4 is a cat costume.
As for loopy impulse spending, it’s a way for retailers to “transfer emotion into economics,” Bernacchi said, noting that the bulk of today’s pet stores are basically impulse marketplaces.
My sister collects turkeys. I’ve been known to collect pumpkins. And the other day I found myself walking through a Crate & Barrel on a mission to find a squirrel.
I spotted a collection of squirrel candleholders in the window. Fortunately, I could not chase them down in the store.
Later I found the price online: $19.95. What’s dubbed a “very unpesky squirrel” is thankfully no longer available online.
Loopy? Or latte? Give up either — OK, both — and you likely don’t need to worry about when you’d be able to retire. You’d need to give up that dog — a dog my son calls “Big Money” — before you could get a stash of real cash. But who would do that? Our Phoenix is one hot dog who cannot help but look a bit hotter in a $7 costume.