a gamble

My family is riddled with compulsive behaviors from obsessive religious practices to compulsive gambling. With that frame of reference, I tuned into TLC’s Extreme Couponing last night.

The show was described with a hoarding bend on the cable menu – something about shopaholics. Each of the people participating in the program were extremely organized and had stockpiles of staples, or something to show for their “resourcefulness” or their ability to save. I do not know if they are able to use all they buy before it expires or if they end up purchasing things they will never use in order to save or even earn money on these shopping trips. The show raised more questions for me than providing answers.

One woman’s entire home was stocked full of supplies with toiletpaper rolls under her toddler’s bed and a huge pantry shelf in her own bedroom. She said the first thing she looked at every morning was that shelf and that she wasn’t too thrilled the day she installed it, but nonetheless thought it was worth it for the amount of money she saved.

I agree that saving 98% on a grocery bill is pretty good if you’re really going to eat those 400 hotdogs or 20 bottles of Maalox that you just purchased. You have to have a system in place, though, to not end up drowning in your so-called “savings.”

What struck me was that this behavior is no less compulsive than gambling. Each woman at the cash register said they were having heart palpitations and getting really nervous. They were never really certain if they would save as much as they expected. That one moment at check out is really no different than trying to hit the jackpot (a calculated jackpot, for sure) at the casino, or winning at the final table in a poker tournament when you know you cannot lose more money than your initial buy-in. The only difference is the compulsive gambler doesn’t have all that stuff to show for their playtime, or work, or whatever you want to call it.

What’s better, in the end — being buried under your stock of free things or having nothing to show for your gamble, having just broken even? Neither sounds like a true win to me.

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