A few weeks ago, I became the proud owner of a glistening black new car. I didn't buy it, truth be told, I leased it. In four years, when the new car smell has become a distant memory, and I feel the need to spoil myself some more by choosing the model with power windows, I will simply move on.
I'm in my thirties, and this is the first car I've ever owned; in fact, this is the single biggest purchase I have ever made. I hesitated for a moment before signing on the dotted line. "Four years. Am I ready to be tied down for that long?" I asked myself. "Is this what I really want?"
Yet I didn't even flinch three years earlier when I blew my entire line of credit on an extravagant adventure halfway around the world. For some reason, it seemed like a completely justifiable way of spending thousands of dollars that weren't really mine.
I used to think that I needed an intervention for my mixed-up modus operandi, but recently, I discovered that I'm not alone-I am a Transumer.
According to a recent article at trendwatching.com: "Transumers are consumers driven by experiences instead of the 'fixed,' by entertainment, by discovery, by fighting boredom, who increasingly live a transient lifestyle, freeing themselves from the hassles of permanent ownership and possessions."
Many of us can see ourselves in this description; most of us rent apartments, work freelance and spend our hard-earned money not on real estate and RRSPs, but on globe-trotting adventures, extravagant dinners and clothing. So should we throw caution to the wind and max out our credit cards until we're left destitute? Of course not. But we can still live a little.
Fashion is becoming increasingly disposable. Stores like Zara and H&M sell trendy, sexy clothes and accessories at very reasonable prices. Sure, they might not last more than a season or two, but the stuff is so cheap that you don't care if it falls apart after the first few washes.
With big runway designers creating affordable clothing, buying cheap designer knock-offs has become a thing of the past. The quirky design duo Victor&Rolf recently launched a new fall/winter line at H&M, following in the footsteps of fashion superstars Stella McCartney and Karl Lagerfeld, who both created sell-out collections for the hugely popular chain.
And if paying for a new look is too much of a commitment, we don't even have to do that any more-we can just borrow. Websites devoted to borrowing handbags, clothing and jewelry are popping up all over the place. One example is Shoulder Candy, a Canadian company that opened in April 2006. Through their website, anyone can rent a designer handbag for as long as they want at a shockingly reasonable rate.
And let's not forget eBay, the Transumer's drug of choice. On eBay, we can bid on anything our greedy little hearts desire-a pair of shoes, a work of art, the latest high-tech gadget. And when we buy that authentic Marc Jacobs multi-pocket, buttery soft 100% calf leather handbag on a whim for $300 instead of the retail price of $975, it's just as easy to sell it at a profit two weeks later.
Retail stores & restos - popping up all over
A big part of this ever-growing lifestyle trend is pop-up retail: stores, restaurants and gallery spaces that appear for a fixed amount of time as a marketing strategy and then disappear a little while later. The latest and greatest example is The Reindeer, a Christmas themed pop-up restaurant that just opened with much fanfare in London. This extravagant limited-time dining experience will be open for twenty-three days and is already booked solid.
While this trend is slow to come to Montreal, we do have something along those lines: [email protected]. This transumerist shopping event takes place at the SAT (Société des Arts Téchnologiques) this year, from Thursday December 7 to Sunday December 10. Local designers will be coming together to sell their exclusive wares for a very limited time. You'd better hurry there; it'll all be gone before you can squeal, "I'll take it!"
Planes, trains and automobiles
Air travel is becoming more accessible than ever. First of all, I don't know anybody who buys airplane tickets from a travel agent anymore-that's an unnecessary step that takes away from the whimsical nature of modern-day travel. Websites like expedia.ca and flightcentre.ca offer amazing deals if you're flexible with dates, and we Transumers have to be flexible to live the lifestyle.
I was recently in London, England and had to fight the urge to take a holiday-within-my-holiday and buy a round-trip ticket to Berlin at easyjet.com. The tickets cost £6.99 each way (around $15) so it was actually cheaper to fly to another country than to take a 20-minute taxi ride to the airport. It's amazing that what was once reserved for the rich is now well within our grasp.
Although it's not the best news for the planet that we're doing all this flying around, there is one aspect of transumerism that's good news for environmentalists-car-sharing. Companies like Montreal's Communauto are becoming more and more popular. For a yearly fee, members have access to a whole fleet of cars that they can borrow for a few days or even for a few hours. It's less hassle and less commitment (no monthly car payments). Also, less cars on the road makes for cleaner air. I have a lot of friends who opt for car sharing-it's the ideal option for Montrealers who can easily take the bus to work, but who need a car once in a while to pick up their new Poäng coffee table at Ikea or groceries for their annual Christmas potluck.
According to trendwatching.com, "Transumers have emerged in an age of abundance, with a reduced need for constant securing of the basics, and goods so plentiful that the status derived from them is sometimes close to nil. The only thing that remains is consumption of the thrill, the experience, the new."
In the end, I think it all has to do with priorities, and until further notice my priority is to live every day with as few regrets as possible. I ask you, my fellow Transumers, is that so wrong?