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Saturday, March 25, 2006

Confession: bad holiday purchases

The Bargain Queen has a confession to make: like a lot of people, she's made some shockingly bad purchases while on holiday. She gets to a fabulous exotic destination and all of a sudden, things that will never be practical / appropriate / attractive on the streets of Sydney become must-haves. She's come home many times with bulging suitcases, having spent half of the next year's clothing budget in a single day. (Just typing this, The Bargain Queen has a look of utter horror on her face...)

What is it about holidays that make ridiculous things seem like worthy purchases? Is it the one-off-opportunity factor? (Maybe I'll never come back here. Gotta buy that ugly shirt.) Does all that relaxation go to one's brain and cause temporary insanity? Or is it just that The Bargain Queen's memory is so poor she forgets all about her normal life the second she steps out of it?

Whatever causes it, The Bargain Queen has (mostly) learnt to shop sensibly while on holiday. But before we have more of The Bargain Queen's limitless shopping wisdom, let's get to the promised confession.

Here's some of the truly nutty things The Bargain Queen has bought over the years:
  • Clubbing gear (Melbourne, 1998). As a very young lass, The Bargain Queen once went on holiday and spent half her year's clothing budget on clothes which are only appropriate in nightclubs (like tight silver PVC trousers and very slinky black tops). Everyone's young once, so as long as The Bargain Queen doesn't think about how those pants would look on her now, it's all good - especially since she knows how to keep to a budget now.
    Lesson: if you wouldn't contemplate spending that much at home, don't do it on holidays.

  • Serious winter jacket (Chicago, 2000) - as shown in the pic. While on holiday in Chicago, The Bargain Queen managed to forget that she lives in a really warm climate, where it practically never gets below freezing. While this jacket would be a cute way to deal with icy winters, an inch of goose down all over will never be needed in Sydney. The justification was "I'll wear it skiing"... The Bargain Queen's only gone skiing twice. Oops.
    Lesson: the weather on holidays is not the weather at home.

  • Shiny silk skirts (Thailand, 2002). Thai silk is incredibly beautiful - no visit to Bangkok is complete without buying some. The sensible shopper would possibly probably pick up some cushions, a tablecloth and maybe a top (but only if they're really thin). The Bargain Queen fell for shiny silk skirts. (She likes to blames the tiny Thai women, who are not only 3/4 her height but also 3/4 her width. This is because The Bargain Queen has a weird mental disorder that causes her to buy clothes that make her look fat whenever she feels fat.) Let's just say, shiny skirts do nothing for the thighs of a Westerner, even if they're usually pretty svelte. These are now in the sewing basket, waiting to be made into the cushion covers The Bargain Queen should've bought in the first place.
    Lesson: what makes you look fat on holiday, still makes you look fat at home.

  • Ugliest rain jacket on Earth (London, 2005). In the midst of a drizzly London day, The Bargain Queen decided that she must end her ongoing quest for a nice rain jacket immediately. Like most rushed purchases, this didn't go quite to plan. While the jacket in question met all the practical criteria (waterproof; folds down to be really small; neutral colour), it's also butt ugly. A black nylon anorak with gold trim (cringe), it's been worn exactly once and that was in the bush. And The Bargain Queen was still embarassed by it.
    Lesson: practical + great price + butt ugly = not a bargain after all.

  • Ceramic garlic graters (Provence, 2005). These seemed like the coolest idea: they're little ceramic dishes with a rough surface on the bottom. You rub cloves of garlic against the bottom and they get all grated up. You can even grate your garlic in there, then pour in some olive oil and dip bread in it. Yummo! The Bargain Queen bought one for herself, one for Mr Bargain Queen and a few for other people (they were only a couple of Euros each and they seemed so cool and unique). None of them have been used at all. Evidently, they're just one more kitchen gadget noone needs.
    Lesson: nifty gadgets maybe aren't the best idea.

  • Books and magazines (too many holidays to count). Books and magazines seem like such a cool souvenir. They're relatively cheap, they're mostly not available back home and you don't have to worry about whether they'll suit the climate. The only problem is, they weigh a tonne. So you either lug them up and down escalators in unfamiliar subways or you pay a fortune posting them home.
    Lesson: beware of heavy souvenirs; a free hernia is not a bargain.
That's enough shaming now. The Bargain Queen's going to follow this up with some 'show off' posts in a couple of days, to tell you how good she is at holiday shopping now.

In the meantime, here's The Bargain Queen's absolute favourite holiday souvenir: pens. Not anything fancy, just ordinary plastic souvenir pens that cost roughly $2 each (if that). Maybe that sounds dull, but they have some big advantages. For a start, they're cheap. So if you hate them when you get home it's no big deal to give them away. More importantly, you're pretty much guaranteed to use them because EVERYONE loses pens sometimes. Plus every time you do use your holiday pen, you're reminded of the holiday.

But the best bit about holiday pens is they're practically theft-proof. The Bargain Queen's favourite pens both sport big logos (one's funky and purple from the Tate Modern, the other's chic chocolate brown from the Bolton Hotel in Wellington) and they always get given back. Maybe they're just too tacky to steal, but The Bargain Queen prefers to believe that noone's scummy enough to steal her special holiday memories. Aw.

OK, they're just too tacky to steal.

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