Much to their chagrin young Australians are often portrayed as overly-materialistic. We think of them as always buying the latest and greatest. That their priorities are about living for today and enjoying their earnings rather than being bogged down with planning and saving for the future.
The stereotype is not too far off, as much as young people might resent it. And it applies across the board to all Australians in various degrees (otherwise than those raised in times of austerity, especially the elderly). We rush to store sales, often purchasing items just because they are on sale, and not because we need them.
So, in one exercise where young people were asked about their favourite possessions, the answers were fascinating. In preparation for a discussion about their lifestyle they were asked to bring along something to our group discussion which they own and which means most to them (or a photo).
The items they chose had nothing to do with their monetary value. In fact, it’s fair to say hardly anyone was guided by the cost of the possession. What they did bring were a range of items which reflected their personalities, reminded them of a special time in their lives or had sentimental value.
Many brought in quirky items. One young man brought in a felt purple hat from the markets, while another brought a photo of a hat stand in the shape of giraffe. “I fell in love with it as soon as I saw it,” they said. And “No one else has one.” They love these for being unique, something which showcased to the world their individual tastes and identity.
Souvenirs bought while overseas also featured highly. Not mass produced ”snow domes” but a well-worn and much loved T-shirt or small work of art. These were obtained during adventurous days, which provided them with treasured experiences. Again, the items were a reminder of special times in their lives.
They also brought in links to the past and previous generations. Several males brought in war medals awarded to their grandfathers during wars. Some women brought in an item of jewellery handed down through the generations. Not the most expensive jewellery they owned, but the piece with most meaning.
When people affected by natural disasters asked people what they rushed to save from their homes, monetary value often does not feature in their top-of-mind considerations.
We like expensive things. We save for them, lay-by them or go into debt to own them. We buy them because of their quality and brand name, but ultimately because we derive pleasure from the purchase and the ownership. But the sense of joy is often short-lived. The feeling of satisfaction is relatively fleeting. Think of a significant purchase you made last year, chances are your excitement level about it today is not what it was at the time.
Neer Korn is the founder of social and market research company The Korn Group and is a popular speaker at conferences and company seminars on social issues and consumer trends.
Check out some of Neer’s other articles on his blog at: www.thekorngroup.com.au/blog/