Because we live in a materialistic culture bent on the nihilistic destruction of objective values, many financial advisers tell us to never shop when we are hungry. A quintessential example comes from a Wiccan guru site called the “Money Instructor.” Read the money-loving abominations here. If you scroll down on this page to the section entitled “Don’t Shop on an Empty Stomach,” you will read the following intellectually malnourished drivel:
Don’t shop when you are hungry. People tend to buy more, and a larger amount of the things they don’t need when they are hungry, so always shop with a full stomach. Also, prepare to dress more warmly, since supermarkets are often cold, because the cold temperatures actually makes you hungry so you buy more!
First, I want to start out by putting an assumption of mine out on the table: we need food. In recent years, scholarship has confirmed this.
The mistakes in the above paragraph’s conjectures are so numerous and interconnected that I don’t know how to order my refutations. I’ll just go sentence by sentence, and apologize now for any lack of cohesion. Consider the sentence
People tend to buy more, and a larger amount of the things they don’t need when they are hungry, so always shop with a full stomach.
First, no empirical evidence whatsoever is offered in support of either the explicit claim that people buy more things they need and don’t need when they are hungry, or the implicit claim that being full reduces the phenomenon of buying many and unnecessary things. But let’s say the first claim – that hungry people buy what they don’t need – is true. Given Plato’s Law of Symmetry, will it not also be true that full people fail to buy what they do need? This follows axiomatically.
Next, consider the language game being played with the word “need.” How is this word being employed? It’s not obvious. The author cannot possibly mean need in the Singerian sense, since according to Peter Singer we don’t need money. There is 0% probability that “The Money Instructor” believes this, especially since the function of shopping when you are full is evidently so that you can have more money to bathe in while you are at home.
So obviously The Money Instructor is using “need” in a less severe, but still substantive sense. Maybe “need” is relative,” in the sense of “I need potatoes more than I need ice cream sandwiches.” But Dr. Atkins has proven that potatoes are in fact worse for you than ice cream sandwiches. So perhaps the comparison is celery vs. cotton candy. I “need” celery, because I need a category of which celery is part: “healthy food.” But I don’t “need” cotton candy because it is not part of the category “healthy food.” But wait? Can you taste a straw man? Who eats cotton candy because it is in the category “healthy food?” Answer: psychopaths at MSNBC.
So here’s the crux: We eat cotton candy because it is part of other categories: fun, or human parties, or piety, or some other category. The Money Instructor, and Wiccan nihilists like her, think the only value on mother earth is money, and hording it in your house. If we affirm other values, like making our grandchildren smile, we will acknowledge that purchasing things we don’t need is actually purchasing things we do need. Because we need to make our grandchildren smile.
But back to the pseudo-economics/psychology. Who exactly are you shopping for? Most basically, you are shopping for yourself. Let’s ignore for the moment the reality of guests and grandchildren and girlfriends, since The Money Instructor apparently thinks they don’t exist. Are you shopping for your hungry self or your gorged self? Obviously you are shopping for your hungry self. And solipsism teaches us that no one knows your needs better than you. So by deduction no one knows the needs of your hungry self better than your hungry self. Unless you are an ascetic and think satisfying physical desires is wicked, you can’t resist the force of this argument. If you aren’t hungry, you will rationalize – at the expense of the part of you that actually needs to eat – all sorts of evils, like not buying hummus, or ice cream sandwiches, or bread, or even baby carrots for that matter. You’ll buy two dozen eggs and bottled water and a multivitamin and you’ll steal exactly one paper plate. That sounds horrific, a veritable holocaust of a financial philosophy.
So my advice is: shop when you are hungry. Not too hungry, or else you’ll faint in the store, or hallucinate and buy the wrong things, like Triscuits instead of Club Crackers, or Meijer brand Mac and Cheese instead of Kraft. But shop when you’re in the mood for approximately one hardy meal. Your hungry self will thank you now, three hours from now, and three hours after that. Your midnight hungry self will thank you. Your morning self will thank you. Your guests will thank you. Your grandchildren will thank you. You will have good physical sensations at regular intervals throughout the day. You will not need to take a multivitamin. The only thing you sacrifice is the chance to roll around in your cash that you didn’t spend on chips and salsa. But rolling around in cash is gross, and unusual.