In my former life with vision, I was a self confessed shopaholic. Sometimes I ask myself why I didn’t have therapy for it because looking back, the habit sure left me in a bit of trouble and with not much to show but a huge wardrobe filled with clothes I don’t wear, a few personal training certificates and short course accomplishments that have now become redundant since I pursued teaching and maybe a few holidays.
I loved the thrill, the spontaneity, and the feeling I got from a new banging outfit or a bag of the latest Napoleon Perdis cosmetics. It was like a drug for me. If I saw a top I liked, I would have to have it in every colour. If I had my makeup done at a counter, I would have to buy every product they used rather than wait to use up what I already had. If I saw something I liked in a shop, I would only be able to restrain for a couple of days, then have to go back and get it to have it in my hot little hands. This has resulted in a very large and mostly unused wardrobe and beauty product collection. I was every sale assistants dream. Easily gullible and easily sold.
I am thankful to my husband, who is very good with money. He saves, is ‘stingy’, and doesn’t often buy things for himself. He bought his first house at 22 and now is part-owner in a business. He has our lives sorted out, knows what is coming in and going out, keeps on top of our super, bargains with billing companies and insurance companies to get the best value for money and keeps the reins on me so I don’t go too crazy with the credit card. He knows when the credit card rolls over every month, we don’t miss a payment and enjoy spending our hard earned credit card points. He has taught me so much about money. Why don’t we learn about money at school? We never got taught about credit card interest, cash advances, super, insurance, and all that stuff that goes with running a house-hold budget. I never remember having conversations at home about money, only it was good to save. That is no fault of my parents, I just don’t think it was talked about in general. I hear so many stories about Gen Y people who are in the same boat or much much worse, in above their heads. My situation wasn’t really that bad, and I was lucky to meet my husband when I did.
So what has changed now I have lost my vision?
Well, we joke that losing my vision has been good for our bank balance. When I first lost my vision, I hated shopping. I was absolutely devastated and grieved for the loss of my ability to shop. I couldn’t see in the mirror very well what I was trying on, my body had changed from having a baby, I couldn’t see price tags and kept knocking things off coat-hangers and shelves. I got flustered, embarrassed, overwhelmed and anxious in shops. My mum was one of the very few people I could shop with before I lost my vision. We used to go shopping together and buy clothes, handbags, makeup and shoes. We would go out for lunch and have great weekends in the city together. The first time I shopped with her after my vision to buy a couple of pairs of jeans was a nightmare for me. I felt vulnerable and was embarrassed about using my stick and communicating with shop assistants about my vision loss. I hated help and felt like I was a baby. So I avoided going to shops for a few months. If I needed something, I would get mum to use my credit card to get it online. After a while, I started to gradually find my way back into the shops again. Although my habits have totally changed. I now only shop when we need something. If I want something, I have to want it pretty bad, and because it is a big effort to catch the bus into the shops with a baby, I tend to forget I even wanted something in the first place!
Now it has almost been 12 months and I am finding it easier to shop again. I know my local shops and area now. I generally know the layout of the supermarket, Kmart, reject shop and the plaza with the vision I have got. The shops better not go rearranging the shelves or I will have a melt down!
So how does a blind person shop?
If I have to go to the shops to buy something, I make a list of exactly what I need to buy. If it is from the supermarket, I will go to that particular area to locate the item. I will always try to locate an item on my own first, because if someone does it for me, I wont learn. 9 times out of 10 I will find the item on my own. Sometimes I might ask an assistant, although these days in the supermarket, assistants are less available. I always go to a checkout with an assistant to pay as the self serve checkouts are not accessible to me. If I need something for Archer, I can usually find what I need in Kmart or Target. I know the colours on the coat hangers for his size. This is something I learnt on my own with my magnifier app. I can see the colours on the coat hanger now, so just grab it rather than looking like I am doing something dodgy with my phone. I ask the assistant at the checkout to double check I have the right size. Kmart and Target are great because the price tags are nice and large for me to see without the need of magnification.
Shopping for Archer
In Bendigo, I have found that shopping for Archer has been great. The shop assistants know me in at Baby Bunting which is just a short walk from where I live and are all to happy to help me with what I need. Shopping has been really personable there and they have really looked after Cameron and I. One thing they did was give me a whole new breast pump after I damaged it in the hospital after brain surgery. They also gave me a new pram after the one I bought had a dodgy wheel. I like going into Pumpkin Patch as well because the shop assistant knows me by name and gives me really good descriptions of what I am buying. I find shop assistants read my low vision sign on my pram and are all to happy to help. I enjoy shopping on my own because it gives me a sense of empowerment, I get spoken to like any other customer and treated with respect. I find when I shop with a friend or family member, I find I get spoken for when I can speak for myself. It is never intentional, as my friends and family are only trying to help, but it is just the experience I have. When I am on my own,I am in control of the pram, I know where I am going, I may bump an obstacle every now and then but I just laugh it off now. Sometimes I might get my friend to push the pram for me if it is a tight area, but that is rare.
Doing the groceries
Thank goodness for online grocery shopping and delivery. Even if I had my vision, I would still use this service. What mum would want to lug their kids to the supermarket anyway? It is a disaster in the making. My mum did our grocery shopping online when I first lost my vision. Now that there are regular grocery lists on there I have gradually learned to do it on my own and have mastered navigating the website with low vision and can do my online shop in about 20 minutes. What I love is, the groceries get delivered to your door and the driver brings them in and puts them on your bench ready to unpack. I save so much money by shopping this way because I am not doubling up on ingredients I may have forgotten were in my pantry.
One proud day was when I bought us a king size bed and new linen all on my own without the help from my husband. Our old rickety bed finally caved and we needed a new bed as soon as possible. I walked to Harvey Norman the next day and went straight to the bed section. I told the assistant my price range and about my impairment and got help with choosing a mattress and ensemble. Being the end of financial year, it was good timing, so I got the bed half price. Just goes to show the mark up they must have on the beds. I then walked to Pillow Talk and asked the shop assistant to find me the quilt cover sets and their matching sheet sets I liked. I bought two. We also needed a mattress protector and doona so I bought those too. All of a sudden I had purchased us a new bed setting on my own. It was liberating and I was so chuffed with myself. What was even better is Cameron loves the bed. It is honestly the best bed we have ever slept in.. Since that day, the love I once had for shopping has now returned. Although now, I see the bigger picture. We are going overseas in September and we want to buy a house in Bendigo, so now I would rather save up for experiences and see the world with the little vision I have left. Who knows what will happen in the future.? I may go black-blind or maybe some medical miracle may happen where they can rejuvenate the optic nerve. I am hoping for the latter or to just maintain what I have.
So, if you have low vision
or are blind, my tips to you are:
- Try and go on your own if you can manage it. You will find it empowering and assistants in shops are usually all to happy to help.
- Shop online for groceries. Get a sighted person to help you learn to navigate the site until you are confident.
- The more you put yourself out there, the easier it gets. Shopping will never be a breeze for me like it used to, but I can manage it now. I did a lot of work with my orientation and mobility specialist from Vision Australia until I was confident to navigate shops on my own. If I went to shops with Cameron or friends I would map out visual signs and markings in shops and centres with the vision I had to know where I am such as certain coloured tiles, poles, markings on paths etc.
I would now say, I shop in moderation. I have recently down sized my wardrobe, gradually getting rid of clothes I have not worn in at least 12 months. I have only kept the clothes I feel fantastic in and that are of good quality. I recycle clothes now and wear them to death rather than only once or twice.. I have donated my clothes to my friends and people in need. Losing my vision meant that I had to de-clutter my life. I don’t need half a dozen body washes or six foundations. I use up what I already have before I purchase more. Because I am not going to shops as often, I am not getting drawn into what is currently out so the temptation to buy is not there. Of course, I have my moments, particularly when I am out with my mum. We know that when I go to Tassie, it often ends up being an expensive trip, but it is not often so it is justified. Especially when it involves new leather boots for winter!