Today during my morning hustle, I came across this billboard.
It stopped me in my tracks for a number of reasons. For one, I’m pretty particular about vodka so I was curious about the brand and the marketing. I happen to be a fan of Russian Standard Vodka–it’s a clean, crisp vodka that you can actually taste but it doesn’t slap you in the face like others do. This Sobieski Vodka on the billboard–never tried it–but I must admit I might give it a go just because I appreciate their marketing strategy!
The tagline “There is still a deficit people, spend wisely” resonates with me for two reasons. For one thing, it underscores the often misguided notion that the more something costs, the better it will be. Of course, this is far from the truth. Sure, you can go to the club and order a bottle (that’s ONE bottle) of “premium” vodka like Grey Goose or Belvedere and pay about $500 for bottle service. On the other hand, if you choose to “slum it” and get a lesser brand like Stoli or Absolut, you’re bottle service bill may be lower. But does that mean they are lesser quality than the others?
Listen, I’m not a professional vodka taster and I’m not Russian so I can’t weigh in one way or the other. My point is that some things we buy are marked up not because they are better quality than other brands, but because the marketing is so bad-ass that it creates a huge demand for the product. The lesson here: don’t be a sucker.
If you truly want to buy a $40 bottle of vodka at the liquor store that tastes like um….water…then by all means go ahead and splurge on that bottle of Grey Goose. The lack of taste will not conflict with your cosmo or orangini anyways. But if you really appreciate the bite and flavor of vodka, you will probably have a better experience AND save money buying a different brand like Stoli, Russian Standard or maybe even this Sobieski.
Similarly there are ways to maintain value in the food, drink, clothes, vacations and activities that you enjoy, without paying the premium. Here are a couple of suggestions:
1. Do your research. If you want to try a new restaurant, spa or business, yelp it, google it, whatever. Make sure you get what you pay for. If you see too many bad reviews or alternatively, if you see that only hipsters have reviewed the place, avoid.
2. Don’t be distracted by the shiny people. In other words, just because everyone is drinking it, eating it, buying it, doesn’t mean it’s worth it. Know your taste and don’t be afraid to be different. You might even set a new trend! If your bougie friend is trying to convince you that the Minetta Tavern Black Label burger is worth $30 but your gut is (literally) telling you Five Guys will do, do Five Guys. You can help yourself to shelled peanuts in the barrell while you wait–what’s better than that?!
3. Do your fancy drinking and eating at home. In this economy, people are thinking twice about going out for drinks and dinner like we did back in 2006. These days, more of my friends are having blow-out dinner parties, with premium drinks and delicious, fancy dinners at a fraction of the cost of going to a restaurant. And no attitude from the waiter! We alternate weekends so each of us has a chance to cook and have the gang over. It’s good clean fun for the whole family!
4. Look for happy hour deals. More businesses are offering good happy hour deals and happy hour dinner menus, so take advantage of them. Go out with friends for a drink and a bite after work, then go home and walk the dog like a grown-up.
5. Get your Groupon on! Take advantage of some of the deals offered on discount websites like Groupon, Living Social etc. I recently saw a coupon for $50 for $100 worth of food at a premium steak house in Tribeca. This is a great way to try out a new restaurant or dine at an old favorite, at a discount. And even at these fancy establishments, NEVER be embarrassed to bust out that coupon!
The other reason that the tagline resonated with me is that there is a deficit, people. What that means is that while our cantankerous Congress continues to argue over whether to raise taxes or not, given the size of our federal debt (over $15 trillion) and last year’s deficit ($1.3 trillion), and considering the mandatory allocation of government spending that is only increasing (Social Security, paying interest on the debt), it’s inevitable that taxes will go up in the near future. That means less cash in our pockets, and more change for Uncle Sam to pay the bills.
So bust out your crock pot and that bottle of Absolut like your mom did back in 1985. Thriftiness and value are back.