Saturday, January 23, 2010

Conscientious Consumption - Girly Journals

I used to be a sucker for cute $17 journals, the kind that I would usually find at rich hippie boutiques in Ann Arbor. There would be some beautiful floral or paisley design on the cover and thick paper inside. For a short time I was obsessed with Moleskine journals, with their ultra-pretentious "Van Gogh, Matisse and Hemingway bought these, so you should too" marketing; obviously it totally worked on me. But at some point (probably when I was unemployed), I figured out that $17 is a ridiculous amount of money for me to spend on paper.

I used to find simple, pretty, cloth bound note pads at the old Afterwords on Main St. (R.I.P.) for four or five bucks. But when Afterwords bit the dust, I caved in and started going to Borders.

I hate shopping at Borders, especially in the girly journal section. I swear it's the biggest section of the whole store, with its stacks upon stacks of vaguely pro-lady themed blank books with dumb phrases like "Give me chocolate or give me death" written on the covers. As a woman, I feel insulted by that assault of bad taste.

So I got really excited when I finally noticed the stock of $3 journals right next to the Liberty St. store's front door. It's as if they're marketing directly to obsessive journal writers who hate shopping there. And though these journals are not the least bit pretty, they do have nice thick covers and a good shape that fits into many purses. And they're only $3! I have diligently filled at least a dozen of these in the last few years.

I was in need of a new journal last week and ran into the Borders at Arborland to grab one. I never shop at that Borders and was disappointed that they didn't have my cheapo book at the front door. I scrunched up my shoulders, marched toward the girly journals and suddenly realized why I always get that yucky Bed, Bath and Beyond feeling whenever I shop in that section - almost all of the products are made in China. Or Vietnam. Or in some other place where people get paid way less than $1 an hour to make journals, so that I can procure it at a rate very cheap to me.

I've decided that I don't need girly journals anymore. I've become an astute money manager and I love a thrifty bargain, but not when it's contributing to this fucked up economy in which others slave to create our cheap playthings. So I decided to go to buy a notepad at a drug store.

Of course, I ran into the exact same problem. I couldn't find any notebooks that said "Made in the USA". But then I found a Mead 5-Star notebook that didn't say "Made in Vietnam". It didn't say anything about where it was made. I decided to take a chance.

I emailed Mead to find out where that particular notebook was made and I'm very happy to say that it was made in the U.S. So there you have it. I finally found a $5 journal that was made in this country. The paper quality isn't that great. It's too big to fit in a purse, but since I treat the bus like my office, I'm more apt to carry a book bag anyway. It works for now. I'm sure I could find something much prettier and pricier that was also produced outside of a sweatshop. And maybe when I have more money I will allow myself that luxury. In the meantime, I'm just glad that I was able to reconcile my frugality and my habit with my desire to avoid sweatshop merchandise.


  1. For years, I have been buying Moleskine journals. I love journals and the fact that Moleskines are leather and have the pocket made them seem like a good buy. Then sometime around the holidays, I went to Border's to buy some new ones I couldn't bring myself to do pay the $17. Now that I'm in a family way, I am much more aware of the ways in which I waste money. Fortunately, I found Piccadilly notebooks at Borders for about $5. They are practically the same. Here is great link comparing Moleskine and Piccadilly:

    Moleskine vs. Piccadilly

    However, the label on an unopened one I have says "Printed in China." I don't know whether that means just the label was made in China or the whole notebook was manufactured there, and then under what conditions.

  2. That's a funny blog! Thanks for sharing it. Yeah, at two to three times the price, I can't really see how the Molsekine beats the Piccadilly.

    Re: Manufacturing in China - The Moleskine website says, "The China we know well and which supplies our production needs, in fact, is not the China of cut-rate manufacturing, low levels of quality, and a complete disregard for copyrights and civil rights. It is the China that invented paper in the second century A.D., when the West was still using only parchment." Again, with the ultra-pretentiousness! And still they charge $17.