All that and a bag of chips

Last week I started a new job and had to quickly temper my immediate reaction to “treat myself” at every turn. I wanted to eat lunch out every day, go to celebratory ice cream, buy new clothes, the works.

Instead I decided to allow one big splurge.  For most people in my generation that would translate to a new car, Bose stereo system or trip to New York. I decided to buy a DVD set for a series I collect and missed watching last season (when I had no cable). I’d already checked at the video store and they don’t carry it so I couldn’t rent it free. I’ve also learned over the past four years I will re-watch these seasons again and again.

I grabbed the ads and found which store had the best deal and the day it was released made my way to Best Buy.  After picking up the DVDs I glanced around quickly because I’m planning on buying a new camera and I try to get an idea of the price range whenever I can.

(I also look at the TVs the same size I bought to reassure myself I got a great deal. I did, I’ve never seen one cheaper!)

I like to keep those pretty cameras in my site because it reminds me that I have a goal and several hundred dollars to save.  I don’t need to spend needlessly or frivilously. I need to save for the new camera so I can have lots of time to price and perfect shots before I go to Europe and attempt to photograph the entire continent.

When I checked out the cashier asked if the DVD set was a new release. I assured her I was a rabid fan and it was indeed.  She immediately turned to pick up a basket and chirped, “then you get a bag of chips for only a penny!!”

Imagine her fake estatic face and my confused one.

After I processed her offer and glanced at the basket I replied, “no, thank you.”

Imagine her confused face and my impassive one.

Granted it doesn’t take an advanced degree to work the register at Best Buy but I had to explain, in very small words, why I didn’t want the chips.

I won’t eat them.

I don’t need them.

I don’t want to waste money on things I don’t need and won’t use.

Yes, even if it’s only one penny.

Because when it comes down to it, the cost of the impulse buy is only half of the equation.

Probably the best example I can give is my own dad. He doesn’t read this blog (sorry, Dad). My dad is a great collector and very often that is a profitable endeavor that I profit from.  When I bought my queen bed I plopped it on the floor where it would still be had he not found me a metal frame.

Granted, he picked up this frame on the side of the road where someone had dumped it, but it’s the thought that counts.  Because my dad has the tendency to take something I’ve said is “nice” or “not disgusting” as a mandate to find and buy it for me we have very clear rules.

My parents know of just two or three things I am actively looking to buy at any one time.  Right now it’s a queen sleigh bed in oak or honey, the dish pattern I collect or a china hutch to display dishes.  Nothing else.

I made these rules because my dad is a collector. Hat boxes, magazines, shop rags, windshield wiper inserts, tires, grills, spare pieces of wood, nails, and on and on. Again, this can be useful. I am very grateful for the ramps my dad made so I can change my oil as the metal ones we found would scratch my low front-end.  And I appreciate the custom pantry he fashioned using a combination of new and scrap wood.

But at some point the things we all collect, even if free, exact a hefty price.  There is a certain amount of mental stress that accompanies all that stuff. Constantly surveying garage sales and swap meets, flea markets, thrift stores and roadside dumps takes time and energy. Many items were purchased because he couldn’t find the one he already owned. Untold hours are spent moving stuff from one pile to another, from one room to another. More hours are spent looking for that one important paper and trying to uncover the kitchen table for a meal.

So even if I wanted to mentally shrug and think it’s only a penny I refuse to bring more clutter into my life. *looks around the office* Trust me, I have enough.

Then there’s the slippery slope that I’ve been guilty of sliding down, face first. I think it’s only a dollar and then it’s only ten dollars and eventually I make good money, it’s only $150… All of those “it’s onlys” add up.  And the stuff piles up.

In the end I am very happy with my purchase. I’ve already watched each episode once and I’ll probably re-watch the last two episodes before the new season starts.  I have a full pantry and plenty of snack food and no guilt or regret for turning down a one cent bag of chips.

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