02 June 2006

And Then There Were Three...

I cracked a drinking glass today while washing dishes. When added to the recent demise of my blender, seems my kitchen is a dangerous place to try to live out your life in peace and harmony. With this loss, my current glass count is down to three. Three, odd, lonely pieces of utilitarian life…

As I was tossing the glass, I remembered where I bought it… Bunceton rummage sales, summer ’98. Bunceton is one of those (mostly trashy) little towns with no stop light and more cows and mangy dogs than people. But darn, they used to put out the goodies at their annual town rummage sale, and true to form, my family was there to claim it all. In fact, I could probably still identify which house belonged to the little old lady who always sold hand-woven placemats (I have a set in yellow and blue) and the house where I bought a living room set whose loveseat is still kicking it here in Buffalo. The summer I moved into my first off-campus apartment I scrounged and bargained my way into grown-up living, a quarter here, fifty cents there. I’m pretty sure my set of eight glasses was a whole dollar, maybe even two.

At the time, I had no idea that those glasses and the grungy loveseat would make it through five moves and eight years of my life.

I’ve heard two schools of thought on shopping. The proponents of investment buying tell you to consider the life expectancy of your desired object and buy the nicest object that you can afford, be it a piece of furniture or a pair of jeans. Quality will last the tests of time so you’ll buy fewer objects in the long run. The other side, which may be called the disposable goods crowd, tells you to spend only what you need to get by for now. I do this with my summer tank top shopping. I find a four for $10 sale at Old Navy or Forever 21, wear the things for a few months and then find the nearest trash can come fall.

While washing the rest of the non-broken (yet) dishes, I started thinking about which of these schools of thought I employ more often. What items do I consider investments and where do I skimp? The trick in all of this seems to be determining the life expectancy of objects. I know I’m a hoarder so life expectancy around these parts tends to be a little longer than it should (yes, I’m still proudly sporting t-shirts from high school). But, I also make less than the average American household so I have a need for budgeting the pennies. Disposable is always less at the outset.

In this week’s Target run, I purchased a few items for my summer back porch living. Now Target tends to be hip and trendy, with objects that offer funk and soul but will drive you nuts after you use them for awhile. Trendy is temporary. So throw in a few vinyl tablecloths and some funky placemats but keep ‘em cheap because hopefully they’ll only be employed for a year. Next summer, when I get that super great job somewhere, I’ll look into buying real porch furniture and real accessories. That’ll be the time to invest; this is the time to opt for disposable.

But how long do you live the disposable life? When do you feel financially secure enough to invest? What in life signals that it’s time to upgrade? I’ve been noticing that my wardrobe seems to be right on the border of the disposable/investment faultline. I still flinch at the price tags of high-end items, but I’m inching forward into the clearance racks of real stores rather than garage sales and thrift stores. Yet, I still seem to have this homing device which sends me immediately to the sale racks or the cheapest item possible. When I went to replace my blender, without even thinking about it, I grabbed the $17.99 model and felt my nose wrinkle at the $49.99 selection. I have no idea what special features the more expensive ones had, but for as little as I use a blender, cheap is good.

But back to the glasses. I still don’t know where I’ll purchase a replacement set, or if I even will. Somehow three glasses just seems wrong, maybe unlucky. Who has a dinner party with three people? But when was the last time I had a dinner party and used anything but the wine glasses? If this year goes as I want it to, I’ll likely be packing up and moving to who knows where so I’ve started to look at every purchase with that discerning question, “Are you worth hauling to the end of creation?” (If you want to curb your shopping, spend a good deal of time thinking about moving boxes, ugh.) I’m certainly not putting the kibosh on consumption as my funky placemats will attest, but I’m not really feeling the need to rush out to Williams Sonoma to start my bar glass collection. Maybe I only need three glasses for this year. Or maybe I should hit up the nearest trash town’s rummage sales. Or maybe I’ll just stick to wine glasses.

Of course, drinking OJ out of wine glasses would probably be inspiration to add a little vodka and make it festive. And who knows how many wine glasses I’d break then…

2 comments:

krisknits2 said...

It's hard being in that transition period where you want to afford more than you really can. It is certainly where we are at with DH in school. But, as a shoe fiend, I definately shop payless over Macy's because I want trendy and cute and don't want them for a lifetime. Our couch on the other hand was a floor model that cost nearly 1800 new and we go for almost a grand less. This will last a lifetime.

Anonymous said...

Hope this isn't giving away too much but I was really glad that we still had mostly disposable type stuff when Katrina hit. After living through that it makes looking at the whole material goods and their worth in a whole a new way. If you want to chat more email me. Yarn.Kitty