What’s It Worth To You?

Way back in the day when Jim and I were newlyweds and we were watching every penny, I did the math on just about every single food product I put into the cart at the grocery store to make sure I was paying the least amount possible per ounce. Outside of food shopping, however, it was all about spending the least amount of money, plain and simple. I used to get the hairsprays and shampoos that cost under a dollar, I only bought clothing on sale or clearance (and usually out of season!), and housewares, when absolutely needed, were purchased (while cringing, usually) at a discount store whenever possible.

Once our budget wasn’t quite so tight, I stuck with my old strategies for the most part when it came to shopping for household items. A few problems cropped up, like when I realized that I absolutely hated the ninety-nine cent hairspray I was using at the exact same moment I realized I had no problem with spending six dollars on a fast food lunch that same week.

I mean, it’s one thing when you have to watch your money like a hawk and that ninety-nine cent hairspray that you’re not crazy about is what you have to go with because there just isn’t enough extra money to bring home the seven-dollar hairspray. (It does the job, after all, and many budget-priced products are fantastic, really.) It’s another thing when you’re buying that inexpensive hairspray that you hate AND a boxed burger, bagged french fries, and upsized soda that just goes…well, you know.

That’s when I started thinking a little smarter about how I wanted to prioritize my purchases. That seven dollar hairspray I wanted but always had a mental block against buying? That stuff lasts FOREVER. I don’t use hairspray in celebrity-sized quantities so I can buy a large can and it will last for between six and nine months. Giving up a fast food lunch if I needed to was easy when I thought about it that way.

I don’t drink coffee (Gasp! The horror!) but I know lots of people who buy one at Starbucks (or wherever) three to five times each week. That’s a lot of hairspray (or whatever).

I’m not completely cured, though. Last month on one of our trips to visit D at college, we stopped at the nearby outlet mall to check out some pillows. I haven’t slept well for, oh, at least the past couple of years, and recently I had been blaming my pillow. When the saleswoman showed me the down pillows they had in stock, I started drooling a little bit until she revealed the prices. The cost of each of the pillows I was checking out was the same as a dinner out for all four of us. I said “Thanks anyway, but I’m going to think about it for a while.”

We walked out of the store and Jim, having to pick his chin up from where it had dropped on the ground, was clearly frustrated. He asked, “What’s your sleep worth to you???” I was a little embarrassed at my warped sense of frugality. He was absolutely right. We go out to eat a couple of times each month. Could we replace the expense of ONE of those dinners, if we had to, with the purchase of a pillow that would–hopefully–allow me to get the kind of rest I need at night, a pillow that I would have for a few years at least? I’m just like all of the other moms out there: I have some work to do when it comes to taking care of myself. Reminders from loved ones help.

Of course, we went back to get the pillow. Practically every night when I blissfully lay my head on it (after fluffing it, of course! It’s filled with down!) I think about what I value, what I can let go, and what kinds of things in my life I feel good about allowing in via a higher expenditure–of money OR time. As I doze off to sleep, I know that I’m a work in progress but I’m getting there.

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