Saturday, March 07, 2009

Value for Money

One Thursday night, I took the man friend out for dinner. Nothing too fancy--he had a beer, I had a wine, we each had an entree. The bill came to $57. No big deal, right? But the man friend balked when he saw me laying my money on the table. I constantly complain about being poor, yet I don't equate spending $65 to being an expense. So what gives?

Since everyone is talking recession, I might as well bend to market trends. In times like this, it's suddenly evident what people attach value to. Here's my list:

I'm Willing to Go Further Into Debt For. . .

Eating Out: I pack my lunches and make muffins twice a week so I always have breakfast. But I won't hesistate to spend money on brunch every weekend. What can I say? I'm a little bit of a foodie.

Clothing: I don't buy clothes often, but when I do, I'm known for my expensive taste. But there's a method to this--I would never spend $100 on five poorly-made shirts from H&M, but I will spend $100 on a one-of-a-kind shirt made of recycled materials by Canadian women in a sweatshop-free environment. And for everything in between, there's Winners and Value Village.

Travel: When I complain about getting paid in high-fives, I'm instantly criticized by friends for failing to buy groceries, but somehow managing to jet off to tropical locations. In the last year, I've been to the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Alberta and Nova Scotia (twice). Want to know a secret? I only paid for two of those trips. But it doesn't matter. For me, life isn't worth living without travel. So dropping money for planes and trains isn't a luxury--it's a necessity.

Time Spent with Friends: When I had my eye infection last year, I saved a ton of money by never leaving my house. However, I was a downer. Like, always. I cried. A lot. And I was boring. And since then, I can never turn down a social invitation.

Money is for Fun. Not for stuff. I won't pay for. . .

Services: If I can do it myself, I'll do it myself. Dryclean only? I'll handwash it, or just not wash it at all. Heating? It's all about layering. And during the summer I don't even acknowledge the fact that I have air-conditioning. (I don't sweat, I glisten.) Haircuts? I estimate that I've saved $800 this year by trimming my own hair. I've also stopped dying it, so I don't even have to pay the $10 every two months for a box of hair dye. Cable or Internet? I don't pay for either. I have a coat hanger sticking out of the back of my TV and pray that my neighbours will keep their wirless unsecure. Even rent? I may live in a seemingly nice apartment, but it's drafty, nails stick out of the carpet, I have mice and my Dad is pretty sure there may be dead bodies in my hallway at one point in time. But the rent is cheap, so I'm happy.

Home Furnishings: You all know people like me. We scour sidewalks for bedbug-free furniture on the first day of every month. When Natty moved out, I literally owned nothing. Since then, I've managed to pull my apartment back together for the low, low price of roughly $100. (I was too cheap to even buy dishes from Value Village, but managed to get a really nice donated set from Sophie and Karol.)

Electronics: I refuse to buy-in to the mantra of bigger-newer-better. My TV is small enough that renting subtitled foreign films requires serious consideration and commitment. My cell phone finally died for good on Thursday night, but I refuse to pay the $150 for a new one. (I'm living in isolation right now, but I'm sure a free cell phone will come my way. Who wants to contribute to e-waste, anyway?) And five years later, my computer is on its last legs, but I'm not going to get a new one until the day this one refuses to turn on.

Transportation: Can I walk, run, hitchike or bike there? Then I'm too cheap to pay for public transit. Can I get on the back of the streetcar during rush hour without paying? This is the only time I'm a law-breaker.

Alcohol: Pre-drinking is my friend. As are road-pops. Court and I cheersed to the first "road pop" of the season last night, then realized we were being followed by cops, then both tripped in efforts to conceal our liquor. Classy.

The Bottom Line?

I guess it's always been ingrained in me that money should be spent on activities and on living, not on stuff. I know it's cliched, but it's also true--you can't take it with you.


  1. Anonymous1:33 PM

    Too bad you're not in Pittsburgh. I'm getting rid of all my furniture as I move back to Canada.

  2. I have all new furniture now--for less than $100. (That picture was taken directly after Natty moved out.) I'm pretty pro at these sorts of things. But thanks for the offer!

  3. Anonymous12:08 PM

    If you were to move to Vancouver, you could raise chickens in your backyard, thanks to a new by-law change. Plant a vegetable garden too, and you're laughing.