Okay, before anyone panics, I’m not really going to change the name of my blog after 11 and a half years. Just breathe.
But I’ve been thinking lately about how, on some level, I probably ought to switch site names. Because the fact is that I just don’t pick up change that much anymore. And strangely, I think that’s a good thing.
I still like pennies
It’s not that I’m above grabbing up ground-change. Well, except when it’s the middle of summer and the coins have been lying there for [deity]-knows-how-long. I discovered the hard way my first summer here just how very, very thin jeans pockets are when you slide a scalding penny in your pocket.
The fact is that I just don’t see it much anymore. I assumed it simply meant that Arizonans were more diligent about picking up spilled coins. But Mom being here made me realize that, nope, there’s still change everywhere. She found at least one penny a day, and she only went on a couple of walks! Mainly it was just in parking lots or on store floors.
A shift in attitude
So the problem is clearly me. Or rather, where I’m looking. Which apparently isn’t at the ground.
And isn’t that kind of a good thing? I mean, I’m all for scoring a few disregarded cents, so the opportunity cost kind of sucks. But overall it means that I’m not looking down as much. I take this as a metaphor for — or, I suppose, just a flat-out consequence of — the easing of my depression over the years (and especially since the divorce).
It means I rarely duck my head down anymore, afraid (or simply unable) to deal with the real world and the people in it. Instead, I mostly meet life with eye-to-eye contact, curious about my surroundings (and the people therein) rather than trying to avoid it all out of shame or misery or whatever.
To be clear, I’m not saying that people who pick up change are depressed or miserable. Most of them are probably just keen-eyed. But for me I think it represents a shift in my ability to cope with the world. I keep my head up these days, which I think is pretty darn nifty.
So no, I’m not going to change my blog name. (Though for a few years I waffled about switching to Perfecting Imperfection.) But I do rejoice in the fact that, if the literal nature of a name matters, I probably should.
Anyway, my MAIN point
Anyway, on to the first part of the post title. It’s nothing major. Most of you will probably laugh. But I feel very strangely torn about a recent $3.25 purchase.
Yep, I’m writing about (probably) wasting $3.25. But this is a personal finance/sometimes-frugality blog so… What did you people expect if not obsessing over even small amounts of money?
So yeah… The issue is the recent purchase of a thrift store shirt.
A strange choice
Don’t get me wrong, I buy new (to me) shirts at thrift stores on a semi-regular basis. I like to switch up my wardrobe without going broke.
The thing is that the shirt doesn’t fit. Or doesn’t fit yet, if you (like me) are being optimistic.
I mean, it does fit. I wouldn’t be so ridiculous as to buy a shirt I couldn’t even get on. But it doesn’t fit flatteringly at the present moment. I need to lose at least three or four pounds before that changes. Maybe more? Hard to say.
Breaking my own rule
Now generally I’m against aspirational-size clothing. More often than not, you end up not wearing it — either because you never lose enough weight or because, even when the piece does fit, it’s not as flattering as you’d hoped.
And until you lose that weight, the purchase haunts you as money that could’ve been put into savings or invested.
The proof of this problem is two pairs of size eight jeans that have been sitting in my closet for months. In my defense, I was getting very close to my size 10s being too big, and that particular cut of jean is only available online. I didn’t want to wait until the jeans were falling down before ordering the smaller size.
But then I gained some weight back — okay, a fair amount of weight back — and never got down to a size eight. So that damn denim annoys the crap out of me simply by existing.
Given all that, then, why on earth would I intentionally put myself through the stress and guilt again with another piece of clothign that doesn’t quite fit?
Well, first of all — a few meals during Mom’s visit not withstanding — I’m back on my diet and am definitely shedding the pounds. That’s a big component.
But also because this shirt means something to me.
See, I used to own this shirt. Well, the same style (but in a size large whereas this one’s a medium). And I bought it at a very unique time in my life.
Specifically, I bought it the summer that I was recovering from being life-threateningly ill. I was 19, and I’d lost some weight from being so damn sick. And I found this fabulous shirt at Nordstrom.
At $50, it was ridiculously expensive for a department store shirt, especially by 1998 standards. But I loved it. I loved how it looked on me. And I loved the confidence it gave me because of how it looked on me.
So I bought it.
It was a huge splurge. But one that paid off because I wore that sucker a lot over the next few years.
Even when I gained some of the weight back, it was still pretty flattering. So it was frequently in the rotation when I went out. Until I really gained some weight and it stopped being flattering. After that, it stayed in the closet, gloomily reminding me of better times.
Then one ill-fated day, as I was trying it back on again to see how it looked at that current weight, it ripped.
The rip was under the arm at a seam, so totally fixable if I’d just asked Mom or Nadine to sew it for me. (Even if my sewing skills didn’t stop at re-affixing buttons, the material is very thin, and my own efforts probably would’ve made it weird/lumpy or torn it further.) So yeah, all I had to do was ask.
But somehow that felt like a big deal. Partially because the material was so thin that I thought repairing it might be a pain if not impossible. But also because it was something I didn’t know how to do, so it seemed like a huge ask.
An ignomious fate
Rationally, I knew it really wasn’t a big deal. That it was just the depression once again making a small thing feel huge and insurmountable. But the reason didn’t matter. All that mattered is that I never got around to the request. And the longer I didn’t ask, the harder making the request seemed. Until the very thought of it made me want to stuff the shirt away, which I did.
So yeah the shirt was stuffed onto the back of a closet shelf for years. Eventually I rediscovered it while I was cleaning out the closet. By that point I was too embarrassed by everything the shirt’s still-there rip represented. Specifically, my inability to function with basic tasks thanks to depression that, despite my best efforts, still seemed to get the better of me all too often.
So I threw it away. Yes, it was dumb but… Oh well.
Things have changed
But now we flash forward to the present, when things are so much better — mainly thanks to the divorce.
It’s not just the lack of stress of having a second person to take care of, but the lack of stress from the financial drain of a second, very sick, generally rather expensive person to provide for/seemingly constantly placate with “stuff.”
Nixing all that stress has done wonders for my depression to the point where my medications actually ameliorate just about all symptoms.
Thus, when I found the exact same shirt (albeit in a smaller size) for $3.25, deep down I recognized all that it represented. And I couldn’t not get it. Even though, when I tried it on, the result was a little akin to sausage stuffed into a too-tight casing.
So yeah, I bought the shirt.
It’s all about perspective (and maybe weight loss)
For all I know, I’ll never quite fit into it. Which makes the purchase (however small) hard for me to swallow in some ways. But on the other hand, I’m heartened by all it symbolizes: a life of new possibilities, a recovery from adversity, etc.
And of course I’m hopeful that I’ll keep shedding these pounds that I gained back (and then maybe shed some more?) and will be able to wear it and once again look fabulous.
Of course, I know logically that this concern over $3.25 is silly, especially since I recently and very intentionally increased my budget — by a lot more than $3.25. Even Mom (who is, if not the queen of frugality, certainly in the royal lineage) basically waved off my slight guilt by pointing out it was significantly less than getting a single takeout meal.
But I am trying to be intentional with my spending. I like to think through as many of my purchases as possible, even at the risk of over-analyzing some of them. It’s not so much what I spend (within reason, of course) but that I’m spending with a purpose.
It doesn’t even matter whether that purpose is a tad frivolous. Like, say, wanting a cute new top for the latest house party. What matters is that I’ve thought it through so that I’m not wasting money.
And this purchase, dear friends, was — at least on the face of it — wasting money. So it stuck in my frugality craw a tad.
But the more I think about it, the more I realize it was actually quite a meaningful purchase. So I guess it wasn’t a waste after all. Especially if I can ever fit in the damn thing.
What’s the last thing you “wasted” money on? Have you gotten out of any frugal habits for healthy reasons?
PS. It has been brought to my attention that you’d might want to actually see the much-lauded shirt so: