Becoming Less Frugal

While growing up, shopping always meant collecting and cutting out a plethora of different coupons to be used at the grocery store. It was customary to purchase a brand on sale or at least the cheaper version of any and all supplies — the ones that were not great but “good enough”.

The idea that I could pay for goods and services at anything besides a discounted price was alien to me. How could I choose to purchase the orange juice I prefer when there’s one $2 less right next to it? This was often the bane of my daily routine.

This lifestyle wasn’t inherently a bad thing. We saved money certainly, but we also re-used and recycled as much as possible. It did however form some peculiar habits that I’ve since learned to break, even if it took a while.

When eating out I used to choose the cheapest thing available on the entrees menu rather than select the meal I’d actually prefer. My dad used to do something similar, so I just followed along. If the steak was $18 and the chicken breast was $12, I would be guaranteed to select the chicken, even if I was in the mood for steak.

This habit persisted thoughout college and into my early career. Now I choose to spend money at restaurants that I’d simply like to try. Places I’ve heard good things about or have recommended to me directly. And when I’m there, I will always order the item I’m actually interested in trying or what comes recommended by a friend or staff member. If I’m paying for an experience I’d rather embrace it fully and craft a great memory.

I’ve also found myself purchasing items that simply bring me joy, such as freshly sealed video games (or digital), collectable toys, weekly comics, new shoes, or a jacket just for its style and nothing more.

As a kid I would rarely treat myself to brand-spankin-new items. Most of my clothing and toys were hand-me-downs. Of the few shoes I did own, most were several years old and nearly falling apart before I would ever conceive purchasing a replacement pair. Because of this, I began to purchase Adidas Sambas. They were fashionable enough (still are the perfect shoe), appropriate for most athletic settings, and were reasonably priced for how long they’d typically last.

This mentality applied itself to most things. I would go to EB Games and solely purchase second hand games just to save a few dollars. I’d ravel to flea markets for second hand books that already had another reader’s notes marking the pages. I’d make my way to FYE where used cds could be purchased for $5 rather than $12. I’d buy basketballs that’d lost most of their grip, or tennis balls that never quite bounced as high as they once did.

The idea of paying “full price” for something was outragous.

Having this experience as a child certainly gifted me with an appreciation for the value of a dollar and showed me how objects have a sense of life beyond their first time around. This might explain why I developed such an emotional attachment to inanimate objects and found myself crying several times when watching Toy Story 3 —Andy, how could you.

There’s something beautiful about the transferrence of energy in an object 10–20 years old that a new item hasn’t had time to develop. Granted, sometimes this can be a bad thing. Such as old clothing that retains a dank smell from a previous owner.

But aside from those irregular circumstances we often times find items of extraordinary value and history. I believe that everything in life gives off energy. When we physically move elsewhere or eventually meet our maker part of us is left behind, inhabiting the spaces we existed in and the items we owned or used frequently.

With the purchase of a used item we’re given the opportunity to contribute to a much larger story. Used items are like a human collaboration project, where each owner provides their own unique chapter.

New items are of course capable of this as well, but it comes with a different set of rules. We become the one who sets the tone for the items life. We’re in charge of constructing its first chapter. Hopefully someday that item will find itself in the possession of another individual who will love it and develop its story further, beyond our control.

Aside from this element of human archival within objects I think there’s something to be said for contributing money towards people, places and things we truly appreciate. Wether they’re physical or experiential.

When we purchase something we’re making a choice of where our money is being sent. When something’s used, that money goes directly to the store and its employees rather than to the original creators. As an adult who works in a creative field, I would love to know that my hard earned money is contributing directly to the products I love. This goes for video games, comics, books, movies, bands and artwork. These are some of the things I’ve grown to appreciate most and I look forward to doing my part in support of their continued growth.

Still to this day I’m not sure if my personal anxiety was sparked from this penny-pinching habit or because I was naturally gifted with a worrisome heart. While I’ll always subconsciously choose to purchase something I consider to have a decent value, I certainly don’t let it get to me like I once did. That extra sense of worry isn’t worth the price of admission.

There’s certainly a fine balance to be had between purchasing new and used items or deciding when to spend money on an experience such as dinner, a music event or travel. We all have to make these decisions within our own lifestyle. I for one am finally aware of my past and understand my future enough to know where I stand on this particular matter. Ultimately life should be enjoyed and I plan on embracing it fully while I can.

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