Uh, at least it’s not heroin?
My last resort, bottom-of-the-barrel, desperate-times-desperate-measures justification for spending money has long been “at least it's not heroin.” As in, “OK fine, so I'm buying yet another pair of sandals, but at least it's not heroin.”
I have never bought drugs in my life, nor have I ever even considered trying heroin, but somehow it's become my default Very Bad Thing that I Could Be Spending Money on but Am Not. Ergo, look how sensible I am!
So, I almost pulled out the heroin justification last week.
On Tuesday, a band I really like released a new album, parts of which I'd listened to on their website a few months back. I liked the way it sounded, as much as I like their first album, so I meandered over to iTunes. Just to check if the album was there, you know.
Yep, there it was, $9.99 to download. It would be so, so, soooooo easy to click “Buy,” just one tiny downward movement of my index finger on the mouse.
And I wanted it. I wanted it! But I didn't need it.
Which is extremely frustrating. I'm striving for philosophical clarity in this three months of not spending money on unnecessary things, and it turns out that philosophical clarity
blows is difficult to attain. I've spent a lot of time considering my needs from their absolute most basic — I need the synapses firing in my brain, I need the breath of air in my lungs — and moving up: I need the roof over my head, I need the food in my stomach, I need the blanket I sleep under.
But the waters get murky so quickly. Sure, I need food, but do I need the boneless, skinless chicken breasts, or can I make do with the cheaper chicken and take the skin off myself? Sure, I need a roof, but how much house beneath it do I need?
I don't want to deny myself all material pleasure, because I do think there can be real joy in some of it and good grief, how much character do I need? But if I'm being honest, it doesn't take that much to make me happy.
Like new music! That makes me happy. Such a simple pleasure, and one of the great joys in my life, and it's not like I piddle all my money away on carousing and loose men, right? Right? It's not like I'm maxing out the ol' Discover card on Louboutins and Lhuilliers.
I live a simple life! One of moderation! One of coupons and savings accounts! Plus, $9.99 isn't very much. Hardly anything, really. I probably have that much change in my purse. And it's not like I'd be buying $9.99 worth of heroin!
I didn't buy the album. :(
But! I remembered the $10 gift certificate to Triple Play Records that I won a few months ago, nestled in my wallet and expiring in April. Now I'm strategizing how I can make up the difference on the price (sell something? pick up a freelance gig?), because while I don't need the album, I want it. At least I recognize the difference.