Thursday, March 5, 2009

Money well spent

Have you ever bought something when, at the time, you were unsure whether it was a wise use of money, only to find out over time that it was one of the most useful things you’ve ever purchased? Conversely, have you ever bought something that you were sure was worthwhile, only to question your wisdom in hindsight?

When I was a poor grad student living in Michigan, I needed something warm to wear running. Yeah, I used to run. A lot. It somehow took me years to notice that I was fat and not very fast and that running wasn’t that fun. Anyway, I made $8 an hour as a TA in the finance department, but some of the first-year students would get together and pay me like $25 an hour for private sessions. Felt like big money, so after a few of these, I dropped $80 on a windbreaker at the running store. I even paid full price. And promptly began wondering whether it was worth it.

I would have got my money’s worth at three times the price. I wore that windbreaker running in bad weather, I keep it in my camelback if I’m going to mountain bike in rain or wind, and it’s also a nice, light outerlayer to wear on the climb when backcountry skiing. Both pocket zips are now broken, there’s a tear on the chest from colliding with a gate post during a night ride (repaired somewhat crudely with tent repair tape), and it’s got an aroma that will never, ever completely wash out. But I still wear it and will until it’s in shreds.

On the other hand, a few years ago I decided I needed alpine ski boots that really fit. So I spent a good chunk of money and countless hours at a bootfitter trying to accomplish that. The Langes I bought are still not completely comfortable, but I’ve given up on doing anything else. Given the return in comfort and performance on my time and money, not the best use of resources.

Alternatively, my touring boots were purchased on steepandcheap for 67% off retail, and after getting the liners baked by someone who knows what he’s doing (Rob at SLC REI, if you’re wondering), they’re as comfortable as slippers. I don’t even think about my boots in the backcountry anymore.

Problem is that my steepandcheap boot experience was such a pleasant one that I’m now addicted to’s one-deal-at-a-time sites and have five desktop alerts going off all day, every day. In the last week or so, I’ve bought a pair of sandals, a shirt, and some sunglasses, none of which were planned or budgeted. I think I may have a problem. Then again, probably better the money's spent here than where some of my neighbors are spending it.


  1. I unintentionally figured out the cure to that disease about two weeks ago. I'm looking forward to getting sick again!

  2. Been there, done that. Guess I'm making up for lost time...

  3. All those sites, one browser window.

    Oh, and that study has some problems behind it, summed up by the WSJ:

    "Indeed, Utah has only 1.69 subscriptions per thousand people. The Beehive State's population is 2.7 million, according to the latest census estimate. That means the total number of Utahns who subscribe to the porn service Edelman analyzes is less than 5,000--quite a small number on which to conclude that the place is full of moralistic deviants."

    Full article.

    Anyway, I also get addicted to those sites. The deal sites, not the porn ones.

  4. to solve your problem and replace it with another is ebay. everything you want is there ans with enough work and time you can get it cheaper and used.

  5. Grizz, no comment on the study. I'm sure it's flawed. It's just too bad that it came out the week after open mic day, or it may have provided some nice entertaining fodder there.

    Oilcan, as a total dirtbag, I am well aware of eBay. Except that eBay requires a lot of work. If I want something used, I usually get it on the Teton Gravity gear swap. And for less than it would go on eBay.

    The one deal at a time sites are for things I don't need but buy on impulse. How are you supposed to search eBay for something you don't need, didn't even know you wanted, and weren't even sure existed before you actually spent money on it?