How To Keep From Throwing Valuable Things Away

by anna on October 9, 2009

Photo by davespertine at deviantART

Photo by davespertine at deviantART

Last week, our nanny threw away a bag of stuff that included a new pair of shoes and several pairs of socks for Mini.

Like many personal finance bloggers, I like to start out my anecdotes with a good old-fashioned first-world dilemma, but to keep you all guessing I also spice it up a bit with a dash of privileged myopia. For flavor. You might say it’s my brand. You might also say that the world can only handle so many posts that start out with “The other day I fired up the crockpot I bought from a garage sale in 1965 and made enough gruel to feed my family of fifteen for three months,” before someone starts yelling, “Bullshit!” or “You’re too fat to be subsisting on an exclusive diet of gruel!” or “What the fuck is gruel, anyway?” Besides, I relish being the black sheep of the frugalosphere: I like stuff, I like to buy things, but I still try to maintain some kind of sanity about the trappings of consumerism, and I aim to always be responsible about my finances.

We can debate the responsibility of employing a nanny as a Stay at Home Mom, or we can all agree on one thing: throwing a new pair of shoes away is bad news from a frugal perspective, no matter who you are or what you think.

We Right-Clicks are in the habit of keeping bags by the door that leads from the kitchen to the garage, from time to time, if we want to remember to take something out to the trash. Since the contents of the bag were covered with tissue paper, and since our nanny has far more important things on her mind right now anyway, it was a pretty honest mistake for her to make. She was trying to help us out by cleaning up the house. And we really should have been more careful with the shoes, and have put them away when we got home from the store.

I can say that now, but on Sunday morning, when I discovered this mistake, I found myself rummaging through the garbage dumpsters trying to find a rogue Nordstrom bag, Mini circling around my feet all the while, and periodically asking things like, “What’s this?” and “Why go in dere, Mah? Why go in dere–HIGH?!” And I was cursing the world for this problem, a lost pair of shoes that cost probably $30. At some point, after consonant-swearing many times under my breath — because my effort at curbing my swearing for Mini’s benefit has only been reliable to the extent that I always at least meet FCC standards for indecency, ie “Mother F-er! Mother F-ing piece of S!” & the like — I gave up. I finally said to myself, “Finding these shoes are not worth this stress to me.”

Because while I’m wading through trash, I’m also stressed out about Mini, who can easily wander off into the street, or get into something dangerous he finds on the ground near these dumpsters. I’m wading through garbage that is wet with some unknown substance, and now I’ve broken out into a sweat, and there are people walking by giving me weird looks for consonant swearing, rummaging through garbage, and toddler-wrangling at the same time. And I’m panicking because all this happened just as Mini and I were getting ready to go out, and I was looking for his new shoes, and then I’m rushing around and I almost lose my earring, which would have added another hefty line item to the casualty list of the Nordstrom bag, if I hadn’t been able to find it. And yeah, it wasn’t so much the price of the shoes as it was the time and effort it took Mr. Right-Click to get Mini into the shoe department, have his feet measured, and stay quiet for a few minutes so he could buy the shoes he needed to wear to school. Time, as they say, is money.

But then I thought: yeah, time is money.

I think this is something that has become much clearer to me after becoming a parent: sometimes you have to cut your losses. Time is at such a premium these days. Sometimes you have to say that the stress this is giving me, and the time it is taking away from my life with my family, and the resentment it is helping to grow, is just not worth the meager savings I will get from finding the shoes that were thrown away/getting that fee waived/finding the best deal/making homemade laundry detergent is just not worth it, the numbers are just not crunching. And that’s when you realize what it really is to throw money away.

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{ 3 comments }

1
Kerry October 9, 2009 at 5:34 am

Okay, first off, we can’t debate the wisdom of whether a stay-at-home mom should have an nanny in your case, because, hellloooooo, you’re a working mom. Have you checked out your website lately? There’s five blogs, and photos that change, and fancy borders, and all kinds of crazy shit. It looks like an entire team did it. I’m kicking you out of the stay-at-home club, because you’re working. In fact, you probably should stop feeling guilty about the nanny and start feeling guilty about being a working mom. If you have relatives who need this explained to them, give them my email.

Second, the shoes. You’re right. Also, when you said Nordstrom, I pictured, like, $80 kids shoes…but I don’t think $30 would make me dig through garbage. In fact, yesterday, I bought my kids each a pair of the One Step Head snow boots, at $30 each. I just looked at all the ones they sell at the consignment store for $8.99, and the ones at Target for $12.99…but I’ve learned from experience that those are all a bitch to get on and off. The One Step Ahead ones are designed in such a way that they are easy to get on and off, and they are the ONLY ones I’ve found like that. $60 for snow boots is really steep for me, but on the flip side, the time and tantrums I save over a six-month-long winter is totally worth it.

Being frugal is great, but being smart is good too. Some things are worth the money because they keep you from losing your mind.

(But you should check out the foot sizer thing they have at One Step Ahead too. It’s like the foot measuring things they have at shoe stores, except plastic, and under $10. I have never had to take my kids to a shoe store or try on shoes thanks to that thing. Best $10 I ever spent.)

2
anna October 9, 2009 at 7:19 am

Well, I suppose that’s true. But I still think the popular opinion is that I don’t have a job, because I don’t have a paycheck the size of which indicates a real fulltime job. But why am I letting this bother me, anyway? The fact is that I have zero free time anymore and I’m always rushing from this or that, which is pretty much what working moms and stay at home moms without nannies do. Also, the nanny will probably only stay a little while longer, now that Mini is starting school.

That One Step Ahead thing is pure genius. I’ve never heard of such a thing. You need an affiliate link so I can go buy it.

3
Juliet Grossman October 9, 2009 at 6:09 pm

I would have continued to dig until finding the shoes if I knew with 100% certainty that they were there (i.e. it wasn’t a situation of “It’s lost; maybe they were accidentally thrown away.”) Visualize a $20 and $10 accidentally thrown away. Personally if I knew for sure it was there, I’d dig. I’m known to be “frugal” (aka cheap) though.

As for “time is money,” unless you’re taking a day off work to do something, it’s not like you’re passing up a chance to earn money to spend time finding shoes instead. I think it’s more about energy and morale. “Is it worth therapy?” “Is it worth feeling crappy?” “Is it worth having people think I’m a crazy lady?” I know I walk around looking like a crazy lady for a lot less than $30, but everyone has her price.

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