First of all, this isn't exactly some kind of exercise in consumerism. Or maybe it is. But that's not how it started.
Over the last few months, there have been a number of occasions when dropping my lovely wife off at work that she has asked me the same question that I'm sure has probably passed the lips of many other couples: "Do you have any cash?"
My answer has always been the same: "Do I ever carry cash?"
The answer to that question, is "Hardly ever." But still, you have to hand it to her. She is the eternal optimist.
The last time that she asked me, I was on my way to a gigantic chain store that shall remain nameless (because they have enough publicity on their own, and they aren't paying me anything) to make a small purchase. Before you go all crazy on me, yes, I could have bought that same item at a smaller local store, except that said larger store has already put smaller local stores out of business. But I digress.
I was paying with my debit card and the machine came up with a "Want Cash Back?" option. Hearkening back to my earlier conversation, I said yes and got $20. My theory was that I would use the cash as pocket money, just in case something came up, or if I had to buy something that was less than $20. Just, you know, to have some cash on hand.
Then I kind of forgot about it. I would remember it at the weirdest times. I'd be brushing my teeth in the morning and think "Hey, I got $20!" Or I'd be loading the dishwasher and remember it. Or just watching tv or playing a video game. And after I remembered that I had it, I'd think about how I was going to spend it.
In the meantime, I had been to any number of stores for groceries, gas, general house stuff. We'd been to craft stores and once to EB Games... but I didn't spend it, even when I did remember it. But now enough time had passed that I was beginning to feel bad about not spending it. It wasn't exactly gaining interest while it sat in the bank, but I felt an obligation to make it useful while it was in my pocket.
On my days off this week, I decided I was going to spend it. I looked for deals in flyers and online. I thought about things that I wanted, maybe buy a pair of pants (cause, yes, I am happy when I buy pants that cost $20...tax in).
I did some soul searching. And by that, I mean I forgot about it on my first day off. But on my second day I had a plan. I was going to have a Big Bacon Classic Combo. Is there a more magical fast food combo? I wish I was joking, but I actually salivated a little bit just writing it. It is what I consider the perfect burger combo.
And that got me thinking. There's a lot of emotion wrapped up in the food we eat. I thought about the things that make me feel happy. How some things have changed (like I could have blown the whole thing on candy, but now I'm older and wiser and have very expensive teeth) and how some things are the same (video games are fun!).
In the end, I made the right choice. I bought something that brought me some happiness today, and invested in a little bit of happiness for later too. I bought comic books. Man, I enjoy a good story.
I ended up with $12 in comics. Let me save you the trouble of trying to do the math; $12 equals 3 comic books (I like good comics, but even cheap ones these days are pricey). If you equate the time it took me to read through them (about 20 minutes) for the price, it's not that good a value. But I like the stories and I'm a bit of a collector, so it pleases me to own comics in good condition. And because I'm only a bit of a collector (and not a fringe nerd), I'll enjoy these comics again in a year or two ten when I pull them out to read again.
I could have still bought that Big Bacon Classic Combo, but decided against it. I felt that maybe it wasn't the burger itself that I wanted, it was the idea of the burger. The emotional tie-in I had with my sense memory of it (that's a little big of my theatre education coming out there - totally worth it) was what I was craving.
Ultimately, I compromised and bought a cheeseburger platter from Deluxe. I was a little saddened that they raised the price to $4, but that was a hit I could take. Plus, I had lunch with Scott, so my $4 also got me out of the house for a couple of hours, which was worth it.
After 10 days with $20 in my pocket, I have 3 comics, a full belly and $3.50 left.
I throw it out to you, my gibbering horde of followers: How would you spend $20 of "you" money? Could you make it last more than a week?
On a side note, it turns out that my inner child still wants a Big Bacon Classic Combo Coke to drink no ice. Man, that's a good combo.