Nickel & Dime

Every time I get sick and tired of trying to count every penny and be careful to only buy what is only 100% necessary. . .I hear some story about how my brother came back against all odds in a computer game by doing just that. If you spend 4 gold to make your opponent lose 5 gold. . .eventually you can wear him down and come out on top.

I tell myself that, I know that. . .but it can still be pretty un-fun to do in real life. I just want to say, “Whatever! Monies don’t really matter anyway!” and do whatever. It’s not something I want to worry about, but right about now it’s not something I have loads of. I tell myself that it’s necessary right now, because I have a very specific goal I need to meet. But at the same time, I find myself hoping that when I get a job–a real job, not a $9/hr per diem nonsense pain-in-the-neck type job–I won’t have to worry about nickels and dimes any more and just focus on the dollar bills. I’m not talking reckless irresponsibility here–just not being such an OCD control freak about every little tiny monetary thing.

I remember one time there was an email–one of those mass-forwarding types–and one of the questions was, “If you had more money, what would you spend it on?” I was struck by one of my aunt’s answers, because she replied “Buy more gifts for other people.” It captured how I sometimes feel, when you see something and it totally screams someone’s name. . .but you don’t get it and give it to them because after all, it’s overpriced and silly, but you know, to quote the kodak/credit card ads, smiles can be worth it. Sometimes it is just about the people. Sometimes I don’t really care to eat out–my packed lunch is quite sufficient, thank you very much–but sometimes I’d rather hang out and the only way to be sociable is to be where people are, and people eat out all the time. Sometimes somebody has had a bad day and you’d like to buy them a candy bar or something as a way of saying “I know your day stinks, but I’ve got your back.” But when you are nickeling and diming yourself to death, you aren’t allowed to make such gestures.

There’s a certain strain that makes it sound like “frugality” is next to saintliness, or something, but the longer I try to keep track of everything I spend and make everything turn out all right. . . the more I understand what it means to be controlled by your possessions. It begins to drive me batty. Sure, life is full of choices, pros and cons, pluses and minuses. . .you do one thing, you will pay the price some other way. But I wish I wasn’t watching my pennies. I’m okay with the whole saving idea, I’m okay with the whole restraint don’t-buy-everything thing. But I do wish I could spend money without feeling like it was a wicked thing to do. Okay, that’s a little tongue in cheek, but really–it leaves me feeling kind of guilty, and why should it? I worked for. Because somehow money is supposed to be used for dutiful and responsible and necessary things, so every purchase–no matter the amount–leaves you wondering, do I really need this? Could I have gotten away without it?

And that’s obsessive. I’d rather be able to say, “Whatever, it was 5 bucks. The world is not going to end over 5 bucks,” then to sit there weighing every possible cost-benefit angle and trying to determine if this was really a frivolous purchase or really a necessary one. I tell myself this is so frustrating and pointless and can’t possibly really matter. And then I go back and crunch the numbers and realize that I’ll barely be making it even while nickle and diming. That should hardly come as a surprise. . . most people would say it’s impossible to do what I’m trying to do, anyway. But that doesn’t make it any more fun to second guess–six different times–any purchase I would think to make.

My brother can “micro” his way to victory out of impossible situations in his computer games, and I’m still determined to “micro” my way through college. But it’s beginning to feel exceedingly tedious. But there is only 9 more months left, and you can take a lot as long as it’s only for nine months, right? And then the sneaky voice in the back of my head says “if you get hired right out of school,” and before long it feels like I’m condemned to live a life of nickeling and diming forever.

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