On Choosing the Cheapest Thing: A Dialogue With Myself

We should start by acknowledging that, given the choice, I will always pick the cute orange folding chair over the cat-scratched wooden one.

And, that when you’re starting from a metal bedframe and a metal shelving unit that got repurposed into a kitchen hutch, and a set of modular wire squares that got repurposed into a bookshelf, the metal folding chair makes sense, design-wise.

It also makes sense, color-wise; it’s hard to tell from the picture because the overhead hanging light hasn’t arrived from Amazon yet, so things are a little dim, but the living room/office area is done up in green, teal, and gray, the kitchen is orange and gray, and the bedroom is cornflower blue and gray.

The gray, of course, is because the furniture is all made out of metal. But I did pick my desk chair cushion to match my metal table legs, so it makes sense thematically, and the orange folding chairs are going to look like they belong in this space in a way that a set of dark oak dining chairs would not.

But part of me is still: Nicole, you did the thing again. The thing where you pick the cheapest one.

And that’s not strictly true. I could have picked the $80 cat castle sofa.

But now that it’s all done and there is nothing more to buy and I did in fact spend twice my allotted budget (which will be fine, I did the math), I am looking around and thinking: Folding chairs. Wire cubes. Is this all I’ll ever have in my home? Is this the extent to which I am willing to invest in myself?

Then I remind myself that I don’t really care. Or, to call back our discussion of “saying no” earlier this week: the game of accumulating Appropriate Adult Furniture is not one I’m committed to winning. I’d rather have savings than a bookshelf. I’m fine with simple and tidy and inexpensive. Those folding chairs are going to look adorable next to the white Linmon table with its gray metal legs, with a green Mason jar sitting on top filled with autumn flowers from the farmers’ market.


And then my mind starts up again:

Seriously, Nicole. Are you always going to be in the position of choosing the cheapest thing and making it work?

First of all, internal dialogue, I did not choose the cheapest thing. I chose something like the third-cheapest thing. We could be lint-rolling someone else’s cat hair off our leggings right now.

But… I don’t know. Maybe. Yeah.

Is that because you’re afraid of investing in your long-term future?

It’s because I don’t have $500 to drop on a couch. And I’m trying to keep these expenses down so I can invest in my long-term future. With an IRA.

Are you worried that guests won’t want to sit on those folding chairs?

Well, first of all they’ll have the sofa if they want to sit on that, and the desk chair has a cushion on it, so that takes care of several guests right away, and I’m hoping that if I have a dinner party the chairs and table with its multicolored Fiestaware are going to be so cute that it won’t matter.

But, I mean, yeah. Totally. I feel kinda weird about offering guests folding chairs, even adorable orange ones.

Do you think you’ll ever upgrade your furniture?

Well, sure. After I get a three-month emergency fund and pay off my debt and set aside $5,500 for a Roth IRA, maybe I could buy a bookshelf that isn’t made of off-brand Yaffa blocks.

So it isn’t really on the to-do list.

Not even on the Someday/Maybe list.

What would have to happen before you would not automatically choose the cheapest thing?

A financial windfall. Or maybe a steady income growth over time. Which one is more realistic?

Well, your income has grown pretty steadily over the past few years.

True enough. And look, I moved out of that tiny apartment where I washed my dishes in a bus tub into this place that has doors and a hallway and a kitchen! We are DOING WELL, you and me.

Did you hope you might have been able to do a little better?

Sure. But look, it’s pretty great to see the sunlight stream through the stained-glass privacy film into my kitchen. It’s amazing to eat homemade muesli every morning. I am seriously way excited about seeing how that green Mason jar of flowers looks on a white table next to orange chairs.

So much depends upon a green Mason jar on a white table —

We get it, you were a smart kid and it was the defining characteristic of your existence. So are we cool now? Are you going to leave me alone? Can we think of something else instead?

How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a Scotsman, dropped into the middle of a forgotten —

Yeah, that works.

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