Is It Worth It?

Tiny justifications.

Image: Kevin Gessner (CC BY 2.0)

A neat way of justifying a purchase that you don’t think you need but desperately want is telling yourself before you hand your debit card over is that whatever you’re about to buy is worth it. Worth is subjective; one person’s necessity is another’s frivolous panic purchase, but in those moments, telling yourself that something is worth it is often all the encouragement you need.

I tell myself that the things I buy are worth it all the time. A cab is worth it. An overpriced fancy seltzer is worth it. A pair of very warm slippers, purchased at an airport kiosk before a flight you don’t really want to be on is definitely worth it. The leather jacket you bought with a frighteningly-quick decisiveness is definitely worth it. Value is a complicated notion, but can also be defined simply as utility and cost per use. Breaking down the cost of a $200 pair of shoes by the amount of times you’ve worn them gives you a nice, smaller number to work with as a means of easing the pain of the hit.

Worth is relative; the thing you bought that you used once or twice and let sit in a corner for the rest of its time was worth it if it served a very specific purpose in the moment. If the umbrella I bought during a deluge from Walgreens for $14 made it so that I could walk 10 blocks in the pouring rain without sacrificing my computer, then that $14 was money well spent. Never mind the fact that said umbrella lives in a bar now, abandoned by accident after glasses of wine and conversation. I needed an umbrella, I bought an umbrella, it served its purpose, it was worth the money and it was fine.

Here are some other things that are worth it.

  • A pair of shoes, purchased at H&M for $14.99, when I made the mistake of wearing new shoes to work that weren’t quite broken in.
  • Replacing the lining of a vintage faux fur that I bought for $20 at a thrift store.
  • The pre-packaged slice of orange almond cake from Whole Foods that was unnecessarily gluten-free and cost $3 more than I thought.
  • The leather jacket that I wear every single day and will do so until it starts to snow or I die, whichever comes first.
  • Every single cab I take when I step out of my house, look at the time and realize that I am already late.
  • A breakfast sandwich, a side of kale and a beer, eaten sitting at the bar of the restaurant I like down the street from my house, completely alone on a Sunday with a book and nothing else.
  • Every ounce of expensive and soft yarn that I’ve bought on a whim or otherwise.
  • Litter mats — blue, plastic, wtih a cat’s face on them — so that my precious angel doesn’t track clumps of pee-soaked litter in the hallway.
  • Most, but not all hardcover books I’ve bought at full price from the bookstore around the corner, purchased to fulfill a very specific desire for a very specific time.
  • Haircuts. Good ones.
  • Glasses that I actually like.
  • Every now and then, tickets home on Amtrak instead of MetroNorth.
  • Restorative yoga classes during which I fall asleep within minutes of laying down on my mat.
  • Olive oil that’s one price point above the bad stuff.
  • Stuff that I want that I think I need, but usually don’t and enjoy in spite of it.

Support The Billfold

The Billfold continues to exist thanks to support from our readers. Help us continue to do our work by making a monthly pledge on Patreon or a one-time-only contribution through PayPal.