Spending Money on Boring Things

Photo credit: Dean Hochman (cropped), CC BY 2.0.

I just spent $200 and I’m so bored that I’m annoyed. I’m so bored by what I spent money on that I am going to tell you about it.

First, at Amazon, I spent $161 on:

  • 6 packs of Amazon Basics baby wipes ($12)
  • 40 cat litter pads (for our Breeze cat litter “system”) ($23)
  • 6 packets of cat litter pellets (also for the system) ($40)
  • 60 rolls of toilet paper ($26)
  • 22 pounds of cat food ($28)
  • 8 big rolls of paper towels ($21)
  • A paperback book as part of my husband’s birthday present ($11)

And then, at Target.com, I spent $40 on:

  • 1 tub of Target brand baby formula ($21)
  • 1 tub of Carol’s Daughter Hair Milk ($12)
  • Assorted plastic kids/picnic plates ($7)

All of of this is a) stuff we need, b) stuff that is annoying to buy at the store because it’s heavy or bulky, and c) stuff that will last us a long time, d) stuff I can’t get away with not buying.

(Okay, we don’t really need the plastic plates, but I have one divided plate from this set that I bought on a whim, and I use it all the time, and I’m sure that by the time I want more to match Target won’t sell this series anymore, and they were 59 cents a plate, so I bought three more of the divided plates, four plain plates, and four bowls. Also, when the most frivolous part of an order is the cheapest, cutting it out doesn’t do much for savings.)

Still, $200 is a lot of money, and when I spend that money I want it to be exciting. I want new clothes, or a nice dinner out, or a plane ticket to somewhere good. I want a new backpack! An Airbnb cabin in the woods for a weekend! An entry to a marathon! A donation to an abortion fund! A faux-retro Vornado air circulator! Nani Iro fabric to sew a new dress! High-quality fish to cook for all my friends! A pair of waterproof Bluetooth headphones for listening to podcasts while lap swimming. A Pendleton blanket. A four-person tent. A rental car to go to upstate for the Saugerties Garlic Festival or the Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool Festival. Paint for my apartment. Some vintage pyrex. Subscriptions to the New Yorker and the New York Review of Books. Hamilton tickets.

There’s a test I often apply to things that I’m on the fence about buying: would I rather have this item (a shirt, a new hardcover book) now, or a fancy sandwich later? A fancy sandwich is anywhere from $12 to $20, and the imagined future is one in which I could eat the Clif bar in my purse and then go home and make lunch, or I could have a delicious sandwich right then. Most of the time, I prefer the future fancy sandwich, and put the shirt back on the hanger or the book back on the shelf. I don’t keep track of the fancy sandwiches in my bank, and I rarely use up my sandwich credits (in fact, I often apply the fancy sandwich test to actual fancy sandwiches, and decide I’d rather have that meal later, at a time when I really truly want it).

But with cat food and formula and toilet paper, there is no fancy sandwich test available. I would rather feed my daughter than have avocado, egg, and cheddar on an Old Bay biscuit from Butter and Scotch. I need to wipe my butt more than I need roasted cauliflower, pumpkin seed romesco, pickled fennel, arugula, sumac vinaigrette, and white onion, on Caputo’s seeded club roll from Court Street Grocers. Imagining better, more exciting stuff to spend my money on only works for the things I can go without. With the boring things, there’s no escape.

Dory Thrasher has a PhD in Urban Planning and works as a researcher for the New York City Department of Social Services (everything she writes here is her own experience and opinion and in no way represents DSS). She makes quiltsreads books, yells about inequality, and runs marathons. She lives in Brooklyn with a handsome bureaucrat and a small baby.

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