Thursday, February 25, 2010

What's enough of a bargain?

I think I made a big step forward today on the difference between whether you can afford something, and whether you should afford it.

On my lunch hour, I was at a low-end Kmart-type store we have out here in Los Angeles called Big Lots, looking for those little paper sleeves you stuff coins in. I've been a fan of the CoinStar machines for awhile, mostly because I like spilling in the coins and watching the machine count them up. (It's the little things.) But in my push to save money, I've decided I no longer want to donate 8.9% of those coins to the nice people at CoinStar, but keep the total amount for myself. This is where the decision to start stuffing coins into coin sleeves and taking them to the bank came in.

I didn't find the coin sleeves, but I was, naturally, lured over to the display of extremely cheap DVDs. Big Lots was selling a bunch of DVDs -- not popular movies, mind you, but not terrible ones either -- for $3 apiece. Even if I don't plan to buy, I'm always attracted to such displays. I'm always curious about what they have, knowing in the back of my mind that if the price is right, there's a chance I'll buy. The price is not usually right, or not usually right enough, so I usually escape the gravitational pull of these movies without taking one with me.

Today I almost caved. Almost.

They had Michel Gondry's The Science of Sleep for $3. New, still in its package.

And The Science of Sleep was a movie I liked quite a bit. It was no Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Gondry's masterpiece, but it did enough of what Eternal Sunshine did right that I felt a reasonable fondness toward it, some notable third-act problems notwithstanding.

In the past I might not have hesitated here. I spend three dollars on things with a lot less value than The Science of Sleep all the time. It wouldn't have required a second thought to take it to the checkout stand, bring it home, and insert it between two other DVDs on my DVD shelf.

But it's not the past anymore, and I'm starting to think that just because you can buy something, doesn't mean you should. And I decided right then and there that it was not worth three dollars for me to own The Science of Sleep.

Then the question was, how much would I have paid for it? Would I have bought it for $2? How about at the 99 Cent Store, which was my next stop, where I also did not find the coin sleeves?

I had to tell myself that I probably did not like The Science of Sleep quite enough to buy it at any cost. If I plan to see it even one more time in my life, it might have been worth that $3. But I don't know when I plan to watch it, and do not feel specifically compelled at any time in the near future. Considering that scenario, those three dollars may be better served remaining in my pocket, ready to be spent on an actual necessity. I'll probably watch The Science of Sleep again at some point, but until then, it'll be just one more piece of clutter in my house. And there's an intangible value in avoiding that scenario as well.

Wow, I'm really starting to sound like an adult.

Shit, maybe I should have bought it.

What would you have done?

1 comment:

Don Handsome said...

I bought it a couple summers ago for $ a garage sale. My general rule of thumb is that if you can find it for as much as renting it would cost AND its a film that you could conceivably rent, then you should buy it. I'm not sure that rule of thumb works with saving I advise that you don't buy, however, you can never rent it because you'll be cursing yourself for not buying it.