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What's a dollar worth to you?
Old 07-28-2006, 09:25 PM   #1
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What's a dollar worth to you?

Sandwiched between two diametrically different generations, I'm realizing that we all have wildly diverging ideas of what constitutes "real money". Each of us is capable of doing math and perhaps even calculating between present & future values but we have emotional tripwires that have been locked into our generational genetic code. It's not just inflation-adjusted numbers from the 1950s to the 1970s to the 2000s. Maybe it's also the variety of consumer items that were available to us as we were growing up.

After four years of strenuous ER effort, I've pretty well trained myself to cough up $10 on demand without whimpering. It's rarely a recurring expense and whether or not it's for a good cause I don't lose any sleep over it. Of course I still pick up pennies from the sidewalk but I no longer dive into four-lane rush-hour traffic to retrieve them.

Yet I found my blood pressure surging when our kid explained that she required three separate pairs of sneakers, excuse me, footwear, for 9th grade. I can understand a pair of basketball court shoes but I can't distinguish between "regular" school sneakers (daily wear) and "PE sneakers" for gym class (which apparently are also different from the basketball variety). My emotional stupidity is further demonstrated by the fact that it's not even my money-- spouse and I give the kid $50/month for her clothing/toiletries budget and it's her own darn decision whether she looks good or smells nice.

When she commented that student yearbook pictures portraits are next week and she has nothing to wear (six weeks after buying her end-of-8th-grade wardrobe), I started hitting the emotional ceiling again. When she couldn't get the digital camera to download to the PC and declared that we should just buy a new one, I could feel myself spinning right up on the governor. Again, ironically, neither of those decisions has any financial impact on me. It's her money.

I think that part of my frustration is driving her from store to store while listening to an endless whine angst-filled litany of peer-group issues, and being awakened at 11 PM by a kid still agonizing over what to wear for the first day of 9th grade. However I'm a veteran parent-- I should know how to limit that provocation and not let it get to me. I'm not sure that she has an emotional financial tripwire. To her money is just a tool designed to furnish her happiness and she doesn't care how much of our money it costs to get it. At her age I was probably the same.

But then I watched my FIL's self-imposed anguish over spending $500 for a new computer. He's the fastest man alive at picking up restaurant checks with us... but when his expenses rise into three figures his spending reflexes start to stutter. When he and his spouse were deciding how to refinish two 45-year-old chairs (Dye or reupholster? Leather or Naugahyde? Yellow or red?) I thought the question would be rendered moot by a spousal murder/suicide. In his world, spending more than $1000 on any home improvement is absolutely unthinkable. Yet I spent nearly 15 times that amount on photovoltaics and spouse is ready to spend 30x that much on landscaping.

To him, value is a separate line item. He won't spend $35/month on DSL because he "only spends $5/month to read e-mail and the Washington Post" (conveniently forgetting that his spouse planned their entire six-week Mainland trip on at dial-up speeds). He hates buying tomatoes because "I can grow them cheaper myself." (He plants the seeds but guess who's transplanting & growing them for him-- you're welcome.) He thinks that we should sell our lychee by the side of the road (at $3/pound). He'd sooner split a plug of zoysia than pay for a yard of sod. In his defense, his retiree time is worthless while sunshine & dirt are free. However I'd rather go surfing than sell lychee or move landscaping around one blade of grass at a time.

In 1944, to my then 10-year-old FIL a nickel was worth... well, you've all heard that story from your own elders, and Wal-Mart and Target didn't exist. One CPI calculator claims that by 1970 the same 1944 nickel was worth a dime to my 10-year-old fortune, and Radio Shack was making electronics a lot cheaper. In 2002 our 10-year-old kid would have needed two quarters and I can't even keep up with consumerism's orgy of products. So maybe I shouldn't be surprised that my emotional financial tripwires are so different from my FIL's and my kid's.

What's your emotional financial tripwire?
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Re: What's a dollar worth to you?
Old 07-28-2006, 09:38 PM   #2
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Re: What's a dollar worth to you?

Quote:
being awakened at 11 PM by a kid still agonizing over what to wear for the first day of 9th grade.
Raised two daughters, wait til she turns 16. That is when the fun really begins.
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Re: What's a dollar worth to you?
Old 07-28-2006, 10:02 PM   #3
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Re: What's a dollar worth to you?

Nords,
I was just thinking of posting a similar question.
I can spend 15K for a travel trailer; no worries.
I can invest in a mutual fund or stock; no worries.

But I will take a lot of time deciding to buy a new audio CD, clothes or other relatively small purchases.

In other words, I can spend a lot of money with less angst than on small purchases.

Can anyone explain that one? And what is the cure?
Thanks
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Re: What's a dollar worth to you?
Old 07-28-2006, 10:11 PM   #4
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Re: What's a dollar worth to you?

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Originally Posted by dex

Can anyone explain that one?* And what is the cure?
It is the concept of 'perceived value'. You get value (pleasure, liesure and happiness) from a travel trailer... while you really don't see any intrinsic value in a CD or clothing (neither do I for that matter).

The cure? Don't worry about it. Forget the CD, but please buy just enough clothes to be decent in public
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Re: What's a dollar worth to you?
Old 07-28-2006, 10:15 PM   #5
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Re: What's a dollar worth to you?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nords
What's your emotional financial tripwire?
“Emotional financial tripwire”? I got no stinkin’ “emotional financial tripwire”! OK, maybe I do.

At my retirement party, my youngest daughter told the story of asking me for $700 to go on a weeklong school-sponsored trip to NYC and DC. It was at the end of the 8th grade and “everyone” was going on the trip. She said I looked at her as if she had grown a second head, and sat there in stunned silence. After a few moments, she said I quietly asked her (I don’t recall any of this), “What happens if I give you this money and in a few years we need it to help pay for you to have a kidney transplant?”

With no teenagers at home to apply an ongoing litmus test, I’d say I probably don’t start whining until I get above the $20 level. Around $100 I tend to break out in a cold sweat, and vital organs start shutting down somewhere in the $500 range.

But lke dex, I can fork over several thousand bucks for an RV (used) or boat (used) without too much angst. Although I will have researched it for months, and maybe therein lies the difference.


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Re: What's a dollar worth to you?
Old 07-28-2006, 10:27 PM   #6
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Re: What's a dollar worth to you?

For me, it's all about bang for the buck.

I felt outraged twice in the last week or so:

1) Paying $600 for a couple hours with a lawyer who basically told me what I already knew.

2) Paying $20 for two burger meals at FatBurger. I'll never stray from In-N-Out again!
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Re: What's a dollar worth to you?
Old 07-29-2006, 12:44 AM   #7
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Re: What's a dollar worth to you?

i once heard a quote i've carried with me--it seems now, since forever--which has paid off more than a few times:

"buy the best and cry once."

i'm not a shopper and i don't have a problem paying a premium for quality goods. there's not a lot in the world of retail that pisses me off more than when i pay for quality, at any price, yet it turns out i bought crap.

so my theshold isn't so much determined by what i pay, as by what my dollars get.
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Re: What's a dollar worth to you?
Old 07-29-2006, 01:03 AM   #8
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Re: What's a dollar worth to you?

DW and I have a rule to always consult each other for any purchase over $100. We didn't come by this rule by reading some book on marital finances, we just both break out into a sweat at that amount. I inherited a giant play structure for Tori, slide, rope ladder, swing, etc. Not some crap plastic thing either, this is the big old growth wood robbed a spotted owl of a home kind, nice quality. I was grumbling at Home Depot about the $80 I had to spend to replace the missing bolts, get sanding materials and new stain and waterproofing clearcoat etc.

Nords, I used to spend money the way your daughter does, my mom just kept an envelope in the drawer with 20s in it and told me to let her know if it ran low (it was rough to be me, let me tell ya). Soon as the gravy train ended and I had to earn every cent, and my first late payment on a credit card, and my first bounced check, and things changed quickly.
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Re: What's a dollar worth to you?
Old 07-29-2006, 06:52 AM   #9
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Re: What's a dollar worth to you?

Nords,

Your daughter sees everything as "free" once she makes a withdrawl from the Bank of Dad. In her mind the amount of money available is infinite. You and your DW are simply the ATM machine that tells her she has reached her limit.

She's in the phase where she's focused on "fitting in" and finding her status with the "pack." She has no concept of money or value.

However, we are prisoners to our past and present. If we're retired, we fret about running out of money. If we are hoping to retire, we fret about not saving enough. I personally anguish over every purchase and demand I get "value." When DW wants to buy something for our house, I ask her how much it will get in the garage sale. I don't feel I'm being rude since we've "agreed" to downsize when I really do retire -- hopefully soon.

I know people that are always buying stuff and don't seem to think about what they are spending very much. I know they will never have enough money to retire early. They will also retire on not much more than SS. They never intend to downsize and have piles of stuff in their houses.

I analyzed buying a digital camera for months. There always seemed to be a new, better, cheaper model coming out. I bought one about a week before the birth of our first grandbaby. I'm analyzing large screen HD TVs. The same thing is happening with better and cheaper happening every time I look at what's available. There isn't any grandbaby deadline to force my hand. On the other end of the dollar spectrum, I'm doing the same thing for a new financial calculator. My old one has a dying screen but it still works. I keep putting it off. Logically, worrying about $20 is idiotic but I do.

I look at buying fishing boats every year or so. I always conclude it's cheaper to hire a guide and not have the boat hassle for the times I'd use it. Whenever someone takes me, I'm quick to bring ice, food, buy gas because I know I'm still saving a bunch by not owning the boat and a good guest is invited back. I like to think I'm prudent but not "cheap."

You asked a good question. I don't have a good answer.
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Re: What's a dollar worth to you?
Old 07-29-2006, 07:14 AM   #10
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Re: What's a dollar worth to you?

This is a very timely question at our house right now. We went shopping for a new queen size bed this week for the guest room. I'm the type who wants to buy the best we can afford so we don't have to replace, or worse yet, shop for another bed in the near future.

We selected the bed we were both happy with (him more than me) and then hubby was having a slight panic attack in reference to the price. I asked him politely to forget about the price so we could purchase the bed he really wanted so we wouldn't have to go thru this again some day. (funny, price doesn't matter when it's ATVs, tools or hunting items)


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Re: What's a dollar worth to you?
Old 07-29-2006, 07:31 AM   #11
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Re: What's a dollar worth to you?

It is amazing to me the discretionary money kids in their late teens and early 20's have - and how they "waste" it. They must not see it as "waste".

I just don't think anyone knows or cares how expensive over the long term the "$3 daily latte" can be.

And don't get me started about the money spent on bottled water and soda.....

I'd guess this board recognizes the "long term power" of avoiding small, daily, "trivial $10 here and there".

Either:
1. We are a very affluent society where everyone can afford deily $3 lattes, or
2. People are living well beyond their means and ignoring the future

There's a "consumption quotient" that's programmed into us as kids - I think the rest of our lives we follow those early habits, regardless of how much money we have in the future.

Kids these days have a "consumption quotient" that's an order of magnitude greater than mine.....

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Re: What's a dollar worth to you?
Old 07-29-2006, 07:34 AM   #12
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Re: What's a dollar worth to you?

Feinwerkbau 127 - cost about $175 back in the day - a German single shot pellet rifle.

Savings then core budget - after that her money and my money - and rigous attempts not to comment on each other's taste/purchases. Worked fairly well - with a few lapses for 29 years.

There is no cure - at least in my mind.

heh heh heh heh - no children
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Re: What's a dollar worth to you?
Old 07-29-2006, 08:12 AM   #13
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Re: What's a dollar worth to you?

i recall well my parents and grandparents reactions to prices ... made no sense to me then. but now it does. as we live longer, we actually get to experience inflation in a meaningful way ... we remember, for example, when sneakers were $10, not $100 ... or coffee was .25 not 3 ... or when a penny postcard was actually a penny!

in my case, there's a huge difference between what i can "afford" and what i'm "willing" to pay for almost everything i purchase.
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Re: What's a dollar worth to you?
Old 07-29-2006, 10:24 AM   #14
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Re: What's a dollar worth to you?

Quote:
attempts not to comment on each other's taste/purchases.
Last week, after DW went shopping, she was in the living room, and I was having a leisurely lunch in the kitchen, reading through the cash register tape. After a few comments like: "I thought bananas were on sale for 49 cents a pound," "Wow, $4 for coffee!" my normally emotionally calm wife comes up behind me, grabs the tape, crumples it up, and says "I'm never letting you see the the tape again."
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Re: What's a dollar worth to you?
Old 07-29-2006, 10:31 AM   #15
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Re: What's a dollar worth to you?

Quote:
Originally Posted by TromboneAl


Last week, after DW went shopping, she was in the living room, and I was having a leisurely lunch in the kitchen, reading through the cash register tape.* After a few comments like: "I thought bananas were on sale for 49 cents a pound," "Wow, $4 for coffee!"* my normally emotionally calm wife comes up behind me, grabs the tape, crumples it up, and says "I'm never letting you see the the tape again."
Practicing domestic routines in advance of retirement Monday evening?
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Re: What's a dollar worth to you?
Old 07-29-2006, 10:34 AM   #16
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Re: What's a dollar worth to you?

For me, it depends on what I'm buying. I don't blink an eye when I write a $1200 check for moorage once a year. OTOH, I cannot buy a paperback in an airport for $8.95, probably because my volume paperback purchases occurred thirty years ago at sub-dollar amounts. (I have a nephew who's interested in paperback sci-fi. I don't get to see him often - he's 800 miles away - but when I do, I'm happy to walk into a used bookstore with him and pull out my wallet. Until, of course, I note that I'm being asked to pay $5 for something with a 75 cent cover price. )
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Re: What's a dollar worth to you?
Old 07-29-2006, 12:03 PM   #17
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Re: What's a dollar worth to you?

I find that my perceived "cents" of the the dollar is still somtimes based on the distant past. For example in the early 70's, I bought 2 top of the line bicycle wholesale (of course) for $450 each ($700 retail), I love a bargain. I was working for the post office at the time, not a big money earner so that was a heck of a lot of money. Although I can more than afford it now, it's hard for me to image spending that much for a\the equivalent bicycle today. Being cheap frugal can be a difficult habit to overcome. My hopeful way around my frugal habit is to check if my budget would allow a perceived expensive item and just buy the f****n thing. Easier said than done.

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Re: What's a dollar worth to you?
Old 07-29-2006, 12:22 PM   #18
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Re: What's a dollar worth to you?

Quote:
Originally Posted by vagabond
just buy the f****n thing. Easier said than done.
Good example of f*** used as an adjective.
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Re: What's a dollar worth to you?
Old 07-29-2006, 01:27 PM   #19
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Re: What's a dollar worth to you?

My dad passed away last year and my sibs and I spent the summer liquidating the contents of my parents' home. It was a big lesson to me in how much things are really worth. All of the "antiques" and "collectibles" were practically worthless. The household goods (including 40 year old recliners, etc.) we hauled to the goodwill or the dump. All of the treasures my mom loved and horded--jewelry, fabric, clothes, computer supplies--given away or dumped. My dad's shop tools, his collections of car bits and engines--sold for bargain prices. And yes, we had everything of value appraised and sold to collectors. The rest of their tiny, packed-to-the-rafters bungalow was just junk. It was horrifying and illuminating at the same time.

The family house was sold. My parents had spent years and thousands of dollars on remodeling and landscaping to their taste. They loved to garden and they had the yard just so, exactly the way they wanted it. The new owners gutted the house and bulldozed the yard.

Their possessions gave them a lot of pleasure while they lived, so yes, the money they spent over a lifetime was "worth it" to them. Me, I'm working on getting rid of a lot of junk that is cluttering my house right now, because I don't want to leave a mess for my heirs to clean up. And I've noticed that I don't want to buy stuff the way I used to ... it's easier to say no to purchases. Stuff doesn't interest me the way it used to. Experiences mean a lot more, so I spent a lot last year on vacations with my family. I didn't regret a penny of it.
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Re: What's a dollar worth to you?
Old 07-29-2006, 01:48 PM   #20
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Re: What's a dollar worth to you?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tawny Dangle
My dad passed away last year and my sibs and I spent the summer liquidating the contents of my parents' home. It was a big lesson to me in how much things are really worth. All of the "antiques" and "collectibles" were practically worthless.

... I've noticed that I don't want to buy stuff the way I used to ... it's easier to say no to purchases. Stuff doesn't interest me the way it used to.
My experience was similar, but my parents reached your "I don't want any more stuff" state of enlightenment when they were in thier 80's. When we bought them gifts for birthdays and Christmas, they would thank us very much, but refuse to keep it. Not only would they insist we take their gift home with us, they would also find something else around the house they wanted us to have and insist we take it as well.

Didn't seem to make much of a dent in their pile of posessions though. When they both went into assited living at age 90, we still had a ton of junk to clean out of their house and dispose of. No appraiser required.

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