Black Friday

Black Friday. The day we throw away all the gratitude and well wishes celebrated the day before to worship at the alter of our true religion, consumerism. Anything to save a few dollars so we can get more stuff. Now, I like to save money as much as the next person. But I’ve watched some of those hoarder shows, and though I’m not a psychologist or any other type of medical expert, I can tell all the stuff is filling some sort of emotional hole and seems like a cry for help. We seem to have a whole society of people collecting stuff, and since not everyone is tripping over piles of things in their homes, throwing away some stuff, too. It’s not healthy or good for the environment, but still we persist. Of course I’m using the royal we here, not all of you partake in this. Good for you.

I try not to even leave the house on Black Friday. There is no consumer good I am willing to be trampled or squish, pushed, glared at, or deal with anyone else’s short temper to acquire. But that doesn’t stop me from shopping online! Even there I am careful. A few years ago I bought a laptop on Black Friday. Best. Deal. Ever!! Except I never touched it beforehand and I loathed the keyboard. I mean loathed it. The keyboard did not make any kind of satisfying sound when you hit the keys and they were just far enough apart to force me to learn typing anew. It wasn’t worth the money. Also, though I received free shipping, it was shipped from China directly, which took over a month. I followed it online, as it apparently took the longest possible route on the slowest possible ship. I almost made a map to see all the places this poor laptop traveled. Thank goodness, the laptop wasn’t an emergency purchase. The old laptop was chugging along just fine. But all in all, not worth the savings.[1]

This experience doesn’t cause me to give up! There are bargains to be found, I just know it! I read the advise on things not to buy on Black Friday.[2] Don’t buy toys, gift cards, spring vacations… do buy electronics (but be careful of special Black Friday model numbers, some are lower quality). One link says not to buy winter wear because the best sales are after the holidays, one directed me to a doorbuster of 60% off of a jacket I had already been eyeing. I think you know what I did. Oh and I also managed to buy new winter boots for 50%. These are the same style as my current boots, which have just reached the end of their life. I swear I’ve had them for something like ten years. Land’s End, people, they last forever. At 50% off, how can you go wrong?  Lesson: check out the deals. Maybe there will be better deals later, but if you need something now, take the risk. Greater than 50 or 60 percent off in January does me a lot less good. I’m cold now![3]

But the thing about the list of things you should buy on Black Friday is not too many of them scream holiday gifts. I guess there are people who appreciate appliances and televisions, but these are fairly large gifts that require scheduled deliveries.  So are we really shopping for ourselves?  Well, we need things, too!  So after the thrill of my 60% off coat and 50% off boots, I was mad with the need for more savings blood on the alter. What else do I need!  I know! My printer currently only prints. It’s NOT an all in one and maybe once or twice a year I’d like to scan, occasionally I even like to make a copy of a document, though I can do that at work… but don’t stop me with your logic!  Sometimes there are printers for $29.99 on Black Friday. Fire it up, internet.

The search now on, I see there ARE printers for $29, $39 and up. Yes! But wait, didn’t I buy a whole bunch of ink for my current printer a few months ago? I don’t want that money to go to waste. That is their plan to get me to waste money on ink! Hell no. You can’t catch me in your web! Maybe there isn’t that much ink left, anyway. I pad over to the desk. Oh.. three of the XL black cartridges and a few a various colors. Hmm.. that isn’t insignificant. This amount of ink probably cost more than the printer, inexpensive, build for the home creature that it is. Let’s see if I can find a printer on sale that takes the same ink. Yes, that is the ticket!

It’s not that easy to find printers based on the ink they use, it turns out. You can do it, but it’s hard to know if it’s correct. By searching for the ink on one office supply site, I find a list of printers that are compatible, but when I look up some of those printers, they list different ink. Gah! Naturally none of the printers on super sale are on the list anyway. Let’s review the available features: printing (duh), scanning (yes), copying (yes, please), fax (don’t care. Do faxes still happen?), paper tray with automatic feeder (hell yeah), double sided printing (at home? Really? YES), double sided scanning (I remember once I thought this would be nice, so why not). It turns out that only one printer does both double sided printing and double sided scanning[4], so I guess I must chose. Double sided printing it is!

 

 

Thinking more about this,  I must have double sided printing! Although my household uses maybe half of a reem of paper a year (500 sheets, costing a whopping $5.99 if you buy the office supply store brand), I don’t want to waste paper. The trees! You could recycle. No, not using is better than recycling. You should absolutely spend more money to get the double sided printing feature to save printing approximately 125 pages per year. Duh!

Back to the comparison. None of the printers that have double sided printing are either on sale or take the ink I already own. Keep searching, keep searching. There must be one, there must be one!  AHA! There is one! Not on sale, in any way. First produced in 2014, so it’s an older model. Do I really care, as long as it does what I need it to do?  Nope. Let’s do a compare to the newer model which costs the same as the older model because it’s on super sale, but does not take the ink I already own.  Oh my lord, do you see the dimensions on that the older model?  It’s huge! It would require an armoire to hide it from being a distraction in a room.[5]  It weighs 25lbs! I can’t have that. I need to stop and regroup. What if I did give up on the ink I already have and buy the printer, scanner, copier, fax, toaster, hairdryer[6] that I really want? The internet is fired up once again. I research and research. Oh, there is a handy printer selection tool on canon.com. You put in what you want, it returns a list. Look at all these printers, scanner, copier, fax, toaster, hair dryer![7]  All of them more than I want to spend and do not use the ink that I already have. I’ve been tricked! Tricked I tell you! How do I know these printers, though some appear to be very marked down, are not this price every day?  Should I just give this up? NO! I NEED to scan, though I haven’t done it in over a year. I MUST be able print double sided, though I’ve never done it in the past, and could in fact, do that at work.[8] I consider buying something cheaply now and using up the remaining ink with my current printer. But there is an imminent move coming. Housing hunting is just on hiatus for Thanksgiving weekend.  I just don’t like any of these options, but I have to pick one right? I must buy something, right? I’ve made the decision to buy, right? The alter of savings needs another sacrifice, yes? Such a purchase dwarfs the amounts I am thinking of saving on this printer. Even if I saved 50% off the cost of a home printer, the amount saved is something to be scoffed at in a home buying transaction. An additional box to move because of a $50ish savings is not actually worth the aggravation.

So no. I don’t. Another printer is not needed, not right now.

Here is a lesson for you. It’s not the percentage you save, it’s the amount. If you save 50% on a $4 item, you may feel great about it, but it’s still $2. And $2 buys only $2 worth of anything else.[9] I think I read something like this in a Malcom Gladwell book once. Somehow saving .1% in a home purchase, let’s say $300 doesn’t feel as good as 50% on a $4 purchase. I don’t know why, but it’s true and it’s insane.[10] Do I go back and question my new coat and boots purchases?  No, because what is done is done and because I need those things. I do not, technically speaking, need a printer, scanner, copier, fax, toaster, hairdryer(5). I just want it.

And that is what should be your guide for Black Friday. What is the cost of this insanity? My cost was  my time. I spent way more time doing this research than I got in return in worth of the “savings”. Not even to mention the time I spent writing this to document my insanity (writers can break the fourth wall, too). Do you actually need this thing you are giving up your hard earned time or physical safety to buy more cheaply, or are you just sucked in by the insanity of it all. Only you know the answer.

Ok, I looked up whether these armoires are still made, and it appears that they are, but in my brief search I couldn’t find any from quality furniture makers of solid build, as mine is. I found the type made of laminate and is assembled by the owner. Feh. I guess I will hold on to his baby as long as possible. Just one more way I’m becoming a dinosaur. I have another essay to write on how Apple makes me feel like a dinosaur for wanting to hold onto my music files, many time-consumingly burned from CDs. Relying on the cloud seems nuts. Which brings me back finally to this essay as Apple is one of the place to buy on Black Friday. Apparently it’s the only day of the year they have a sale.

** Update ** Two days later and this printer is the same price as it was on Black Friday. It’s on perma-sale, apparently. See, fear of missing out doesn’t always come true. Also that printer will cost me more to move than it’s price, so I actually saved money!

[1] I am aware that being able to swallow a few hundred dollars in savings is a privilege, for which I’m grateful.  I hope you enjoy the footnotes used here. I’ve been reading David Foster Wallace recently and I do enjoy a good tangent that adds value, which of course I believe my tangents do, as did Wallace’s.

[2] https://www.retailmenot.com/blog/black-friday-best-worst.html

[3] Watch this spot for me complaining if these items reach 75% off in January.  Though one wonders if something can be sold at 75% what is wrong in the business model. Either it’s priced too high to begin with or they have made too many of them. So many of them, they are willing to take a loss? Hmmm…

[4] What hell is this?

[5] I own a computer armoire just for this purpose already. It’s a desk that you can close the doors on and hide all of ones disorganization, wires, random chargers, usb drives, mouses, plethora of various tablets that have been acquired since tablets came to exist. They all still work, so why get rid of them, etc. Start the sanity. In practice it’s not used as a desk. The laptop, tablet or other is taken out from there and used elsewhere, dining room table, couch or bed. I’m not sure if they even makes these armoires anymore. This one is fifteen years old and was build to accommodate a desktop. I use that space to store things in file folders, of things printed on the printer that started this entire episode. However, being able to close those doors and shut away all that mess and insanity is priceless.

[6] This does not actually exist.

[7] ibid

[8] Do not complain to me about stealing from work. I think a few printouts are factored into the salary.

[9] Including, I recently learned, the daily print newspaper. What?!? No wonder they are all losing money. The paper can’t be $2 plus dollars. That’s crazy.

[10] $300 > $2, for the math challenged.

How Many Different Ways to Say Get Off Your Ass and Do Something?

5,498,349 or there abouts.  

I’m in a rut. I’ve been in a rut. I’m trying to dig my way out of a rut.  I was laid off from a job I despised about a year and a half ago and it was the greatest thing to happen in quite some time.  It was a job which met the definition of everything I didn’t want in a job:  poor management, no strategy, reacting to whatever client was screaming the loudest, politics and backstabbing (this always comes with poor management and no strategy because someone has to be to blame if things don’t go well). Oh, and I worked all the time. Nights and weekends were not my own. I had to feed the beast of crazy. All so someone else higher up would get a larger bonus. Insanity.  

I was happy to be gone. Happy to have a package and some time to ‘figure it all out’.  I knew I had no interest in going back to that sort of environment.  A whole new career, using the skills I had was what I want. Something completely different. So I spent some time pondering. I read books, listened to podcasts, talked to everyone I know.  Follow your passions, don’t follow your passions, utilize the skills you have in a different way, take this quiz/webinar/seminar for some sum of money and all will be made clear.  So many stories that I’ll save for another day. 

One thing they all said, every one, was it was better to start than sit around with analysis paralysis. Try something, experiment, get feedback and change course if necessary. Do not, absolutely not, sit behind your computer and research, but do nothing. 

I can’t say I did nothing, but I did pretty close to nothing. I looked for a job full time, and didn’t focus so much on figuring it out (again). Responsibilities loomed, there were mortgages to pay, food to buy, a gym membership to keep up (after all, exercise keeps you sane).  I looked in different industries and found a job. But it’s not what I really want to do. I still want to figure out what this magical other path for me is. But I let the job take up my time, and I don’t prioritize any of this work. From time to time I pick up yet another book, attend yet another webinar.  But it’s all the same. I have to do the hard work of figuring it out and making it happen. Face any fears and go.  I’ve heard it so many times.  So if I know what I need to start doing, why is it so hard to do?  Even if I know it’s hard to do, this is my life, so why can’t I get on with it? 

Three Quarters 30 Try 2 – Day 2

Today again was a pretty good day.  

Same smoothy as yesterday, same stew with some corn in it for lunch.   Making meals in advance works for me.  When it comes to choosing foods that are good for me, well, the smaller the choices, the better, I guess.  

Since we’re getting ready for a bombogenesis, following by an artic blast, I decided to cook up some food for dinner which could be cooked in a large batch and could be eaten cold, in case we loose power.  What fit the bill was Red Lentil Vegetable Stew   .  Yes, it’s Martha Stewart and also yes, you see chick peas.  I skipped the yogurt dressing.  Come on, even I can’t justify that.  Super yummy.  

Thoughts on Day 2:   I continue to be surprised that I’m not more hungry, though perhaps I over did it on almonds, and don’t miss wine more.  Wine was my friend that helped me unwind was off the stank of my job.  I thought I’d be crying for it, but I’m surprisingly satisfied with decafe tea.  Say what?!  Who are you??   I’m someone who always wanted to be the type who drinks tea.  But I’ve always been the type of person who drinks coffee and wine.  So there.  

So another successful day, but I reserve the right to be sad about the wine, especially when snowbound over the next few days. 

The more things change, the more they stay the same…

Today walking through Harvard Square, I looked at all the young faces. Students, perhaps graduating soon, so full of promise. They looked twelve. I did some math in my head: a graduating senior is most likely twenty one, which means they were born in 1994. 1994. The year Kurt Cobain died. Wow.
As I was losing myself in these thoughts, I heard the music from a loud party. Ah yes, the college party on one of the first pleasant afternoons of spring (that it isn’t until May 1, well… ). Then the blaring music changed to The Rolling Stones, music that was already older than I was when I was in college. So some things don’t change, some things perhaps remain as timeless as Mick Jagger, even if as unlikely that Keith Richards still walks among us. But somehow that made me feel ok.

I feel good, na na naan a naan a naaa…

Because I made the choice to return to the more difficult class at the gym and then stayed after to do the free weight class. Sounds so minor, but it was a positive choice for me, something I haven’t been doing too much of recently. I’d let a life set back get me down. But all it is is a setback, not a catastrophe. Why did I let it get me down? Why did I let it lead me to make poor choices, including not going to the gym as much as I should? Why make it all worse? Until one day.. gasp.. my pants are too tight. So sorry, that’s crap. And it was all on me. I can blame others for causing the setback, but I can only blame myself for my reaction to it. For allowing myself to get to this place. It felt so good to work out a little harder than before, to feel my body working as it should. It feels good to make the right choices, the choice to do something productive with my time, something healthy something for me.
I want to change things. I want my life to be better. One decision at a time. Bring on the cliché’s: every journey starts with one step, put one foot in front of the other and soon you’ll be walking across the floor.

There is something transcendent in doing something you enjoy, even if it’s minor, even if it only matters to you. That moment affects the other areas of your life. It makes you more of who you are. So here is to making good choices, here is to getting back on track, here is to choosing to make yourself better and then doing it. Because you can’t be there for others or help others if you can’t do it for yourself first.

And yeah, going back to the hard class at the gym is a small thing, but it’s my first step.

Put one foot in front of the other and soon you’ll be walking out the door:
life lessons from Rankin-Bass claymation: