August 27, 2009

Back To School Shopping

"Okay, Monica, let's not go overboard," I warn myself as I see the new four digit balance in my account. Feast or famine, that's how college students live, with a glut of financial aid at the beginning of the semester and not two pennies to rub together by the end. I've lived this way for seven years, and only during the last one had an actual monthly paycheck worth living on besides. That should hold true for this one as well, year eight, my twelfth total year in college. (I worked full time and went to the community college full time on a scholarship during the first four.)

First things first, this semester's dues to my condo association, in a lump sum. Then eight months' mortgage to my Dad, also in a lump sum, plus the money I borrowed from him this month when my car needed new tires unexpectedly. Put more minutes on my cell phone, enough for the rest of the year. Eye examine and contacts and annual physical. Send a couple grand to my savings account, when I can't get at it so quickly. Buy my textbooks and the bits of technology I find so essential to my work. This year it's a big flat screen display, separate keyboard, a wireless mouse, and a spare USB cable. Then, only then, can I actually shop.

There's a little store down on O Street, The Black Market Clothing Exchange. It's not a thrift store, because it will actually buy your old clothes for resale, though I've never been hip enough for them to accept anything I bring in. The people that work there are wonderful, and they recently rented out the back half of the store to The Public, a trendy shoe store owned and run by a kid younger than me. There I got three pairs of jeans (the only three non-hiphuggers they had, I'm sure), four sweaters, an awesome new blazer, a vest, and a crocheted cap for $135 including tax. At The Public I splurged on a pair of shoes (bringing my total up to five pair, including my Wellies) that cost almost as much. They're TOMS Vegan Red Wrap Boot and I'm not usually into shoes, but they are WON-der-ful.

This weekend, I'm going to look for a chair for studio, either a comfy old recliner or an armchair with an ottoman. That means we get to make the rounds to the thrift stores and the antique stores, which is a regular adventure for my folks and I, whether we buy anything or not. Then we're going to Grand Island to fetch my Great-Grandma Peterson's dining set, which I am inheriting. I'm going to use her dining table for my desk and return my Mom's antique gate leg which I've been using less than comfortably. Oh, I guess I better clear it off and clean my apartment a little. And I have to take my own cast offs to Goodwill so I have room for my new clothes.

That's the thing about stuff, as wonderful as it is, it creates as much work as it 'saves.' At the same time, it connects us all. I'm benefiting from someone else's last season tosses and comfy used furniture and someone will benefit from my finally-shrunk-too-much and I'm-tired-of-ironing-this shirts. And I'm determined to find some new use to put my three old pairs of worn-a-hole-in-the-ass jeans to. Yeah, the shoes are new, but I'll wear them until they literally fall apart and TOMS is a cool company because they're committed to giving away as many as they sell, a true one for one deal.

I don't know that there's anything particularly dharmic about any of it, but it makes me happy. Not in the standard shopping high way, but in the 'I know I can afford it, I'm living within my means, so I don't have to feel guilty, and isn't it great to shop where the folks are actually fun to talk to and not at all pushy, and I'm recycling and I'll get a lot of use out of these things, and they all have character, and I'm so glad someone else had the good taste to buy this new first so I can buy it used now, and now I can get rid of those shirts I don't want anymore' kind of happiness. Plus, it makes me happy just to know I'm not going to have to do that again for at least six months.

I'm sure the economists are shuddering in horror.

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