Average Jo Dilemma

In regards to shopping, I’m driven by guilt. Or maybe I should say “halted” by guilt.

Thankfully I haven’t become one of those outspending-your-means folk.  In fact, I often am labeled “cheap” by my younger brother, who doesn’t believe in saving money.

Great strategy.

But anytime I want to spend some cash on anything other than my mortgage, food or toothpaste, in floods the guilt.

Hear me out: In 2007, my mother purchased a small coffee maker for $1 at a garage sale on my behalf.  Since then, the machine has made many-a-decent and more-a-terrible cups of coffee which I’ve enjoyed nearly every day (I’m not picky).

As of late, I’ve become increasingly irritated that the garage sale special won’t die. Most people might be happy with this “quality,” but I’m looking for a reason to buy a new one.  The used-to-be-white “beginner” coffee maker has become stained and is a bit of an eye sore. I can only imagine how well a stainless steel coffee maker would compliment my refrigerator.

Yes, only imagine because as soon as I start looking, the wave of guilt comes rolling in. It’s not even the $300 coffee makers I’m looking at. A $50 one would certainly suffice. After all, no machine is going to make my morning specialties taste any better. (Except a Keurig with K-Cups, but where’s the challenge and every day excitement in that?)

You don’t NEED it, I begin thinking.  There are people in this world who don’t have homes or food, and you’re going to upgrade your perfectly-operating coffee maker?

Yeah, that’s pretty bad, I agree with myself, just use the old one until it falls apart.

What you wouldn’t expect is this old thing is built to sustain a rodeo. In fact, I’m certain that the previous owners forgot to give my mom a copy of the 100-year-warranty.

Trust me, I’m fine without a copy.

And so, day after day, my efforts to be green prevent me from waking up to the smell of deliciousness.  Instead, I rise to aggressively make my morning Jo all the while hoping Trusty Rusty will break, leak, or get knocked off the counter and chewed up by the dog like everything else.

I’ve run into this same situation when I owned a Geo Metro with questionable dependability and a couch suited for a frat house – it wasn’t beautiful, but it was comfy! Even upgrading from a single bed at the age of 23 caused troubles.

Obviously an upgrade was due in these circumstances. Still, the guilt was overwhelming – so overwhelming that a decent amount of “coaching” was needed from friends and family:

“You’re going to get stranded and/or die in that car if you don’t trade it in, you know.”

“You’re 23 and still have a single bed? It’s time to grow up.”

“I really think you’ve gotten your money’s worth out of your old couch, maybe something with less stains and sag would look nicer in your home.”

I was sure this guilt was something everyone experienced until I caught a glimpse of The Forum last week which featured a three-day series on the most spendy homes in the FM area.

Apparently not.

The highest assessed home, valued at $1.8 million, features an abundance of space – to the point where the family members struggle to keep track of each other. The home has two kitchens and annual property taxes in the ballpark of the average U.S. salary. The home’s living room looks like a ritzy hotel lobby. Then again, most hotels don’t have a movie theatre.

Another, the NDSU president’s home, was built at a cost of $2.6 million. I wonder what my tuition went towards. The area rug?

Two more homes, both worth well over a million, had stunning style. One home featured a 16-foot custom built alder butcher block island shipped from Pennsylvania. The other was home to a room made from nearly 100% glass which faced – get this! – the Osgood golf course!  Now that’s faith. Do they know duffers with a slice bigger than Papa John’s golf that course? And I can’t be the only one.

Reading this series was interesting yet it left me feeling ill.  Do these homeowners experience even a twinge of guilt for having a home with space and features that a family twice their size still couldn’t fully make use of?

In any regard, I’m watching the classifieds in hopes one of them holds a garage sale soon. I bet they have some niiiiiice coffee makers – you know… in case mine bites the dust soon.

Shootin’ the Wit is a column about everyday life that should never, ever be taken too seriously. Find it online at www.shootin.areavoices.com.

3 Responses

  1. I have a few friends that sound quite a bit like you in this regard. They go out and buy the new coffee maker, then try to give the old one away; it still works just fine after all, and certainly someone could use it. It can become quite annoying!

  2. Still using it

    I think there is a certain amount of pride that comes with using what you have. I was just home on the farm this weekend helping out with planting using his 1977 planter. The planter is over 30 years old but it has new paint and some new tires since its birthday. This planter has been reborn more than once with farm grade extreme makeovers. The truth is no-matter how many paint jobs or how many tires we put on it the planter is still from 1977. No matter what we do to it, the planter is always going to have a sense of style and class that makes it unique and classy just like Trusty Rusty.
    I know they make paint that will stick to your old coffee maker and that might be a guilt free compromise to your problem.

  3. Tiffany

    Hi Laura –

    We met yesterday at the seminar and am checking out your blog now. Very cute!

    My husband is the same way! He grew up on a farm in the middle of nowhere and although he moved away from the farm almost 15 years ago, he still holds on to nearly everything. He’ll get a new computer and keep the old one around “just in case” or will hold on to a pair of ratty insullated sweats from his high school track days (complete with lettering indicating the high school mascot running down the leg – don’t worry, I don’t let him wear these in public). I have always wondered if his habit of hanging on to things stems from his the farm, where there was nearly infinite storage space and the need to salvage anything possible and live off the land.

    I hope you can splurge and treat yourself to a new, fancy coffee maker soon – we all need to splurge every now and then. Maybe you can hold a rummage sale to get rid of the old one.


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