Alice-Azania Jarvis: I'll spend it if I think it's worth it

In The Red

What is worth spending money on? It's a question we all ask ourselves daily, whether we know it or not. Every time we hand over cash, in fact, we're tacitly acknowledging the subjective value of our chosen purchase. To us, we're saying, that thing, whatever it is – a takeaway coffee, a train ticket, a pair of trousers – is worth spending on.

It might be because we need it: think electricity, internet service, transport. The boring stuff – things no one enjoys buying. I've aired my displeasure at forking out for such things before: they're dull as dishwater and impart no joy. But they're necessary.

And then there's the fun stuff. The stuff we choose to buy. Like travel. And food. And clothes. Though, quite possibly, you don't spend money on these things – for you, they're not "worth it". Every little thing is a value judgement, a complex cost assessment.

There are plenty of things I can do without. Over the years, I've tinkered with the list, adding or removing certain items. I never used to pay the extra £2 for a nicer bottle of wine, but now I do. A morning coffee used to be a priority – now I don't drink the stuff. I spend money on newspapers and food and appearing generous (buying a round of drinks; lending people money; leaving waiters 15 per cent). I'll go without a new pair of shoes, and squirrel the money away for a future holiday. I'll have slower internet but get the occasional taxi. To me, it's worth it.

But what about TV? After flirting briefly with a black-and-white licence – so much cheaper! – I succumbed to convention and got a colour one a few years ago. But I still have only the five channels. Four, really – my TV seems unable to pick up the fifth. Anything more than that seemed like a nice idea, but not worth paying for. Even Freeview necessitates some kind of outlay. For years, I just did without, safe in the knowledge that if I really wanted to watch a programme, I'd find it online.

Now, I'm questioning that. Am I getting old? Have I seen too many adverts for that TiVo thing? (It really looks quite brilliant; you can record television programmes and watch them at your leisure.) Whatever. For the first time in my life I'm thinking of spending money on TV. So that I can watch Mad Men, and Made in Chelsea – without buying the DVD. The question is: what can I do without? And at the moment, I don't have an answer.

a.jarvis@independent.co.uk

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