Alice-Azania Jarvis: Spending can be fun: or a baffling chore
In The Red
Saturday 30 April 2011
Even for me, handing over cash can – very occasionally – be fun. There's spending, you could say, and then there's spending. Buying something you want – something you've saved for, something you can just about afford – can be jolly good fun. To wit: summer clothes. After a recent eBay sale, I found myself with an unexpected bit of wardrobe cash. What fun, then, to pick out a new jumpsuit, a new stripy top (yes, another one).
Likewise, food. Saving up for a posh night out is one of my absolute favourite things to do. When the food's good, the service up to scratch, it's like being given a present – only you've decided exactly want you want and how you want it done (rare, please).
And then there are the things that are never fun. Never fun, but frequently necessary. Deodorant, moisturiser, shampoo. Who gets a kick out of that? Cleaning products are worse. Every penny I spend on bin bags, on fabric conditioner, on washing-up liquid and toilet cleaner is one I begrudge. "I work hard for this?" I find myself wondering. "For this?"
The real clincher, though, is the utility. The thing you really have to have – no option of just going without for a week here. Gas. Electricity. Mobile phone service. Without them, I'd be utterly bereft. But they're just so boring to buy. You hand over cash, and ... the status quo continues (unless, of course, you've defaulted on your payment – something which, remarkable though it may be, I've managed to avoid doing for a good few years).
Compounding this is the fact that in order to make a Good Purchase, you should probably do your research. I recently wrote a piece about the stress of booking a holiday online. How much more fun would buying a trip abroad be if all it necessitated was a trip to the travel agent? No reading reviews or cross-referencing write-ups or checking air fares. No Google streetview, no Gmaps distance calculator. Just a glossy brochure, and a fixed budget.
The same goes for utilities. I'm a month away from concluding my (thoroughly rubbish) broadband contract, and in need of a faster, better, preferably cheaper alternative. The clock is ticking. The price comparison sites are calling. And yet the most I've managed to do is tweet a plea for help. Because buying broadband is not glamorous. It's not fun. It's not a thrilling use of your salary. It's a baffling, arduous chore – in my case a baffling, arduous and incomplete one.
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