A Total Waste Of Money: Summer Expenses
First, let's define terms. A Total Waste of Money. What is a Total Waste of Money? (Besides the obvious answer, Congress.) A Total Waste of Money is a relative concept. Is getting your car's air conditioner fixed in the middle of summer a Total Waste of Money?I used to be under the thumb of men who considered just about anything that involved money leaving their possession a Total Waste of Money. My father considered having A/C at all a TWOM. "Open the windows! I used to sleep on the fire escape in the summer. And that's the house. Why do you need it in a car? You don't live in the car."An ex-husband considered repairing A/C after the middle of summer a TWOM "The summer's almost over! Wait until next year so you can get your money's worth at least." Only thing was, we could never agree on the official point at which summer was almost over. Is it after the middle of summer? And when is the middle of summer? Is it August 20, the true middle? Is it July 15, the psychological middle? Or is it June 15, the Male Everything is a Total Waste of Money middle?Not only do you have to calculate the relative middle of summer and at what point A/C repair becomes a TWOM, you have to calculate the value of the car. The city says my car is worth $2,000. This is a lie, of course, so they can get more property taxes. Nobody would give me $2,000 for a ten-year-old car with over 120,000 miles on it. Maybe $1,000. So does $1,000 become my relative scale of value? Are car repairs over $500 a TWOM? That would be half what the car's worth. Spend $1,000 to fix a car worth $1,000?! Why you can buy a whole other thousand dollar car for $1,000!I can? But what will I have to fix on that car, and what if it's a TWOM?And then there's the issue that licensed clinical social workers and ministers bring up all the time when they're counseling you. Is this something you need or something you want? You mean, there's a difference? A friend of mine paid $1 for his car and it used to start and move him from place to place. It was definitely not a TWOM. Even if it didn't move, even if he just used it as a planter, or extra storage space, or a summer hammock, a dollar car is not a TWOM. But if he has to fix something on it, something he can't do himself with discount parts from Manny, Moe and Jack, then all hell breaks loose. Spend $2 on a dollar car? That's twice what it's worth! Spend a couple of hundred? A big TWOM! He's telling me the car is totaled now, without value, beyond redemption, because it needs a valve job. Apparently a valve job on a dollar car is a fatal TWOM.I can't even tell people like him that I spent $676.45 to fix the A/C on a $1,000 car when summer, depending on how you calculate it, was almost over. People like this sometimes even dare suggest I don't need the things I want, thus turning all my wants into TWOMS. Why, they could have bought 676 one dollar cars and an air freshener for that kind of money. Am I nuts?I am not nuts. Whether it is technically summer or not, I am hot. I also have no money whatsoever. I have credit and a $1,000 car. It is easier to repair an old car with credit than to buy another old car, which requires a credit rating or cash, which requires cash. Having no money whatsoever makes hardly anything a TWOM. Isn't maintaining the Devil You Want psychologically better than making do with the Devils You Need?When you factor in the psychological benefits, is anything in life really a TWOM? Consider a graduate degree in arts and sciences. Will that ever produce enough income to offset the cost? Or is it a TWOM? Or should you consider the psychological benefit? The course work will keep you occupied until you die. At least you're doing something.Psychological benefits are immeasurable and to each person, their own relative standards apply. More computer equipment? Didn't increase my income or improve my employability, but it's providing countless hours of struggling with instruction manuals, which will keep me off the streets until I die. Not a TWOM.Move to another apartment? It'll be two years before I recoup the utility deposits, van rental, and the odds and ends of moving, but the view out the window is different at 2 a.m. Not a TWOM.Fudge cake to ease a broken heart even if I have to put it on Mastercard and by the time I pay it off, I could have bought a cocoa plantation in Brazil? Not a TWOM. A psychological benefit. Hell, a deep-seated psycho-sexual need.So that's why last summer I was driving a $1,000 car that wasn't worth a $2.76 tin of Turtlewax, but had $676.45 worth of A/C purchased past the psychological middle of summer, and the A/C worked so well, I could transport Eskimo Pie. Then, before air conditioning season kicked in really good this year, I totaled the car. Was my A/C expenditure a TWOM?Well, at the time it wasn't. Ask me again tomorrow because right now I'm just hot.