It’s All About the Benjamins

Dear Reader,

Every two-to-three years, iPhone users return to the Apple Store for an upgrade. In my last post (more here) at the end, I went on a tangent about my dissatisfaction with the quality of the photos captured on my iPhone (which, by the way, I resolved by deep cleaning the camera lens). Because those aimless ramblings clearly were not enough to satisfy (or dissatisfy) me, I have decided to elaborate on the “weight” of large purchases here.

I think a lot about my spending habits. In the BET sitcom “Everybody Hates Chris,” the protagonist’s father, Julius, is constantly calculating costs in the most comedic way, for example, picking up a discarded, half-eaten chicken wing and remarking that it’s “one dollar and nine cents in the trash.” While I’m not that obsessive (or precise for that matter), I do catch myself thinking at times, for example, if I walk home today instead of taking the T, then I save $2.40. Also, I have the price of coffee for a few locations ingrained (against my will) in my mind— a small McDonald’s coffee costs $1.07, the university convenience store coffee costs $2.11, and the small Tatte coffee costs $3.21 (and don’t get me started on Cold Brew prices — ugh!).

While coffee is a small purchase, daily trips to the café naturally add up. One small coffee a day from each of the aforementioned venues totals the following for one year:

  • McDonalds = $390.55
  • University convenience store = $770.15
  • Tatte = $1,171.65

McDonald’s coffee comes out to be $781.10 cheaper than Tatte annually. In 2022 prices, that totals about:

  • 76 Tatte muesli bowls (yes, I do use Tatte muesli bowls as unit of measurement — more here
  • 52 paperback books
  • 39 months of a Premium Netflix subscription
  • 4 decent at-home-slow-press juicers
  • 2 small Botox treatments (with approx. 15-19 units each)
  • 1 annual gym membership 

^^That’s what you can gain with a small switch from fancy to fast-food coffee.

Obviously, not everyone will find it worth it to exclusively drink the cheapest coffee around (myself included), but I still can’t help but think in these terms. The retail price of the iPhone 13 Pro now is about $1,200. I am not eligible to trade in my old phone for a discount because, well, to quote Guinevere Beck from “You” (the book by Caroline Kepnes [more here] NOT the Netflix series [ugh]) “Me and this phone… I’m a bad mommy.”

$1,200 is a lot of money for me and I think about how I could use that sum to cover a week-long Latin American vacation, buy a one-year membership to the gym HealthWorks Fitness, or, you know, just pay rent. Frankly, if they were still giving out stimulus checks, you can bet I would cash mine in and sprint to the nearest Apple Store.

Revere Beach, Boston

I had an ex who said that I was too concerned with money. Although the comment rubbed me the wrong way (we had very different financial situations), it was true for that point in my life (the underemployment-sleeping-on-an-air-mattress period). In an alternate reality where I have 37 million dollars, I do not write this blog post to you. Money solves a lot of problems and buying a new iPhone in the world where I have 37 million dollars would not warrant such deliberation and, therefore, would not be worth writing about. If I seem overly concerned with money, it is because I truly believe (to the extent that a nihilist can hold beliefs, I suppose) — money buys freedom. Naturally, we cannot buy love, eternal youth, health, and the other “important things” in life, but we can probably get ourselves waaaay closer to happiness with money than without it.  

I’m not a total dunce, and I know that suitcases filled with hundos can also be a blessing in disguise (or, more realistically, a ransom payment). A wise man did once say, and I quote “mo money mo problems.” As I am not (yet) stupidly wealthy, I cannot expound upon the “mo problems” that purportedly accompany “mo money.” So, in the meantime, I will continue to toss and turn about the cost of an iPhone until I eventually justify the purchase in my head, march over to the Apple Store, and empty my pockets on the spot like the predictable biped that I am.

Gosh, I guess what I’m trying to say is that big purchases can make people feel a certain sort of way. There’s a particular strain of stress that accompanies them and a mental cost-benefit analysis that I’m sure most of us run to some degree before handing over our credit cards for big-ticket items/ experiences. Overall, I think people are similar in this way — rational, thoughtful, but also influenced by emotional rather than logical reasoning. 

Years ago, when I was waiting to cross a street, a man came up to my friend and me. He looked at me, told me he liked my hair, and then extended a hand clutching a 20-dollar bill in my direction. “Here,” he said, “you could use this more than me.” Flabbergasted and after some (admittedly meek) protest, I took it. The man turned to my friend and handed her a $20 bill as well, saying “you too.” He dashed off across the street and we never saw him again. 

To this day, I don’t know what his agenda was, but if/when I become ridiculously well-to-do, I’m going to pull that sort of stunt on the reg. Watch out world 😉



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