20 September 2010

$9. Really?

Having my eyebrows shaped and tidied up cost me $9 last week. I wasn't in for a hair cut or facial. I just was tired of the chaos above my eyes and decided I needed to call in specialised help.

I think of that $9 and wonder if it was a reasonable expenditure or an extravagance.

Can an extravagance be less than $10, less than $7US after factoring in the exchange rate.

I had lunch at a conference venue yesterday and was surprised when told it was $9. What!? For that little bit of chicken and pasta?

In light of all the natural disasters we've been facing of late, I also purchased an electric torch, flashlight for my American readers. It cost $9.

No, I did not make up that sequence of events, three different items or services all given an exchange value of $9.

As I pondered and compared, I thought it a funny circumstance. Some of my friends would not even blink at $9 for a beauty appointment. They spend significant amounts throughout the year on cuts, styles, treatments, creams, paint, accessories . . . and they look mighty fine.

Opinions very on food and how much to spend on it. Some people value good food, dining in style, above many other things, and will drop upwards of $30 on a meal without blinking. Dining out is normally more expensive in NZ than in the US where there are more mid-range decent options. Some of our idea of value for money has to do with what we get used to.

As for the torch, well, any ghetto dweller would think that was a good buy; LED with little draw on the batteries and so will last a long time while saving me from broken limbs, snake bites and wrong turns. Not that we have snakes in NZ; they are illegal.

All of this rambling just to highlight that the words expensive, extravagant, waste, dear, cheap . . . are all subjective. These words tell more about the person using them than about the value of the item under scrutiny.

I didn't buy the $248 pot w/lid that works as an oven on top of the stove because I thought it "a bit dear." The sales lady didn't linger long with me. She probably knew I wasn't buying before I even asked the price.

Nor did I buy the $160,000 RV, a luxurious home on wheels that will not fit easily on many of the main thoroughfares of this island nation.

But to other people, a $248 pot or a home on wheels makes perfect sense and is well within their budget.

Where do we get our ideas of value, extravagance or "sensible"? Does rampant poverty around us affect our values or do we compare ourselves wit those who have a bit more? Would winning a jackpot make a difference to our sense of value, and would it be for the better?

Just thinking about my $9 purchase series has taken me into semantics, economics, and morality. It's given me a lot more value than the actual number suggests; not purchasing power as such, but perspective.

For $9 I coulda bought another mirror and tweezers.

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