Over the years I’ve bought a lot of things that sounded like good ideas at the time. It would be nice to say that these were things I needed and wanted, but after they were home and unpacked, they didn’t all have the same appeal.
Maybe they were shiny things from a south-facing window in a bookstore, like that crystal pendant that never managed to create the same dazzling rainbow blotches when hung in my window.
Maybe they were ambitious but poorly-researched projects, like the home recording studio I tried to build with several pieces of equipment that simply refused to talk to one another or to my computer. I managed to sell the 16-channel USB audio interface back to the store, found a buyer online for the fancy sound card, and gave most of the cables to the thrift store. (In retrospect I didn’t even need a 16-channel mixer because I can only play one instrument at a time, so that was a particularly silly thing to buy.)
Maybe I just had an extra $20 in my wallet and decided to buy a book because it looked interesting.
This kind of maybe-ing can get rather expensive, although it has the potential to make other people happy when unwanted purchases are given away. When Winnipeg started holding twice-yearly Free Giveaway Weekends — or as I like to call them, CurbMarts — the spot in front of my house was very popular.
It’s taken a while, but I’ve gotten better at not buying stuff. What I do now is tentatively schedule a proposed purchase: Next payday; when my income tax refund is deposited; when I’ve saved up the whole amount; when the time is right. Not much point buying ice skates in the summer or lawn furniture in the winter even if they’re on sale, because you have to put them somewhere.
When I wanted a new B♭ clarinet, a professional-level one, rather than going the “rent-to-own” route at a music store, I saved up for it and paid cash instead. That felt great. Binoculars for my stargazing hobby? Do some research online, then choose a brand and a vendor and send off an order next credit card cycle after the current balance is paid off. Stalling paid off handsomely when someone at the local Astronomical Society mentioned that a local vendor regularly puts my desired brand of binoculars on sale just before Christmas.
It took me nearly a year to work up to this evening’s big ticket purchase, a cross-country ski package with everything properly configured: Skis sturdy enough for my weight, boots that fit comfortably, bindings that match the boots, and ski poles that are just the right height. Better than renting skis for the afternoon (and only being able to use them at the rental site), and much better than cobbling together a set from various second-hand stores (and having the skis fall off because the bindings and boots were never intended to work together).
There are just four major items left on my Wish List: A tailored suit (finally e-mailed a prospective tailor for information), a new desk (deferred until renovations in my office are complete, which won’t be until at least mid-spring), a tenor saxophone, and an E♭ sopranino clarinet (a high, squeaky thing affectionately known as an “eefer” — essentially the piccolo of the clarinet family). I can probably pick up a nice second-hand tenor sax when this year’s tax refund comes in, but for the moment I’m keeping my distance from the cute little eefer. It’s obscure enough that there’s very little repertoire I can play on it, and it’s expensive. I’ve not had much luck so far sourcing a “student” model or a second-hand one, and the least costly of three brand-new professional-level clarinets would still set me back over $3,000.
No, the eefer will just have to wait until I’m ready.