How is your perception of value affected by time?


How is your perception of value affected by time? by Robin Trimingham

I remember when I was six being extremely thrilled to receive two whole dollars in a birthday card from my Great Aunt. It was the first time that I had received money from any source and I was just wild with excitement when my mother explained to me that I would be able to go to the candy store and choose anything I wanted. She then proceeded to take me to a corner store that still had the large glass jars filled with sweets that were two or three for a nickel. Only being permitted about ten pieces of candy at one time, it took me half the summer to eat my fill. It was the greatest gift ever – and I never looked at the world in the same way as a result.

It did not take me long to work out that the jaw breakers, at a whole nickel a piece, were a complete rip off in comparison to the grape gum balls which were three for a penny and lasted just about as long if my mother didn’t notice that I had parked my gum beneath the coffee table in the parlor between meals (yes I really did that – sorry Dad).

I also figured out quite quickly that the little brown paper bag emptied pretty fast when my four-year-old sister got her paw into it. I didn’t have an issue with sharing, she just was too young to appreciate the importance of conserving resources. Her motto was more or less, if one gum drop was good, surely three in one mouthful was better. Painful for a youngster to watch indeed when my mother passed her the bag and let her choose whatever she wanted.

Far from making me selfish or greedy, these early lessons impressed upon me rather the importance of sharing, proper storage of resources (aka hiding the bag from my sister between trips to the store) and the value of stretching a dollar. These three simple lessons have converted me from being a potential bargain hunter into the queen of “get it for free”.

This does not mean that I have ever scrimped on quality or denied myself once-in-a-lifetime experiences; it just means that I make it my business to find out the retail cost of something I want and then work out a way to get the same thing for a lot less money.

There are many ways to accomplish this and I apply the following rules to just about every aspect of my life:

  • Forget cable television – get Netflix and if you have an iPad, search for free video apps like Red Bull media
  • Go to the matinee movie, get the seniors discount and bring the popcorn from home (just wait until the lights go out to eat it and giggle to yourself like a naughty kid)
  • Never pay retail prices for clothes – shop the outlet mall off season (ie buy summer clothes for next year in October when they are more than 70% off)
  • Always go to the deep discount grocery store and drugstore (canned tomatoes are canned tomatoes no matter what is on the label) … yes, yes organic and fresh are important but the deep discount store has these things too
  • Be very very careful at a shopping club store – can you really eat a whole wheel of cheese before it goes bad?
  • Cook in bulk and freeze all of your leftovers in labeled containers – notice it says “cook”;  if you realized how much cheaper you can make it at home than you can buy it ready made, you would stop buying takeout altogether
  • Buy second hand furniture (ok maybe not a mattress) but otherwise … remember that “vintage” and “antique” are just chic words for “used” and Louis Vuitton luggage is Louis Vuitton luggage no matter how many times it has circled the globe before you get your turn with it
  • Go to any free concert – arrive early get a good parking spot, bring a folding chair if required and leave fifteen minutes before the end to avoid the massive traffic jam in the parking lot when everyone else tries to leave all at once – you will love the whole experience so much you might just treat yourself to a MacDonald’s dollar menu ice cream on the way home
  • Buy second hand sporting goods, pets (that is is code for SPCA), houseplants and cars
  • Slipcover the sofa and wash it once a quarter … much cheaper than a new one and virtually immune to anything the grandchildren produce on it
  • Buy tickets to professional sporting events and concerts at fan online ticket exchanges – I have seen the New York Giants play three times this way and let me tell you, the hotdog tastes twice as good when the stadium seat is half price.
  • Sell the old junk sitting around the house to make room for all the cool new things you are going to acquire – trust me a garage sale is a cultural experience not to be missed.

Now what to do with all that cash you just freed up? Treat yourself and a loved one to some of those once in a lifetime experiences that you never thought you could afford, or that you told yourself were frivolous.

I am not talking about doing the same things that you have been doing for years – take it to a whole new level. Go on a cruise, or take dancing lessons, or go out to a fancy new restaurant once a month. And when you do … instead of looking at the sticker prices of these things, look at the person you are with, or the scenery, have your picture taken there smiling. You, my genius friend, have just created a lasting memory AND done so without exceeding your monthly budget. Not only that, you have given yourself (and anyone who accompanies you) a priceless experience – a time that can never be taken from you.

Ask anyone with a serious illness, would they rather have money in the bank, or the strength to sit outside and watch the sun rise, or make one more trip to the mountains and what do you think they would say? At the end of the day our friendships and our experiences will have the greatest lasting value – make them as memorable as you possibly can.

By Robin Trimingham

Note: this article was inspired by a question from a reader. If you have a topic that you would like me to write about, please feel free to send an email to




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