I was just having this conversation with my neighbor, Rob, who in some ways is a lot like me…which makes it sort of terrifying that we’re friends. We were talking about how “cheap” we are when it comes to saving a buck here and there.
For example, he talked me into buying this splatter screen for $4.99 at TJ Max because I’ve been making lamb meatballs lately that had been making a mess all over my stove. When I came home with it and went to put it into my tray cabinet, I found one there already that I didn’t even know I had. When he came by the other day, I told him he could have it because it would save me the trip of having to drive all the way back to the store to return it and get my $4.99 back. Because you know as well as I do that that in-store return would turn into, yes, me getting my $4.99 back…but, then somehow rationalizing spending $100+ on a new dress, spatula, and stool chairs that I definitely don’t “need”.
Anyway, the point there is that it maddens us to know we “waste” even as little as $4.99. This conversation rolled into a couple of other examples from each of us about other things we’ve “saved” on by being nit picky and standing our ground when we believe we’ve been wronged by a store or company.
We finally caught ourselves, though, and remembered a conversation we had recently with the sage, Ben Bergeron, who told us that our time is worth more than small amounts of money. In other words, if he were involved in the $4.99 splatter screen, he’d rather throw it in the trash than take the 45 minutes it would take to get his $5 back. He could name 20 other things that are worth his time more than that.
I hate to say it, but he’s right. Because it’s not just the 45 minutes we’d waste driving and standing in line, but the mental frustration that’s eating up our headspace, the time our friends and family have to sit around listening to us bitch about the whole thing, and whatever other ramifications ultimately come from letting ourselves get consumed by something that could’ve so easily just ended with me dropping the screen in a donation box and moving on with my life.
The more I think about the people I’ve been frustrated with for dragging me through their customer service drama, or their spousal complaints, etc. the more I aware I become of all of the times I’ve done the same…and, continue to do the same. I cringe at the number of times I’ve “won” some epic battle with Verizon or Visa, and then couldn’t stop myself from complaining or bragging about it to Ben, my kids, my parents…basically, anyone who had a heartbeat and would sit there in silence while I dove into the grimy details that not one person on the planet wants or needs to listen to.
As with all other things in life, it begins with this very awareness. I have to remind myself that 45 years of a bad habit like this doesn’t just change with one momentary flicker of awareness. But, it does change when we can start taking responsibility and ownership of our own behaviors and just noticing, without judgement, these things in other peoples’ behaviors, as well.