Saturday, August 1, 2009

How cheap is cheap?

Lorna Why is it that something that seems so cheap can evolve into something so expensive?

I read on the internet the other day, a question that interested me greatly. Is it more expensive to buy something or make it yourself. Their example was a taco. Should one go to a fast-food place (say Taco Bell) and buy one taco, or buy the ingredients to make it oneself.

Taco Say a standard taco costs $1.50. (Forgive me, I haven’t bought a taco lately and have no idea as to price.) If you made it yourself, you’d have to buy a pound of meat (beef or turkey), add spices, veggies (tomatos, onions, lettuce), cheese, and taco shells (or torillas, depending if you like hard or soft tacos). Of course, by making them yourself, you’d have as many as 20 tacos, but, when broken down, the money you’d spend for all those ingredients, comes out to about the same per taco as you’d spend at the fast food joint. (Probably a lot less sodium per taco, but that’s for another blog.)

White shelf That’s kind of what happened to me with a little $5 shelf I bought at a garage sale last month. I’d been looking for something narrow for a small space, and the little pine shelf (with a very heavy coating of polyurethane) fit the bill. I happily loaded it into my mini van and brought it home. I intended to paint it white for a more “cottagy” look. First up, paint. It took two cans (sprayed over two weekends). They were almost $4 a can. Then I decided since the shelf had no backing, I’d buy a piece of white beadboard, which would definitely fit the cottage motif. As it happened, Home Depot and Lowes both had scrap pieces for sale—the only problem the pieces would have to be used with the grooves going horizontally—not vertically. Could I live with that?

NO! I could not.

White shelf finished So I had to buy an entire piece of beadboard paneling and have it cut to size—another $23. (And now I have two pieces to use for some other project. Hmm.) Of course, then I had to nail the beadboard to the shelf. We no longer have a hardware store where you can buy just enough nails for a project—oh no, they’ve been put out of business by the big name stores. So I had to buy a big box of nails (for they only come in one size): $5.  

So, now my little shelf has cost me $41 plus my time.

Small as it is, could I have bought a similar shelf for that much money? Probably not. And I probably wouldn’t have been happy with something in that price range, either. So, while my little shelf isn’t exactly a bargain, it does make me happy. And maybe that’s priceless.  

(P.S.  My apologies for posting this late.  I had no Internet for two days.)