Tag Archives: frugal v cheap

The Pearl Earrings Saga

So as you may or may not know, if you’ve been reading lately, I recently passed my 3rd decade marker. For my 30th birthday, we wanted to celebrate in a big way, and so were in the beautiful Caribbean on a cruise, looking and feeling great.

Before going, I thought long and hard about whether or not I wanted to bring back souvenirs/a gift to myself or hubs. Lots of people asked if we would be exchanging gifts for Christmas or our mutual 30th birthdays. My immediate reaction was, no silly, we just spent a crap ton on a cruise!

But then I also thought how cool it would be to have some physical object that would bring me joy and remind me of the trip and this particular point in life forever after.

flowers and gift box

I went back and forth between consumables (y’all know I love good food, and exotic food) versus physical keepsakes.

I hate cluttering up the house with “things”. Even if decorative, they take up space, and must be organized, cleaned, and maintained. Even if useful, they will eventually get pushed to the corner and forgotten, and also take up space and must be maintained.

But with consumables, you enjoy them, and then they are gone. You have eaten all the chocolate, drank all the coffee, used the whole jar of spices, and all that’s left are the memories. Which I am terrible at holding onto and recalling.

There are few gifts I’ve gotten over the years or things I’ve bought for myself that, if analyzed honestly, I feel were worth the money paid and space taken up. Most of those things have made the three cross-country moves with me over the past decade. Many, many more less worthwhile gifts lay discarded in various Goodwills and dumpsters across Ohio, Colorado, and Connecticut.

How could I choose something that would be worth keeping for another decade or more? Something that would fit in my suitcase to come home? And also fit in my budget? Why do I feel the need to purchase anything at all?

Where is the line between indulgences and unnecessary purchases?

Where is the line between being frugal and being cheap?

Finally, I decided that a nice pair of real pearl earrings would be an appropriate choice. They would be very small and portable, hopefully not too expensive, and something I could wear and use over and over again for years to come.

Flash forward to the day of my actual birthday, and we are in town, fresh off the boat at our port of the day. I’ve already been wished a happy birthday many times and had an awesome breakfast of my absolute favorite: bagel with cream cheese and lox. It’s sunny, and 70s, and in a word, perfect.

We are strolling through the shopping centers, where jewelry seems to be the main focus. How convenient.

fancy ring surrounded by diamonds

At the first shop, I find a nice pair, though slightly bigger than I prefer. I ask how much, and am told $88. Though I didn’t react outwardly, the number shocked me a bit. I’m not sure what I expected price-wise, to be honest. I don’t make window-shopping at jewelry stores a habit, so I’ve no idea if that is a good price range, or highway robbery, or a screaming deal.

As a naturally very frugal person who needs little to be happy, I rarely spend more than a few dollars at a time (on anything but food… all bets are off there. But even then, this was more than I usually spend on food per week).

At least now I have a baseline.

I go to a few more shops and ask around. One has a nice set, but only set in gold, which I dislike. 99% of my (admittedly small) jewelry collection is silver. Several more have drop pearls, or pearls set in larger settings, or pearls and diamonds together. The lowest price I can find is a small stud set for $50. At each place, I say no thank you, I’ll keep looking.

Have you ever had something jump out and grab you by the soul? You know as soon as you see it, it is the thing you were seeking? And years later, you still smile every time you see it?

I didn’t have that moment.

None of them clicked. None of them ‘felt right’. Each set I saw, there was something about it I didn’t want. Too big, too small, too plain, too fancy. At least that is what I kept telling myself.

Where is the line of being frugal and being cheap?

Where is the line between indulgences and unnecessary purchases?

We shop some more, and then drift off to find lunch, and a beach. Eventually, the day almost done, we headed back to the boat, and I was still empty handed. They offered to go back to any store, to get any set that I wanted. And still I refused, and said I didn’t really want them after all. I felt happier and more content about my $5 beach margarita and the $40 we spent on a few bottles of island rum to bring home, honestly.

Now, weeks later, I must admit, I am still torn.

Part of me feels some regret that I backed down and didn’t buy the earrings. There are very few occasions which call for a fancy enough outfit to justify nice jewelry, but I do have two family weddings coming up this year. I may feel further regret at those times.

But a larger part of me also doesn’t care. On a day to day basis, in which we live the vast majority of our lives, I do not need pearl earrings. In fact, I already have two sets of earrings which I nearly never take out. I have real diamond studs that hubs bought me for our wedding anniversary, and a set of small silver hoops which were a Christmas gift from my mother years ago. Having different ones to change out would be a minor pain actually.

I also already have a real pearl necklace, which is a double edged sword. Had they matched, it would have been utterly perfect. Had the earrings not matched, I probably would wear them together anyways, but it would have bothered me. Not having brought it with me on the trip to match, I will never know.

Close up of woman hands holding red gift box

In the end, the best gift was the time, and the experiences. It was sitting on a beach, listening to the waves crash, and reading a good book. It was a frosty cup rimmed in salt. It was exploring a new place. The best gift was relaxation, being away from everything, including cell phone service so there was no checking Facebook, Twitter, and emails constantly. It was slowing down, doing nothing, and eating 3 dinners every day. At least, that’s what I’ll keep telling myself.

 

Have you ever made a purchase and regretted it later? Or regretted NOT buying something? How do you handle splurges?