Friday, February 19, 2021

Andy Young: The irresistible allure of the $10 discount card

By Andy Young

Special to The Windham Eagle

As a high school teacher, I would never discourage any young person from pursuing higher education. But not every college course has actual measurable value.

I’m guessing my life would probably still be just fine had I never taken “Introduction to Calculus,” “Propaganda in Cinema” or “19th Century British Literature.” At least I earned credit for those courses; I flunked “Philosophy and Logic,” a class consisting of three stultifying one-hour lectures per week by a professor who apparently loved philosophizing. None of what he droned on about seemed logical to me, although to be fair perhaps it would have had I bothered to do any of the required readings.

The classes I appreciated most were those that imparted information with practical application to real life. An elective course called “Peer Counseling” helped me relate to other human beings in more ways than I can quantify, and “Children’s Literature” helped open my mind to the value of reading. But the most tangibly useful college course I ever took was “Personal and Family Financial Management.” Acquiring goods and services that were needs rather than wants made sense to me, as did buying locally produced products, and not shopping for groceries when I was hungry.

Being an intelligent consumer was as important then as it is today, and I needed the wealth of knowledge I gleaned from that course recently when I found myself at a large, internationally renowned retailer in Freeport, looking for some new pants. Even though I already own a perfectly good pair that’s only slightly older than my son the University of Maine freshman, I couldn’t help noticing they were starting to fray at the seams. When a “friend” innocently asked me how often I slept in them, I took it as a sign the time to update my wardrobe had arrived.

But there was another reason for the timing of my trip to the local merchant whose flagship store is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. I had bought a pricey but necessary pair of boots for the youngest of my offspring there just before Christmas, and as a reward had been given a ten-dollar gift certificate to use sometime in the future. But an examination of the fine print on the discount card specified that “the future” would only last until Feb. 16, 2021.

Armed with the horse sense acquired from that long-ago semester of learning how to best manage my fiscal affairs, I looked high and low for some slacks that would satisfy my twin needs: comfort and functionality. Simply put, I needed pants that weren’t too loose or too tight and had lots of pockets.

Ultimately I found two pairs that fit. However, I couldn’t decide which I liked better, so I uncharacteristically threw budgetary caution to the wind and bought them both. I felt more than a little proud when I handed the cashier the card entitling me to ten dollars off my purchases. But even with those savings, those two pairs of pants cost more than what I customarily spend on an entire week’s worth of groceries.

When I got home, I had a serious case of buyer’s remorse. Spending $144 in order to take advantage of a #10 gift card before it expired wasn’t something the teacher of that long-ago financial management course would have recommended. In retrospect, I’d probably have been better served taking a Marketing Strategies course than 19th Century British Literature.

Or maybe I should have just applied some of the knowledge I already had. I never should have gone shopping for pants when I was hungry. <

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