Why We Wear Cheap Socks

A few years back, Angie and I started seeing a lot of posts about how frugal living isn’t the same as cheap living, and I even wrote about the concept on a few occasions. Frugal living (to us, anyway) is about living on less than you earn, using your resources wisely, and not purchasing things that are unnecessary. Cheap living, on the other hand, tends to conjure up images of subpar goods, less than ideal living conditions, and things that are constantly in need of repair. You can be frugal and still have quality things. In fact, a lot of fellow minimalists will tell you that making a quality purchase that may cost more in the beginning far outweighs buying cheap things that will need to be replaced more often. Not only is it better for your wallet, it’s better for the environment as well.

Except when it isn’t.

Folks, I honestly don’t think that anything is made to last these days – be it “quality” or otherwise – so we may just be better off going cheap. For example:

In 2015, we purchased a quality brand name sofa from a local furniture store. Around that same time, my mom bought one from Big Lots. Ours cost 4 times what hers did. We use ours daily to sit and read or watch TV but hers has been slept on, jumped on by toddlers, walked across by a teenager, and lounged on for hours on end by kids and grand-kids alike. Our cushions are as dead as the pet goldfish I had when I was 10. Her cushions are just now starting to sink a little when you sit down. But, hold on…I have an even better one for you. Our good friend has a sofa that has been moved to 4 different apartments in as many years. It has been slept on, jumped on, and is used for hours of gaming every single day and yet, it is still comfy. Did I mention that it was used when she bought it??

And then there are the socks…

About the same time that we were buying our quality sofa, we decided to switch to wool socks. We read that they were the best socks for hiking since they wick moisture better than other socks. We bought a few pairs at Dick’s Sporting Goods and they lasted for about 2 years, which I consider to be a good life for a sock that gets used all the time. When we went back for more, we found they no longer carried that brand, nor could we find it anywhere. So we bought a pair of SmartWool brand socks and a couple of pairs of Columbia. After a year, the SmartWool is starting to get a little ragged. Want to know where the Columbia socks are now? In our rag bin. They make excellent dusters. The Columbia socks did not even last a few months before they started getting holey (yet, they cost $15 a pair!).

If I had to guesstimate, I’d say we spent about $160 on brand name wool socks over 3 years time. You might be thinking, that’s not so bad, but I’ll beg to differ. A sock is designed to protect your feet from moisture, keep you warm, and stop your shoe from rubbing a hole in your foot. In an unintentional (and unscientific) quality test, we found that cheap socks do this job just as well, if not better, than expensive ones.

Our “everlasting” cheap socks – mismatched on purpose.

I purchased these socks BEFORE Angie and I met in 2011. In fact, I was still living in TN when I bought them (at Big Lots). I moved away in 2006, so they are at least 14 years old. They cost $5 for 6 pair back then. When we “upgraded” our wardrobe to wool socks, we moved these to my mom’s house so we could use them in the yard. We still wear them every week, at least twice a week, and they still have no holes in them!

We have applied our same unscientific method to dishcloths, bath towels, walking shoes, manual can openers and even underwear and found the results to be consistent. Cheap lasts just as long, or longer, than more expensive “quality” items. The $20 can opener we got as a gift lasted about 3 months before we had to replace it with one from the Dollar Tree (that one has been used daily for 4 years now). The $18/pair Ex-Officio undies that we thought we needed to have for travel are unraveling just the same as the $2/pair undies from Walmart. And the $10/3-pack of eco-friendly dishcloths we ordered online – well, they are in the rag bin with the Columbia socks, while the $4/6-pack from Target are still washing dishes every night.

So why do we wear cheap socks? Because there’s no financial benefit to buying more expensive ones. When the so-called quality socks wear out faster than the cheap ones, there’s no environmental benefit either. Being frugal is always good but being cheap might not be such a bad thing either. Just think, if we had back the money we wasted thinking we were buying quality items, oh the savings we could have banked!

Have you ever purchased something expensive only to find it did not last very long at all? What items to you routinely cheap out on?

YOLO Revised

YOLO, as in You Only Live Once, has become the mantra of Millennials and is often misconstrued to mean doing something risky just for the sake of doing it. This pandemic has got me thinking about a revised version of YOLO, still the same meaning but with a different approach.

I spent my entire morning yesterday at my mom’s house waiting on the AC repairman to show up. He was late, of course. While I waited, I checked the garden, picked up some limbs that had blown down in the storm the night before, and chatted with my mom. No, that me rephrase that – I whined to my mom. It was a short whine. She’s not real big on listening to other people’s whining, including mine, so I only got in a few refrains of “oh woe is me” before she redirected the conversation to whether or not she could make a pound cake in a Bundt pan. What was I whining about?

On Sunday, I had to go to Target to complete a really quick project so I suggested to Angie that we pick up her free birthday burrito from Moe’s and take it to the park. We placed our order on the app but when we got ready to pay, they were “temporarily unavailable”. (This was our first attempt at take-out since we banned restaurants back in January and now I’m remembering why we don’t dine out.) We could/should have gone home but we decided to grab a salad from McAlister’s instead.

The good news – our parks are open now. The bad news – it’s only the grounds that are accessible, not the facilities like bathrooms and picnic tables. They are still on lockdown. It’s not impossible to have a picnic without a picnic table. It’s just not how we had planned our day to go.

The strikeout with lunch seemed to be the last straw for me, thus the whining that ensued the next day. “It sucks to look at a calendar that we filled with adventures back in January and know that you won’t be doing any of them. It sucks not to be able to even have a picnic. This is not how I envisioned my life would be when I quit my job last year!” I went on and on…at least as long as my mom was listening.

Want to know her big suggestion at the end of my whine? Go get some strawberries to put on the pound cake.

Yes, she actually had no encouraging words. No wisdom to impart. No reality check either. She didn’t even remind me that she’s in the same boat too. She knew that I already knew all this. I didn’t need to hear anything. I just needed to vent. As silly, selfish or just plain sad as it may be…it feels good to whine sometime, to get it all out there and then let it go.

Which brings me back to YOLO.

As I was brushing my teeth this morning, I kept thinking about all the things I put off doing just this year. For my birthday back in January, I wanted to go to the TN Agriculture Museum, but I decided to “wait until the weather was warmer” instead. In February, we were in the the Smoky Mountains but again thought the weather was too bad to go on a long hike. We’ll come back in the summer, we said. But it hasn’t just been the weather that’s made us put things off. For longer than just this year, we’ve delayed things we wanted to do because 1) the cat is too old to be left at the kennel, 2) my mom might get sick if we’re gone too long, 3) my niece might need us to watch the kids if there’s an emergency, 4) I really should focus on work right now, and 5) my all time favorite – it’s just not the right time.

Umm, okay…so when is the right time??

Let me just start with when it’s not. When you’re in the midst of a pandemic that has you staying close to home. When there are no museums open. When it’s warm outside but the park is closed to picnickers. When you have to wear a mask to the Farmer’s Market (a mask that makes you hyperventilate because you’re claustrophobic). These are not the times to suddenly remember all the things you wanted to do but never did. Unless…

Unless you’re going to do something about it.

Whining may be therapeutic but it only gets you so far before you realize you either have to put up or shut up. (I’m mostly talking to myself here but if you get a much needed kick in the rear from it too, I can live with that.)

There’s one thing for sure – my life is not what I imagined it would be when I quit my job last year. But that’s not COVID-19’s fault. That’s mine. There are a lot of things we can’t do right now, that is true. But those excuses above (numbers 1 – 5), none of them have a thing to do with the pandemic. I’m not sure when we started making excuses for not doing things that we wanted to do but I do know that it stops now.

Like any other problem in the history of mankind, COVID-19 will one day (hopefully soon) be a thing of the past and life will return to normal. This is how humankind operates. We tackle our problems and move on to something else. In the meantime, we (as in I) need to stop thinking of the limitations we are facing and start thinking of the opportunities.

We really do only live once so whatever it is that you want to do in this life, do it. If you can’t do it now, make a plan for when you are able to do it.

If we’ve learned nothing else from this pandemic, it should be that time is not always on our side and the best laid plans…well, let’s just say they don’t always go that way. I’m not going to say that I’ll never put off something I want to do again but I can say that I’ll think twice about it.