Value is subjective

A bargain ain’t a bargain unless it’s something you need.
~Sidney Carroll

My mother used to joke that she could turn my sister and I loose in a store and tell us to pick out a pair of shoes and she’d always get the same results. I would search and find a pair of shoes I liked for a decent price, and often they were on sale. My sister, on the other hand, would habitually pick out the most expensive shoes in the store.

Years later she’s in love with labels. Everything from Abercrombie and Fitch to Eddie Bauer and Gucci. I’m still picking things out with an eye on the price tag. I’ll spend a lot of money on shoes…if they’re perfect for me and I feel they’ll last. It’s not a difference in financial stability; if anything, I’m better off financially than my sister.

The problem I have with my sister’s taste for labels is a problem of subjective values. A Gucci handbag is no more valuable to me than something I pick up at Goodwill. In fact, less valuable, since I don’t exactly carry a handbag. Just because it cost five hundred dollars doesn’t mean it’s worth five hundred dollars. Give me a Gucci handbag and as far as I’m concerned, it’s only as valuable as what I can get for it on Craigslist.

Same thing goes for collectibles and antiques. Sure, that old plate might appraise for two hundred, but unless you can sell it for two hundred, and unless you do sell it for two hundred, it ain’t worth two hundred. I see lots of people hanging on to things that are “worth so much.” But they hang on to them and hang on to them and never sell. Because it’s worth something. And maybe that gives them pleasure, and that’s great. But for me, just having a supposed monetary value isn’t enough. Sure, the Abercrombie and Fitch pants may have a greater value to you, but to me, they’re no more valuable than the jeans I picked up at Goodwill for six bucks. Sure, you might be able to sell that plate for two hundred bucks. But you ain’t convincing me that I’m looking at two hundred smackeroos. I’m looking at an ugly plate I can’t even eat off of.

But on the other hand, I see my sister spend money she doesn’t have on something she can’t afford. I see her strive for things that are currently beyond her reach. One could argue the same of me, that I don’t need cats or video games (come to think of it I can’t remember the last time I purchased the latter, although I can probably tell you about when I’ll be purchasing one next). But I can see the pleasure derived from cats and video games pretty easily. Hell, I’m sure most people would understand that a poor/broke person does occasionally have to spend money on something they don’t strictly need. I’m just not sure if I see that the pleasure derived from a pair of name-brand pants is worth the subjective value derived.

I think that’s it. Does the pleasure or functionality derived from something excuse the price? A two hundred dollar antique plate may be very valuable to someone who enjoys and collects plates. To someone who’s merely keeping it because it’s “worth two hundred dollars” it may be ultimately valueless. And I don’t mean in the good way. Certainly my cats represent a great value for me…not so much to someone who finds little pleasure from feline company. I don’t think anyone derives enough value in a name to make up for the price difference in my and my sister’s jeans. If they were better jeans, sure. But I remain unconvinced. And don’t get me started on sales, clearance events, and other “bargains.” If it lacked value at full price, chances are it’s no more valuable marked down. That should be about getting something you were going to get anyway at a cheaper price…not buying something you’re not going to use or don’t care about simply because it was a “steal.” That’s just ridiculous.

I lied. I can actually remember the last video game I bought. It was Fallout 3.

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2 Responses to “Value is subjective”

  1. Dargon Says:

    When I played Magic: The Gathering in middle school, I would mention the value of my cards, and my mother would say “they’re only worth what you can get for them.” It never made sense at that age, but in the end I suppose that was true. I would say the good times I had with those cards was worth the price. At this point, if they hadn’t been stolen, I’d likely sell them, though probably at a reduced price, as the demand for those old cards is lower now.

    Much like you, I’ll buy things I don’t “need,” but before I do, I ask two questions. “Can I afford it?” and “Will I get my money’s worth out of it?” If the answers to either are no, then I don’t get it. Needless to say, most of the time I answer no in there somewhere.

    Funny thing about value, there are items I have sold or even donated that were supposedly worth some money, simply because I was getting no use out of it, or didn’t want it for some reason. In short, they had no value to me. On the other side of things, there are things I own, often of little monetary value, that I hang onto for other reasons, sentimental value and the like.

  2. Kiyarasabel Says:

    Yep, I’m about to sell off a bunch of old anime figurines I bought back in the days I was a rabid anime fangirl. It makes me a little sad because I did spend way too much on them, and never did get my satisfaction out of them. Sure I had fun arranging them on a shelf and periodically re-arranging them into humorous juxtapositions, but they’ve been in a box for three years now, and my life hasn’t been any less enriched for not having them around, they’re just taking up space in a trunk I can use for other things now.

    Still might keep a few favorites.

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