Sunday, July 27, 2008

Thriftomania. Try it! You'll like it!

Published July 27, 2008
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

As a big fan of the study of psychology, it seems I’m always on the lookout for new and exciting disorders that can explain away a few of my weirder quirks. When I can’t find anything official, I make something up, trademark it, and wait for the psychiatric community to catch up. I guess you could say I’m a bit of a psychological hypochondriac with some delusions of grandeur mixed in for flavor.

I’m calling today’s disorder Thriftomania. It is defined as a pathological need to save money.

While I’ve always known my impulse to save a buck bordered on ridiculous, I didn’t consider it pathological until last night. On a break at work, I stood before a vending machine and faced the kind of decision that makes you question your internal wiring.

At some point during the day, some poor soul had wanted some sausage. The sausage had decided to stay. There it was, wedged between the glass display and a package of coconut sprinkled, mini donut “gems.” I surmised that if I were to buy the donuts, the weight of the package falling from its slot would most likely dislodge the package of sausages, and I would be the lucky recipient of an accidental two-for-one deal. Sounds reasonable, right?

Here’s the kicker. I don’t particularly care for vending machine sausage, by which I mean that I think it’s a dry, over-spiced mixture of fat and entrails wrapped in inedible plastic and in no way resembles food. The only thing I like less than a vending machine piece of sausage is a donut sprinkled with coconut. I went to the vending machines planning to buy a soda from the machine on the right, but met with a choice between spending money on something I want and saving money on something I don’t, well, let’s just say that when pathology and taste collide, pathology wins with a one two punch to the taste buds.

I ate the sausage and the donuts, then stared wistfully at the soda machine, my mouth dry and my pockets empty. I took a long hard look at myself and thought, I have a problem.

It doesn’t only happen at vending machines. I go to the bread store planning to spend $5 and end up spending $10 in order to pick a free item from the baker’s rack next to the cash register. The rack is usually full of the same loaves of bread I’m purchasing, so I’m spending $5 to save 90 cents. (In my defense, sometimes the rack has bagels.)

One time, I bought a pair of sneakers that were a size and half too big because they were on sale for only $3. I wore them for over a year, flipping and flopping everywhere I went, retying them here and there to kind of force a good fit. Sure, that was annoying, but they were brand name sneakers for THREE DOLLARS, people! THREE DOLLARS! Who would pass up a deal like that?

Before you judge, consider how hard it is to live with a disorder like this. I’m not crazy. I just need some help. Someday, there will be treatment options for people like me. Someday, some pioneering pharmaceutical company will develop a drug that will help me think before I save.

I’ll buy it in Mexico, of course. You don’t expect me to pay U.S. prices, do you?