I never want to hear the words “duvet cover” again.
If you’re wondering, a duvet cover is a blanket for your blanket. It’s a thing you buy when you’re an adult and you want a nice, clean bed to sleep in after a long, hard day of work. I’m not down on duvet covers. I get it. You spend a lot of time in bed; you want to be comfortable. But duvet covers are expensive. And if you don’t have the duvet itself, you have to buy that, too. Maybe even some matching pillowcases. And a nice throw if you’re feeling fancy.
Over the past several years, my fiance and I have shopped around for bedding more than I care to admit. The thing is, I’ve always insisted on the cheapest option. Here’s how our conversation usually goes:
BRIAN: We need new sheets. It’s cold and ours are uncomfortable.
ME: Cool. Let’s go look.
(GO TO THE STORE)
BRIAN: This one looks nice.
ME: Yeah, it does–WAIT FIFTY DOLLARS? Nope. Put it back. I know a dude that sells them outside the gas station for 20.
I’m not exaggerating. The first time we went shopping for sheets, we bought them from a dude outside the gas station for twenty bucks. Needless to say, they were stiff and uncomfortable and in the next few months, we wanted different bedding. So we went back. I cheaped out again. This happened a few more times in the next several years.
Recently, Brian said, “Hey we need a new duvet cover. This one warped in the washing machine.” I snapped, “How many times are we going to buy a new duvet cover?!” And then I realized: if we would’ve just spent the money on quality bedding in the first place, we wouldn’t be replacing it every six months or so.
Enough With the Duvet Covers!
It’s not just about the money. I hate shopping for bedding. I hate thinking about it. And since 2012, I’ve spent way more time and energy on duvets than a person should: shopping for them, researching them, searching for the best deal. I’m not saying I want to sleep blanket-less on the floor, but I want to save my energy for things that matter more to me. Writing stuff. Chatting on the phone with my mom. Taking a walk with Brian. Hugging on my cats. When I give considerable thought to my duvet situation, I’m not doing any of those things. I feel very much like a consumer.
It’s Not JUST About the Money
Sometimes, it just makes sense to spend the money. You might have heard of the Sam Vimes “Boots” Theory of Economic Injustice, from author Terry Pratchett:
A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. Those were the kind of boots Vimes always bought, and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles.
But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years.
The excerpt is meant to explain the concept of “the rich get richer,” but it makes a good point about buying quality, too. As the saying goes, “buy cheap, buy twice.”
That’s nice and all, but to me, the best part about spending money on quality is reducing the amount of time you spend consuming. In other words:
Money and Frugality Are Tools
One major realization I’ve had this year is that money and frugality are just tools. You have to think about the things that matter most to you in life, then use both of those tools accordingly. Sometimes, frugality helps you live the life you want. Other times, it makes more sense to spend the money. So how do you figure out how and when to use each tool? That’s where personal finance comes in. It’s sort of like a user’s manual. Learn to budget, spend mindfully, and find a balance between seizing the day and saving for the future.
Most people would agree that time is more valuable than money. I’m all for finding a deal. But there’s something to be said for just spending the money, especially if researching cheap options becomes a time sink. You have to weigh your time against your savings. When you think of money as a tool, it’s a lot easier to make the decision to spend or save.
Why Not Just Deal With Shitty Bedding, Rockefeller?
In college, I couldn’t justify spending $150+ on bedding when I earned $10 an hour and moved back in with my mom to pay off my student loan.
But I am no longer a college student. I am a 32-year-old woman who has worked hard to save money, earn more of it, and make herself financially secure. And dammit, I want to be comfortable. Beyond that, I always imagined financially security meant NOT having to worry so much about money. Yet here I am, fretting over the cost of something as silly as bedsheets, once again.
In some ways, thinking like a frugal college student has paid off: I live well below my means, and because of that, I’m able to save quite a bit. In other ways, it’s held me back. I still buy the cheap, replaceable thing that costs me more money and time in the long run.
The more I embrace my financial security, and the more I think of money as a tool, the better I am at optimizing the way I use it. My time and energy are a big part of the equation. And that’s why I decided to just buy the nice bedding.
Illustrator: Draden Ferguson