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Column: To Buy Or Not To Buy

That is my question. And though I can’t quite quote Shakespeare the way I can quote The Three Stooges: “Moe, Larry, the cheese. Moe, Larry, the cheese,” “’tis nobler” to ask it nonetheless. Still, if Hamlet had been diagnosed with a terminal form of cancer, as I have, perhaps he wouldn’t have been contemplating suicide but rather allocating his monthly budget – as I do every day, with nearly every purchase. That’s my dream, “perchance” or otherwise.

Given that I’m not heir to a fortune, but rather fortunate to still be here, what dollars I earn – and in turn spend, are dollars whose expenditure has to make sense (at least add up, anyway). As a result, I’m always thinking “what if,” as in “what if” I’m spending money now on relative incidentals, money that I might need later for more important health and welfare-type costs? And I’m not discussing comfort foods, either. I’m discussing in-home care and/or miscellaneous other cancer-related expenses that can’t exactly be paid out of petty cash. Expenses that generally don’t take care of themselves any more than cancer takes care of itself. Moreover, though little I know about health and fitness and subsequent complications, I do know my medical ABCs: Anything But Cancer.

However, cancer has become the name of my game and living with it the greatest challenge of my life. Do I ignore it? Do I give in to it? Do I adjust to it? As much as I want to “live long and prosper,” and live as normally with my diagnosis as I would live without it, that compromised life expectancy/mortality thing tends to rear its ugly, uncontrollable head. The subconscious control it exerts over me is not so much scary as it is uncomfortable – and somewhat uncharacteristic of who I am and how I want to be. Unfortunately, I can’t change the way I think now/how I’m influenced any more than this life-long member of Red Sox Nation can become a New York Yankee fan. It’s almost as if your personality profile/tendencies are genetically transformed because of the mutations in your cells brought about by the cancer being triggered somehow. You know what you’re doing. You think you know why you’re doing it. But you still can’t stop yourself from doing it. This preoccupation seems to manifest itself most when I am spending money. I always ask myself if I really need that item now. And if I do need it now, how long might I actually need it for. And how long I might need it for determines the level of financial commitment I’m willing to make. After all, are we talking days, weeks, months or years?

A few decisions that have consumed me of late, involving value versus actual need:

Eight pack of soap. Yes, I need to be clean, but at what cost and for how long?

A 150-count “Mega” pack of tall kitchen bags. We use a bag a week, approximately. This purchase counts for three years. Who benefits from that?

Pills/supplements I buy. Do I supply myself with one-month, two-month, three-month, or longer? Yes, the unit cost goes down but my true cost may go up because my time might be up.

My AARP membership. One-, three- or five-year renewal. Again, the more years I prepay, the less the cost. But at what cost? Who’s the beneficiary? Me or my beneficiary?

What to do? Live like having cancer matters or live like it doesn’t? Either way, “I’m a victim of soicumstance.”