Although this title invokes the nickname of one of my three male cats – Andrew, to be specific – he is in fact not the point of th is column. No, the “bulky boy” to whom I jokingly refer is yours truly, the shopper/consumer in our family. For as long as I’ve been married, and it’s been since 1978, I have been the buyer of most of our household products, paper goods, pet supplies, food, drink and assorted sundries familiar to us all; this list does not include hardware, lawn and garden and automobile, however – items with which I have minimal interest and even less aptitude. As such, I pay attention to sales and circulars and yes, coupons too (although I am not “extreme”). Accordingly, I try to buy low and buy in bulk/quantity. Still, with just two adults for whom to provide, some of the Costco-sized containers are simply too big, even for me/us, despite their super value. I could utilize 96 rolls of toilet paper – over time, but a 64 oz. tub of mayonnaise, as an example, would likely go to waist.
Nevertheless, I do try to buy in bulk, especially when non-perishables are involved. Recently, I made a few such purchases without thinking beyond their need and usefulness (and by “without thinking” I mean not thinking about having cancer and dying before I ever use all the quantity, and in turn feeling as if I’ve wasted the money on a benefit I’ll never realize). What I bought was a five-pack of rubber gloves for washing dishes – we don’t have a dishwasher – actually, I don’t have a dishwasher. My wife Dina, however, does have a dishwasher: me. Given the inevitable wear and most-definitely tear, this six pack will probably last six months at a minimum. Secondly, I bought a 240-count of dryer sheets. Considering that I/occasionally we probably average two laundry loads a week, we now have enough dryer sheets (at one per dryer cycle) for 120 weeks, over two years! Now I don’t want to sound morbid, but I was given a “13-month to two-year” prognosis six and a half years ago by my oncologist when he initially told me that he “could treat me but he couldn’t cure me.” Which meant to me that I had quite unexpectedly drawn the short straw and long-range planning was probably a part of my past and that living forward, my life was forever changed.
But when I bought these two “bulky” items, I didn’t think cancer, life expectancy or time-value of money spent on purchases/quantities I’ll likely never use. I simply saw value and a presumptive need based on non-cancer considerations – and of course, I had some extra money. I’m not a consumer addict though; I buy for need, not misuse and abuse (although my wife might disagree. However, I didn’t hear any objections when I bought 10 cans of Bumble Bee Fancy Albacore All White tuna fish for $8.80). Necessary? That’s the question. But is it also the answer?
Now that I’ve had some time to rethink my purchases, I am beginning to think that maybe I did overbuy. Two hundred and forty dryer sheets! Two-plus years! Rubber gloves for six months? Do I live in the sink? Did I really need to spend money to plan for washing dishes and drying laundry for the next six to 24 months? What was I thinking? Six months is an eternity in the “terminal” cancer world. Twenty-four months? A quadruple eternity. I want to live in the future but not at the expense of my present. Have I let my consuming ways get in the way of common sense? After all, rubber gloves and dryer sheets are not exactly staples (neither are staples, which I have not bought), they’re just basic supplies, not life-saving or life-affirming in the least. So far as I know, anyway.