Monday, June 26, 2006


I've always been fascinated by the silly decisions people make regarding money. The topic shows up in my reading list fairly often, most recently with Freakonomics and Stumbling on Happiness. But I've always been doubly fascinated when the person making the silly economic decision is ME. I pride myself on my generally sound economic sense, but this morning I pulled a move that I still (two hours after the fact) can't stop laughing about... I was up late last night, studying how to build a strobe light that can flash for only 1/1,000,000th of a second, when I realized I needed to buy a few electronic parts. Or maybe more than a few. I freely admit that I got a bit carried away at one point ("Oh! Used disposable cameras for $1.00 each? Gimme 15 of those! 0.47 microfarad low-esr high-voltage film capacitors for only $3.00 each? Gimme 5!) Nonetheless, I managed to limit my damage to ~$150.00. I gave more than that to charitable organizations last month, so I slept well, knowing that I only slightly overstepped reasonable bounds. Here's where things got silly: This morning, I put in my contacts and noticed they were quite uncomfortable. I realized it had been over a month since I opened a new pair, but thought "I'll just put up with the discomfort today, then put in a new pair tomorrow." My motivation was economic. I didn't want to "waste" a still-usable pair of contacts. My contacts cost something on the order of $3.00/pair. But I wear them 16 hours/day for 30 days. Yes, I made a choice to have my eyes hurt all day because I wanted to save $0.10 worth of contact lens usage. A mere six hours earlier, I put 1,500 times as much value on junk electric parts than I was putting on 16 hours of eye pain. I amaze myself. (For the record, the instant I caught myself on this, I ditched my old contacts, put in a new pair, and promised myself I would replace my contacts on a more regular schedule, ignoring the "cost" of doing so.)