a hole in my (virtual) pocket

When I was a kid, my dad–a Depression-era baby–used to caution me constantly about managing my money, urging me to save rather than spend any of my allowance. Among his favorite sayings were the classic “A fool and his money are soon parted” and “Money seems to burn a hole in your pocket”. Along with other messages from my family, I internalized these to a degree I didn’t fully understand until years later. I’ve managed to provide for myself financially: I’ve saved relatively well for my retirement, putting the maximum allowable amounts by law into my retirement annuities; with the exception of my mortgage (which will be paid off in 14 years), I’m debt-free; when I lost my job a few years back, I was able to continue to pay my mortgage and all my bills for the ten months it took me to find a new job; and I’ve even managed since then to build back up a reasonably comfortable cushion in my bank account. Yet I still feel a twinge of guilt, and hear my father’s voice in my head when spending my money even on necessities, often making decisions (perhaps too much) about which foods to buy, or which brands, based purely on what’s on sale that day.

Somewhat paradoxically, though, it’s not all that uncommon for me to splurge and really treat myself on those things that are not necessities, but merely desires. I have lots of neat techie gadgets, for example, and I don’t really even want to think about how many tens of thousands of dollars I’ve likely spent on CDs, DVDs, and computer games.

This weekend, I did my taxes, and it turns out that I’m getting a very healthy refund (thanks primarily to home ownership, my charitable donations and a $2,000 deduction for having bought a hybrid vehicle last year). No sooner had I completed the form, though, and seen the results, than I found myself wanting to go spend some of it right that minute, specifically on a new higher-end digital camera.

Yes, I just bought a new digital camera this past fall, as a self Christmas present. But then Jeff and I got crazy into photography, joined Flickr, and I began to feel that my point and click wasn’t enough to satisfy my habit. So I’ve been researching digital SLRs and had finally decided on the Nikon D70. Over the weekend, not only did I determine the amount of my tax refund, but Best Buy was having a three-day sale–with a coupon for 10% off any purchase, including digital cameras–and Nikon is offering, through the end of March, a $200 rebate on the camera and lens combination. Normally I would buy online, since I can almost always find much better prices, but with the ten-percent discount I was excited about the idea of walking right out of Best Buy (despite the poor service I’ve consistently received from them in the past) with it rather than waiting a few days.

I got to Best Buy to discover, though, that I hadn’t read the fine print on the coupon. While the front said that digital cameras were included, the back–in very small type exempting hundreds of items from the sale–noted that digital SLRs were not. So I decided not to buy the camera there, though I did walk out with three video and computer games.

Instead, then, I decided to buy the camera online. Late Monday I placed my order and selected overnight shipping; the camera (and all the accessories I ended up buying as well: a telephoto lens, filters, extra battery, memory card, carrying case; and now I realize I need to get a flash, too) was shipped yesterday and arrived today. I went home at lunch earlier today to pick it up from the concierge and to start charging the batteries.

So now I have a couple of days to learn how to use it, and then I’ll have it with me for our last-minute New York trip this coming weekend. Woo-hoo, I’m excited.

So, it was an expensive purchase, even after the rebates, but this camera really should last me quite a while, and the lenses are an investment I’ll be able to use with any future Nikon cameras I might buy. I’m getting a lot of enjoyment out of learning photography, and it’s even more fun sharing the hobby with Jeff. So it’s money well-spent, I think.