The 99 Cent Bin

Save me from my thriftiness

An example of what one might pick up for a mere $.99
An example of what one might pick up for a mere $.99

HELP! I've driven to the 99 Cent Store and I can't stop shopping!

I will buy anything that’s reduced to 99-cents. Even if it's sardines, I'll buy them and convince myself I need to incorporate more weird fish into my diet. I’ll go on-line looking for a recipe for something like pasta au sardines.

If something is reduced to two for 99-cents I'll buy dozens of them. Even dog biscuits and I don't own a dog. I'll buy them and put them aside to give as Christmas presents to my friends' pets. I'll put them in what seems like a logical place and not find them again for 10 years. When I finally do I'll wonder where they came from and distribute them to people with dogs. The dogs will be the only ones who know how old the biscuits are. Poochinie will sit on the floor and look at me with that dog look that says "Are you out of your mind? These things are staler than stirrup pants!" The owner will not understand the doggie's lack of interest and will think their pet is exhibiting passive aggressive behavior. The next thing you know my fiends are consulting with an animal psychiatrist and these become the most expensive dog biscuits on the face of the earth.

Which brings me to my point. Not everything that is reduced to 99-cents is even worth 99-cents. I was at local home decorating store looking for a plain white wooden shelf (these are apparently obsolete) and before I could make a clean get away without a single purchase I noticed a whole stand of CD's reduced from $15.99 in increments down to, you guessed it, 99-cents. One claimed Celtic roots, one African rhythm and another Caribbean moods. These appealed to my self-delusion that I’m a gal who appreciates exotic music. I was expecting no more than a type of new age background music over what was termed "natural sounds" i.e. birds chirping, ocean surf, and jungle rainstorms. What I got were eight CD's full of elevator music that sounded like it was recorded at the zoo. The style is similar to what Lawrence Welk did to Beatles' ballads in the ‘70's. There was about as much Africa in the African rhythms as the Partridge family covering James Brown.

So, now what do I do with this collection of watered down instrumentals? Gifts. Yes, I know enough people with no taste in music who will be thrilled to get these trendy New Age CD's! A little 99-cent wrapping paper and bingo I'm off the hook for six gifts I really never wanted to buy in the first place. I won't try to pawn off the two I actually opened. I'll donate them to the library and get a receipt for the full price. I am not cheap, just practical.

Unfortunately, my inability to forgo bargains is not limited to the 99-cent bin. I can not tell you how many times I've bought clothing that did not fit me properly simply because it was cheap. If it was too large I'd plan to take it in. If it was too small I'd swear I would lose that 20 pounds that's been hanging on to my hips and thighs like I'm going to need it in a famine. I have a periwinkle blazer to which I have never been able to match anything. I have a pair of olive pants in a shade that doesn’t even look good with beige. There is no hope of ever finding another article of clothing in that color again because the formula was destroyed when it was found to cause emotional problems in guinea pigs.

I own more half outfits than anyone alive. I save them all in the hopes that one day the perfect ensemble will emerge when I buy yet another separate under $10 in yet another nauseating shade. I try to throw them out but then I would have to admit that I own only three outfits and I need to go shopping. It's a vicious cycle. So, instead I wear the ugly green pants with a white sweater and 99-cent accessories.

I can't resist a bargain because I am always broke and I am always broke because I can't resist a bargain. There should be a twelve-step program for people like me. First someone would tie me to a chair and make me look at photos of myself in all the frou-frou I buy off the clearance racks. Next, my friends would file in, one by one, and tell me that I never looked good in the Victorian drapery print jeans that I always imagined made me look “artsy.” My mother would come in next begging me to dress like a grown-up and confessing that I’m an embarrassment when she runs into me in public… she may even hand me a generous gift certificate from Lord & Taylor. Then I would have to sit through hour after hour of videos taken at the homes of old women who could not resist the urge to buy garbage. This would be the horrifying ghost of things to come if I don’t take the oath. These homes would be stacked with unopened bottles of bizarre shades of nail polish, expired Chia Pets, and towers of irregular panty hose in taupe and almost black. There would be 50% off Halloween costume rubber body parts strewn through out the mountains of mismatched separates like a scene from a film called Hannibal Visits the Outlet Mall. After all that they’d take me home and I’d have to apologize to everyone to whom I’ve ever given a 99-cent gift. Slowly I’d heal and I may even be able to go shopping again and walk right by the clearance bins, head held high, lip trembling a little but strong in the knowledge that I kicked the habit and I can stay clean.

Until that program gets rolling, look for me in the back of the store, sorting through the taped up packages of pillowcases and hand towels with an almost perfect embroidered penguin or duck. I’ll be there looking for the perfect bargain… looking for the 99-cent treasure at the bottom of the barrel.



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