Life events are happening all around us. Life events aren’t just the big moments like getting married or having a baby. They’re happening every week: work trips, game night at your friend’s house, Grandma’s 90th birthday party, your friend’s retirement party. These are events outside our normal routine, and somewhere along the way we’ve been conditioned to think buying stuff needs to accompany these life events.
My Most Recent Life Event: The Half Marathon
This past weekend I ran my first half marathon, and there were dozens of companies and people banking on the fact that I would use this life event to buy stuff to commemorate the moment.
First, I’ll get the cost of the race itself out of the way as that’s unavoidable. Some races you can run in without registering, but not so for this half marathon and full marathon hosted by our city. Security is tight, they check that you’re wearing your bib number, and you can’t get access to your holding corral without it.
The Cost of the HM
I also don’t recommend cheaping out on the registration fee because the money raised is usually for charity. To run in the half marathon (referred to as HM going forward), I paid $82.94. This was the fee after I received a discount for signing up early (I recommend doing this if you know for sure you will be running the race. Why wait till the last second when the price has gone up?) and I had a friend send me a discount code I was able to enter when registering online. Altogether, these two discounts saved me maybe $15 dollars.
Like I mentioned, the cost of the race is primarily donated to charities. The organization that put on my HM has raised over 15 MIL in charity over the last nineteen years. The charities run the gamut from support for Alzheimer’s, poverty, education, heart disease, addiction recovery, you name it, there is a likely a charity funded by the race. Money that isn’t given to charities goes to paying police and municipal services during the race and paying for permits for actually hosting the race and shutting down roads.
$82.94 is a sizable chunk of change for me. I’ve got goals of paying down my student loan debt and savings goals that just don’t allow for me to be dropping that kind of money without careful thought.
However, I work out frequently, and running an HM was a goal I wanted to set for myself and achieve. I began training for the HM in January, and ran two to three times a week. I worked on distance, speed, and stamina. It was a great way to stay in top shape during those cold winter months, and for the first time in my life I was finally one of those runners that was setting out on runs that were longer than three miles. The first day of my training I did two miles, and by race day I had ran up to 11 miles, which mean the HM was just 2.1 miles longer. Setting a long-term goal for myself to conquer a physical goal that took a lot of hard work, will, and learning to be uncomfortable was an experience I’d never trade.
Once I had accepted the cost of the race, I paid it and was happy with my decision. However, I vowed that I would not be spending another dime toward this HM. Time training yes, but not money. I knew my biggest challenge in not spending money lie waiting for me the day before the race: the moment when I would need to pick up my race packet.
Entering the Lion’s Den of Stuffs
Race packet pickup was at a convention center downtown. Normally, race packet pickups are scattered throughout the city, but the HM and FM weekend is a big deal in our city that draws people numbering in the thousands. They are coming in for just this weekend, so the packet pickup is at a central location downtown on the Friday and Saturday before the race.
My packet included my bib number, key information like start location, time, corral letter, and a booklet of other nonrace activities in the city that weekend. I also received a few other freebies: a soft-side cooler, a coupon for beer after the race, a poster, and a t-shirt.
Our convention center is huge, and the booth for picking up my actual packet was quite small, meaning there were thousands of square feet occupied by booths hawking their wares to racers.
Stepping inside the double doors felt like a minefield, and I knew I’d have to tread lightly.
There were racks and racks of clothes, colorful and printed with some variation of the HM and FM design. Racers sifted through sizes, pulled clothes from hangers to try on, zipped up jackets over their clothes, and turned over price tags. There were shirts to wear while running, and general lounging clothes. Although you’re told to never wear anything you haven’t trained in on race day, having something brand new, and special for race day appealed to many.
Other tables had sunglasses for runners (I’ll admit I tried on a pair, talk about playing with fire!) that had a no-slip nose grip, were polarized, and came in various bold colors. I felt slightly tempted, but I’d made it this far with my regular sunglasses, hadn’t I? And I wasn’t even planning on wearing sunglasses during the race since it started at 6:30 in the morning. How come when I saw this table with beautifully stacked boxes of sunglasses I suddenly felt like I needed to purchase them?
Booths with food geared towards nutrition flanked an entire wall. Almond butter, “healthy” cookies, food bars galore, running tablets, gummies, and smoothies packats, energy drinks, and delectable with buzzwords like “organic”, “natural”, “no add”.
Then there was the accessory section. Headbands, waist belts, socks, hair ties, compression socks, muscle packs, jewelry, wallets, purses, shoes, magnets, every knick- knack you could imagine..
There was one particular table full of insulation mugs and glasses of various sorts that drew a large crowd. After browsing the table uncertainly for a decent amount of time I talked myself down, knowing we already had several of these types of cups littering our cabinets already, and if I did, for some reason, need another one I could find it cheaper elsewhere.
Temptation is All Around Us
I did fall a bit for one item, I’m not proud to admit. We have a pottery store in our town that has goods straight from the kiln. There was a heavy-duty mug that would be great for mornings with coffee. The mug was quite large, the bottom was a chocolate-y brown with a pink glaze running over the top and down the sides. The theme of the race was printed on the side, and it would have been a great little token of my race experience. However, the price tag was an alarming $35 (before taxes!), so I gingerly put the mug back on the shelf and carefully stepped away from the display. Guess how much I’ve thought about that mug since running the race? Other than writing this article, not at all.
I’ve thought about my race time, about the feeling I had before the race, how I felt slogging through the final five miles, how my legs were sore and my feet protesting, the feeling I had in the last mile, and when I finally, finally pounded over the finish line. Five days later and I’m STILL riding that high. The weight of my medal around my neck, the excitement of pinning my paper bib to my shirt. But, a mug? socks? Sunglasses?
Things do not make memories. You don’t need to hold something in your hand to give an event meaning, you don’t need a headband, or a magnet on your fridge. You have memories in your head. And, don’t forget, pictures are free and can be revisited anytime.
Navigating Consumerism Daily
A few weeks ago, I learned I’d be traveling to Atlanta for a work conference. Another life event. My first gripping, almost panicked, thought was: I need new outfits to wear!
Why? Where did I learn this? Why is this my immediate, visceral reaction to something new happening. Prepare yourself with stuffs!
I simply took a deep breath and stepped back from the situation. I work in an office every day, I’ve accumulated a capsule wardrove slowly, over the span of almost a decade. I think I can dig something presentable up. Plus, I’ve never even met the other people attending the conference, they’ll have no idea that I wear these clothes all the time.
It’s best to wear something I already own so that I’m comfortable and don’t have any malfunctions. At the very most, I agreed with myself that if I needed something, I’d ask one of my sisters or a friend to borrow from their closet. But, when I think about it, even that seems like an unnecessary hassle: driving to her house, picking through her clothes and purses, being extra careful with it while away, returning it in a timely manner. Ugh. No, the best option seems to be just shopping in my own closet. Finding something professional and presentable for two-three days does not necessitate needing anything new.
Be cognizant of how you’re spending, track every expense on a spreadsheet, and stay alert!