It’s a tale as old as time: Boy gets some mad cash. Boy wastes the money. Boy crys himself to sleep. It happened to me as a kid, and more than once as an adult.
Here’s the setting: It’s the 1980’s. My hair is feathered and the sleeves of my stone washed denim jacket are pushed up to the elbow. My grandmother turns the radio off during my favorite Tiffany song and hands my brother and I a massive wad of cash; five one dollar bills… EACH! I don’t mind saying, I felt like J.R Ewing. I may have even thrown in on the floor and rolled around in that sweet, dirty pile of Washingtons!
But that’s when the trouble started. What were we going to buy? I already had a pair of Top Gun aviator sunglasses. That new album Guns and Roses kept promising to release was still M.I.A. And I was pretty sure this new thing I was hearing about called “cocaine” had nothing to do with a soft drink. You see, I had fallen into the wrong amount of cash! It was too much for a responsible kid to just blow on candy bars, and it wasn’t enough to buy a Delorean and build a time machine. Five dollars fell into the category of ”hard to spend cash”.
We went to Meijer (if you’re not from Michigan, think Walmart before Walmart existed) and scoured the toy department. All of the really good stuff was too expensive. All of the cheaper stuff didn’t give us enough “bang for our buck”. We wanted to walk out of there with something that would give us ages of value for five dollars, not something that would be consumed in a few days with nothing to show for it. I never knew how hard it could be to spend money. But that’s what happens when you have ”hard to spend cash”.
Long story short: We each bought the newest thing. It was a motorized toy called “T.H.I.N.G.S” which stood for Totally Hilarious, Incredibly Neat, Games of Skill. There were several different ones in the set, and they each cost about five dollars. Of course, that didn’t include batteries, so we were stuck staring at them as they sat motionless for a few days until we could steal the batteries from my dad’s pager. I remember that trip to Meijer vividly, all these years later. I can still see my brother playing with his T.H.I.N.G… It was called “Sir Lancelot” because you pushed a button to make a knight thrust his lance into the air to snag metal rings that a magnetic bat was carrying in circles over his head.
Here’s the funny thing… I haven’t a clue what T.H.I.N.G. I got! I’ve completely forgotten! How is it possible that I can still see the two of us in the toy isle fretting over what to buy. I can still picture the long wait in the checkout lane with our toys, the hours I spent playing with my brother’s behind his back when he was gone. The savage beatings I took when he caught me. But I can’t remember what my toy was!
The problem is, I made a poor decision. My T.H.I.N.G. didn’t offer enough bang for my buck, and it was soon forgotten. I had the whole world before me for the taking, at least any part of it my five bucks could buy, and I screwed it up. The mistake haunts me to this day!
Fast-forward (another 80’s term from the tape player days) to the modern times. Yesterday I scraped together $200. Don’t ask me where I got it, and don’t ask to borrow a couple of the tools I once had sitting around in the shop collecting dust either… if you know what I mean… Anywho, it got me thinking about what amount of money would fall into that ”hard to spend cash” category today. A woodworker has more expensive tastes than a child, and prices are a bit higher than they used to be. I’m finding that $200 is almost exactly in the same category that $5 was for me as a kid. I want tools, but I want a big bang for my buck. It’s not enough for a big power tool, not enough for a really premium hand plane… I was looking through the Lee Valley catalog until the wee hours this morning, trying not to overfill my shopping cart.
So, if you had $200, what woodworking related purchase would you make? Let’s assume that it is the last disposable money you’ll have for a long time. What would you consider the biggest bang for your 200 bucks (besides 20 box joint machine plans)
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