On The Price of Saving (the Neighborhood)

9 June, 2010

It’s no secret that a large part of my delight with my neighborhood is the dominance of locally owned shops and stores.  The nearest Starbucks is a lengthy 1/2 mile away, which, in this urban landscape, is unheard of.  There isn’t even a chain supermarket within a 10 block radius, and there only chain restaurant in the ‘hood – the abominable Pita Grill – thankfully shut its doors last year, and a charming new bar and restaurant (which are in no short supply in fair Carroll Gardens) arose in its place.

There are a few shops and boutiques that line the main avenues of my beloved neighborhood and surrounding territories, all of which carry the most amazingly cute/sophisticated/beautiful/well-made/trendy/stylish clothing/shoes/housewares/stationery/accessories – and all of which I cannot afford.  It’s the tragedy that afflicts folks like me who are struggling to pay our rent, because living in the place we love is of utmost importance to our precious happiness (having lived in places that I did not love, this imperative cannot be underestimated).  So I traipse around (and impress my neighbors) in my Daffys/Loehmanns/TJ Maxx attire and try to fool everyone, while drooling over the overpriced goods for sale in the ‘hood.

Yet, I would be the first to bemoan, like most who have chosen to live in this idyllic corner of Brooklyn, the closing of any such shop, as the character of our piece of the world would be significantly diminished.

One of the industries hit hard by the Big Box Store and Online Takeover is that of the small, independent bookstore.  Between Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill, there are at least four such stores, each serving a slightly different part of the population with what and how they stock their shelves.  I linger in these bookshops, building lists in my head of the volumes that I want to devour, and taking in the smell of paper – sometimes fresh and clean, sometimes distinct with well-worn histories.  I find titles I never knew existed, and am reminded of all of the tomes I’d meant to read at one point or another.  I smile when I see a copy of a book I liked, glad that someone else has the chance to enjoy the experience.

Last night, I began another new class at the School of Visual Arts, not an inexpensive endeavor, but one that I consider entirely worthwhile.  Just like in my college days, the first class brought a thick syllabus and a list of required reading.  And, as in college, I’ve embarked on the quest to find the best deal available to buy these books that will guide me on my potential new career path.

But now, I am torn–do I concede to Amazon.com’s low prices (as the magical $25 minimum for free shipping has blissfully been reached), or do I shell out more money from my eternally tight checkbook in order to buy the books from one of my local bookstores?  The savings seem minimal:  I devised an approach that by purchasing two out of the three books from the local store, I spend only $10 more than if I bought them all online.  Surely, supporting neighborhood stores is $10 well-spent.  But I was raised in discount stores and membership clubs, where “retail” was a four-letter word and “clearance” was a religious experience.

How, then, to reconcile this dissonance that is making my head hurt?!  I know what I want to do; I know what I think I will do–but the sting of paying full-price (curse the very concept!) is still acutely felt.  I wonder if I’m a bad person because it seems I’m willing to pay an extra $10 to buy 2 out of 3 books locally, but the “additional” $18.31 of buying all 3 books locally seems somewhat outrageous.

The Cheapskate Urbanite’s Dilemma.  Recall my delight at discovering a 20 oz. Diet Coke for $1.25 – in Chelsea, no less!  If I get so worked up over saving 50¢, which decision will let me sleep better at night:  saving the neighborhood, or saving $18.31?

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2 Responses to “On The Price of Saving (the Neighborhood)”

  1. marm said

    what did you decide????

  2. viaairmail said

    Still trying to decide what I should do with the third of the three books… of course. Going to order the other, and give myself until tomorrow to make that decision. I’m such a Libra!

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