The Lesson of The $300 Sunglasses

by Katy on March 5, 2017 · 29 comments

The following of a reprint of a previously published post. Enjoy!

I may live my life avoiding the mall as if my life depended on it, but my kids are teenagers and make their own choices. Just yesterday, my 15-year-old son and a friend spent a couple hours after school shopping for a birthday gift and enjoying all that our nearby mall has to offer. I picked them up afterwards, (I’m not a fan of nighttime mass transit for my kids) and enjoyed listening to their chatter in the backseat of the car.

“Did you see that $300 pair of sunglasses?”

“No. Were they made from gold?”

“They actually looked really normal.”

At this point I had to interject.

“I like to find sunglasses at Goodwill, that way I don’t freak out if they get lost or scratched up.”

I started to think about how because my thrifted sunglasses are so cheap, that I end up treating them, well . . . less than respectfully. They slosh around in my purse, jostling up against my keys, wallet and assorted detritus, garnering about as much respect as Rodney Dangerfield at a 1970’s feminist convention. And really, why should I care? They’re cheap, cheap, cheap!

But this is not good. Essentially, I am treating my belongings poorly because I know they are easily replaceable and cost less than a drive-thru burger. If I bought the $300 sunglasses, you know I would store them in a sunglasses case, making sure to clean them only with a microfiber cloth with much admiring of myself in the rear view mirror. In  others words, not the Rodney Dangerfield treatment.

The lesson here? I should continue to buy my sunglasses at Goodwill, but treat them as if I didn’t. And really, I should treat all my Stuff in this manner. $15 antique desk? Still need to use a coaster. Bargain of a fixer-upper house? Should still occasionally clean it.

Have you found that you treat your cheap purchases worse than if you’d spent a ton of money? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

MommaL March 5, 2017 at 5:05 am

I agree! I think I am less careful with my thrifted items, but I shouldn’t be, I should make them last as long as possible. The only exception was when my children were young, I didn’t stress as much when they spilled or broke something by accident, because whatever it was didn’t cost much. My toddler’s feelings were worth more than the item.


Roberta March 6, 2017 at 7:30 am

I absolutely agree! I always embraced this philosophy when the kids were young. Did you get a stain on your brand new party dress? It was only $5 at the thrift shop. On the other hand, I also made a point of teaching my kids to respect other people’s possessions, and color only on paper (when my son took a pen to the upholstery of the truck!). But knowing that the things the kids destroyed were easily replaceable made me a calmer parent.


susan March 5, 2017 at 5:33 am

I would have to say that I treat my thrifted items as well as I would if I had paid full price for them in a department store. Reason being, if I ruin the item, I will have to replace it… Also, I have to say that I hate to worry about ruining anything I own thru carelessness. With that being said, over the past year and a half I have ‘let go’ of many items (mostly on ebay) that I had collected over the previous years. I have sold Louis Vuitton items, from a handbag to a key chain, simply to eliminate clutter and confusion and also because quite frankly those beautiful pale Vachetta leather handles were a constant source of worry to me. I did not want to risk getting them stained or dirty, so that decreased my enjoyment of actually using the bag. I have had a constant stream of money coming in during this time, and I am enjoying my journey of sending these great items out into the world so that they can be used and enjoyed by others who appreciate owning them. Let them be concerned about their upkeep…LOL… I am enjoying my liberation from ‘stuff’!


Amy K. March 5, 2017 at 5:38 am

Mmm, I think I treat my things pretty well regardless of where they come from. I dust and polish my husband’s piano, that he’s had since childhood, the same as I do the coffee table I picked up off a curb. The thought of $300 sunglasses is kind of gross to me. I have prescription sunglasses and they only cost about $40. I clean them and keep them in a case.


Bee March 5, 2017 at 5:39 am

I take good care of my thrifted items, because the replacement cost of these items is much more than I actually paid for them. For example, I have a large Kitchen Aid standing mixer that I bought for $25. This particular mixer sells for $350 and next to impossible to find used. Also, our furniture, art, household items and clothing — all bought at bargain prices — are often unique, high-quality or vintage. I really like them, so I take care of them. However, in the long run, it is all just stuff. Like MommaL above, I think people feelings and relationships are more important.
As far as sunglasses go, please make sure that the lens of sunglasses are polarized. If you are outdoors a great deal, the sunlight and UVAs can damage the eye.


Gina March 5, 2017 at 9:05 am

Bee – great advice regarding the polarized sunglasses. I spend a great deal of time outdoors and and have recently experienced some eye problems. My doctor told me I should never venture outside without not only 100% UV but also polarized sunglasses. What a difference! I can see so clearly and my eyes aren’t in pain or strained. I will never go without them going forward. Just as I will never go without sunscreen. Prevention is so important. My mother was blind so I am always very grateful for my vision and try to never take it for granted.


Bettypants March 6, 2017 at 9:51 am

I also bought my KitchenAid stand mixer used for $25! It’s a commercial model, with a bowl lift. I found it at a garage sale and while I was asking the seller questions, I kept both hands on the mixer because there was a lady standing right at my elbow looking as though she was itching to snatch it from me.


Mrs. Picky Pincher March 5, 2017 at 6:05 am

Hm, good point. I got all of my sunglasses for free at conferences and treat them like dirt. I can’t imagine spending $300 on sunglasses! I’d be terrified to wear them anywhere. I had a coworker who had Tiffany sunglasses and she treated them so daintily that it was comical.

Thrifted items deserve to be treated with respect, too. Sure, I bought this shirt for 50 cents, but I still need to treat it like it was $50 to keep it looking great.


Queen of Fifty Cents March 5, 2017 at 6:10 am

The difference for me is that I feel I can actually *use* my thrifted stuff. Paying an exorbitant amount for something raises a lot of “this is too good to use” angst, and those items become an even worse waste of money because I can’t relax and enjoy them. If I get a spot on a $200 cashmere sweater that I paid fifty cents for (and yes, I have several!) I merely handwash that puppy and we’re good to go again.


susanna d March 5, 2017 at 6:35 am

First of all, confession: I actually own a pair of $300 sunglasses. So yes, you all know someone – if only online – who spent that much. But hear me out while I explain how that happened: One year about 10 years back, I grossly overestimated our out-of-pocket medical costs for the flexible spending account. In my defense, something that I was assured would NOT be covered by insurance…was. So I ended up with a lot of money left in the account as “use it or lose it” time approached, even after taking care of every medical expense we could think of, stocking up on over the counter meds, etc. So I decided to get sunglasses through my eye doctor’s office. They would have non prescription lenses for the most part but have a “cheater” part for up close vision – done to my exact specifications.

And oh my gosh, I love them – if I need to read, the reader part is exactly where I need it, since they were designed for my face and in my prescription. I do take really good care of them – not obsessive, but they’re always put back in their hard shell case, I use soft cloths to clean them, etc. We’re retired, we no longer have a flex spending account, and I would never again want to pay that much for sunglasses. There isn’t a scratch or mark on them after 10 years of near constant sunny weather use, and I hope to have them for another 10 years – or 20!

I have a few pairs of drugstore sunglasses to keep in the vehicles, and I’m sorry to say they don’t get quite the kid glove treatment that my primary pair does. I’ve had them a few years and and they’re still in reasonably good shape. That is, except for the pair I traded to my 2 year old granddaughter for a couple of hair ties. That little girl is a natural born barterer and negotiator, and I agreed to the trade she requested in order to encourage her to keep those bartering skills going.

For other inexpensive purchases, I’m kind of embarrassed to admit how well I take care of the purchases depends on how well I like them or how easy it would be to replace them. You’re absolutely right: I should treat all my purchases with respect. And now that you’ve brought it to my attention, I hope to do better at that.


Annie March 5, 2017 at 7:44 am

I treat all my belongings equally regardless of how much I paid for them. My everyday purse was $40, but I take the same good care of it as I do the $150 pair of sunglasses I have. I’ve had both for many, many years and they still look great. Yes, $150 for sunglasses because they are a classic style that goes with everything, they’re well made, and fit my wide face perfectly without pinching. Took me months to find the right pair. Pricey but worth every penny as I’ve worn them almost everyday for the last ten years or so. I even have the original case which looks very worn since it’s the buffer against the contents of my purse, but it’s still fully functional. I’m sure I’ll have to replace that before the glasses themselves.

You make a great point. We should take care of all our belongings as best we can. I’m sure you’ve seen “The Story of Stuff”…


MommaL March 5, 2017 at 11:12 am

This reminds me of the story of the 8 cow wife.


Mary W March 5, 2017 at 11:56 am

I had to go google 8 cow wife. What a lovely story and what a good lesson for all of us. Thank you.


WilliamB March 5, 2017 at 11:35 am

It’s not about how much the thing cost, it’s about how much it’ll cost[1] to replace. Like Bee, I may not be able to get a great bargain the next time.

Then there’s the balance between wanting to preserve what you have, and not getting too caught up in mere material possessions.

[1] In time or money.


Dmarie March 5, 2017 at 12:28 pm

thank you for this. so right…caring for our possessions regardless of their initial cost to us would lead to less consumption.


Cindy in the South March 5, 2017 at 2:55 pm

I was given a pair of Ray-ban glasses. I love them and try to take care of them. I also have cheap sunglasses for when I am walking.


Mariana March 5, 2017 at 2:57 pm

I am one of these people who never, and I mean NEVER purchased a pair of sunglasses yet I sport all the newest brands. I just keep finding them. On a subway, on a bench in a park, or just lying in grass. How cool is that? I currently have 2 pairs Ray Bans, Warby Parker and Chanel (still in original case, brand from the store).


Emily March 5, 2017 at 3:53 pm

I tend to treat things well no matter the cost. At least I try. I do, however have a pair of sunglasses that cost about 150 dollars. I have had them for almost 2 years and have worn them probably 360/365 days in a year of the two years I have had them. One of the best investments I have ever made. I live in the south, and never had a decent pair until I moved down here. My cost per wear is so ridiculously low at this point if I lost them tomorrow, I would go and replace them without a second thought.


Ali March 5, 2017 at 6:24 pm

This is off topic but my almost 3 year old has her heart set on a bike for her birthday. Any ideas on how to find one affordably? I have been trying craigslist and other sales sites. Most people price them around $20. Goodwill is my next stop


lulutoo March 6, 2017 at 12:46 pm
Alicia Cole March 7, 2017 at 9:29 am

Thank you. Yes, I posted. I have also tried contacting a few sellers on pages like offerup or craigslist. I really only want to pay about $10 since a brand new bike is about $40. Most people don’t want to go that low. I might have to raise my price by a few dollars.


Marcia March 5, 2017 at 7:32 pm

I don’t even wear sunglasses because I get photo grey on my regular glasses, even though my daughter assures me “no one wears those any more.” She’s wrong–I do, and so does my husband.

I think I do attempt to take equally good care of most of the things I have. Especially with clothes–I am difficult to fit–and always have trouble finding flattering clothes–my sister can put on anything her size and it looks great on her. I do not have that happen to me. So if I find something I love, I take care of it so I can keep wearing it as long as possible. I have tops that I know are 15 years old that I am still wearing. My “dressier” clothes don’t get much use since I retired, so I wear those a long time. I just don’t have many occasions that I care to dress up for. My jeans and tees have become my daily uniform now.


Betty Winslow March 5, 2017 at 8:17 pm

I used to lose or damage cheap sunglasses all the time, until I got my first pair of prescription sunglasses and had to take good care of them . I did end up leaving them at a funeral home and when I went back for them, they were gone. Bet the thief was surprised! Now, I take good care of the less expensive ones I buy, because they are polarized and hard to find. I will be going to the eye doctor soon, and probably this fall buying new glasses, at which point I may buy prescription ones again. I have to wait because I’m working on bringing down my A1C (so far from 8.6 in Nov. to 6.9 last week!) and my doctor said I need to have it stable for 6 mo. before getting a new RX. Can’t wait!


Mrs. Daisy @ Dirt Road Daisy March 6, 2017 at 5:45 am

Such a solid point and one that I tend to be guilty of. Even if we did treat out cheap stuff like crap; it would eventually get broken and we would have to purchase another cheap pair thus leading to more consumption of stuff and potentially more in a landfill.


Tracy March 6, 2017 at 6:02 am

I could do way better on this front, as to both readers and sunglasses I tend to buy very cheaply at TJ Maxx or similar. But since I’m doing a buy nothing new year I can’t buy even the cheap ones this year so am working hard at taking care of my existing ones. I am not the best at taking care of belongings but resolve to do better, I am a people over things person, and am trying hard to use my belongings and not “save” the good stuff for that (unlikely to ever come) day when I host high tea or what not… but the flip side is, even as I consciously choose to use my belongings and not store them away for some other, better day, I also need to care for them lovingly as the planetary resources and gifts that they are!


Debra March 6, 2017 at 8:18 am

I also have an expensive pair of sunglasses, probably about $500-600 (including the lenses). They’re prescription, now bifocals so I can see in the store to read ingredients and polarized. But I’ve had them for more than 25 years and replaced only the lenses when my prescription has changed. I also love them because like others here, it took me a long time to find them and they fit and work for me perfectly. I grew up in a family that was poor compared to my middle class neighbors and classmates but my folks believed in quality and would spend a little more to get a quality product they thought would last longer or perform better. They taught me this. And, they took care of their belongings and taught me the same. I can get a quality product at the second hand stores as often as retail and it deserves the same conscientious care as those I pay full retail price for, though I pay that very rarely. I’ve also never been an avid consumer. I contemplate until I know what I need, research what will serve me best and then track down the best price. I have clothes from the 1980s I still wear because I bought classic styles and quality materials. I don’t own a lot but what I do own I try to purchase the best quality I can afford and then take care of it as best I can. I try not to purchase anything too precious that I won’t feel comfortable using regularly, whether it was expensive or cheap. Don’t own more than you have the time and resources to care for was my parents motto … passed down to me.


Karen B. March 6, 2017 at 10:20 am

I agree! I paid $300 for glasses! My eyesight is important to me. My daughter tried a pair from Zenni Optical! What a nightmare!


Katy March 7, 2017 at 3:16 am

Thanks for the reminder of this good point. Just because something is “cheap”, doesn’t mean we should treat it as if it were disposable, something I am guilty of far too often!


Ashley C. March 7, 2017 at 5:17 pm

Growing up in Portland sunglasses were not a priority, I’d grab a cheap pair wear them until I lost them or they got too scratched up to keep wearing. However after 1 years in Florida, constantly at the beach and in the water, I went through a dozen pairs of cheap sunglasses I changed my mind. The saltwater just destors the coating on the lenses. I caves with some of my tax return 2 years ago, shelled out 250 for Costa del Mar sunglasses that have the coating sandwiched between plastic or glass lenses. I definitly take better car of them and they have already made up the cost of 2 dozen pairs of cheap glasses. I’ve decided sometimes more money up from is worth it in the long run when I can do it without going into debt


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