The Lesson of the $300 Sunglasses

by Katy on March 16, 2011 · 19 comments

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”


{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Heather March 16, 2011 at 7:03 am

I have found myself doing this. It became apparent when my children chimed in that something would be cheap and easy to replace if it broke. I now try to show value to all of our possessions regardless of pricepoint. It isn’t easy. I have to remind myself to not focus on the price of something to determine its value. Great observation!


Cate March 16, 2011 at 7:05 am

I must admit that I’m a little anal-retentive about taking care of my possessions, cheap or not, but I love this sentiment. I do sometimes place more stock in taking care of expensive stuff, when really I should be taking care of ALL of my stuff. So, thanks for the reminder!


Sierra Black March 16, 2011 at 7:13 am

I have exactly the same habits with cheap sunglasses, but I do it on purpose. I find it hard enough to get myself and my young kids out of the house with my keys, wallet, shoes, coat, gloves, cell phone, snacks, water bottle, lip balm, etc. Plus the kids’ gear.

Giving myself permission to own four or five pairs of sunglasses instead of just one, and to let them suffer the perils of my purse without mercy, is a small precious indulgence.

It may only save me a few seconds of worry or hassle each day, but I savor those seconds each time I realize I’ve forgotten my sunglasses and find another pair waiting for me in the cupholder in my car.


Katy March 16, 2011 at 7:16 am

Consider yourself a “roadie” for a rock band. Much more glamorous than “frazzled mom.”



Kimberly March 16, 2011 at 7:30 am

$300 sunglasses? That’s insane! I have to get prescription shades, so I treat them like GOLD…and they only cost $100.


Annie Jones March 16, 2011 at 7:39 am

For me, it has less to do with what I pay and more to do with how much I like something. The more I like it, the better care I take of it.

As for sunglasses, I’d rather buy a pair of spring-action clip-ons for the Rx glasses I must wear all the time, than spend a $100 or more on a pair of Rx sunglasses. If/when the clip-ons get lost or damaged (inevitable, in my world), I’m only out $10 or so.


Kristen@TheFrugalGirl March 16, 2011 at 8:33 am

I dunno. Sometimes I treat my thrift store purchases MORE carefully because it’s not like I can just go back and get another one that’s exactly the same, you know?

I do buy cheap sunglasses, but that’s because I have a terrible habit of losing them, and I’m sure I’d lose $300 sunglasses just as often as I lose $3 ones.


Jesse March 16, 2011 at 8:34 am

Guilty as charged. I bought a pair of cheapo sunglasses at REI like 3 years ago figuring I’d just toss them around and generally abuse them for a while, loose them, and eventually remember to replace them. They don’t look that good and don’t work that good…and you know what? I still have the darn things! They’re in my backpack right now, crammed up next to my keys and pens…

At this point there’s really no point in casing them…but maybe I’ll take this to heart and treat my next pair of REI sale specials a little better, who knows, I may be able to get 5 years out of them!


Bonnie March 16, 2011 at 8:47 am

I’m with Kristen — I guard my favorite thrifty finds carefully because I figure the odds of finding the same item at the same great price are slim. Your question raises a concern I sometimes ponder: I wonder if my relationship with Stuff is not quite as healthy as I’d like. I do get attached to things, even limiting my usage so as to extend the life of something unique. And I HATE highly valuable possessions, because owning them feels like too much responsibility. I may be the only woman in American whose first emotion at receiving a diamond ring was dismay.


Tracy Balazy March 16, 2011 at 5:35 pm

A-men to THAT, Bonnie! Your last sentence struck a chord with me.


Katy March 16, 2011 at 5:38 pm

My wedding ring cost $40, and my husband’s was $30.



Jenny March 16, 2011 at 9:23 am

Depends on what it is for me–things I really like generally get treated with more care. I have a pair of expensive sunglasses (not $300, though) and I love them. They fit great, they work great, and they were free. I found them on the side of the ski trail a couple of years ago. Posted about them on the ski club message board and in the newsletter and no one claimed them. Good for me and I treat them much better than whoever lost them by the trail and didn’t even try to find them!


Lisa March 16, 2011 at 9:53 am

It’s been all too easy for me to become complacent in how I treat my belongings. Nearly everything I own was free or extremely cheap. With me I don’t think the price of things dictates my lackluster attitude as much as the idea that everything is disposable and replaceable. This is shameful considering that I know our resources are limited (just like my money!). Why is it that I know better but don’t do better?


Debt Donkey March 16, 2011 at 10:40 am

This is a great point. I had to laugh because my wife goes through at least a pair of cheap sunglasses per year! I guess it’s just human nature to value what’s more valuable, and take care of what costs more. It really IS a challenge to take care of cheaper items as if they weren’t, but it’s a good challenege that I’m going to bear in mind. The way I see this in myself is with my vehicle…I drive a VERY well used car precisely so I don’t have to fuss over it or worry about it. I still take care of it, but I don’t get upset over a ding or scratch. I guess there’s a balance to be struck between taking care of things and, at the same time, not obsessing over things. Well, thanks for the good post. BTW, I’m taking on your 52 week, 52 letter challenge. Great idea.


Practical Parsimony March 16, 2011 at 10:06 pm

I take care of paid-for items and free items just the same–with respect. My friends often wonder why I do this when an item was free or dirt cheap. Well, it is mine. I paid a price for it. Besides, why let the value of an item determine how much you value it?


Jessica March 17, 2011 at 6:51 am

For me, I always bought really cheap sunglasses since I had a habit of losing, scratching, or breaking them and then I wouldn’t have to worry about replacing them.

About three years ago, I splurged with one of my “first real adult job” paychecks and bought an expensive pair of D&G sunglasses from the fancy mall store. Three years later and they are not scratched, broken, and I (remarkably) haven’t lost them.

I also haven’t send dozens of pairs of plastic sunglasses into the garbage like I was doing before. I treat them better since I spent more more on them and I don’t waste plastic like I was doing before, so for me, they were worth it.


Indie March 17, 2011 at 3:35 pm

When I was growing up, my family was definitely poor, and we lost more or less everything several times. As a result I have a strange attachment/detachment to stuff.

Most of my furniture is roadside finds in my taste but I take very good care of it all and have toted it around from apartment to apartment for years. I’m also guilty of a shoe box filled with tidbits of junk I can never part with. Found stones, an old monopoly piece, buttons from favorite shirts, play tickets, etc. On the other hand I don’t own a couch because I can’t justify spending the money on one and nothing has come up where it was cheap enough and possible for me to take it home in my small car so I built a couch like chair with storage out of 2 giant 80’s speakers, a few leftover boards, and all the extra blankets and pillows that normally just take up precious space in my closet. It looks nice, is comfortable, and suits me just fine.


Catie March 24, 2011 at 9:50 am

This is SO true. However, I like the fact that when the stuff I buy used does happen to get scratched or something, I don’t have to freak out about it. I’m sure my kids appreciate this, too. 🙂


Roberta December 13, 2012 at 8:21 am

I like buying some things cheaply at thrift stores precisely so I won’t freak out when they get damaged, but they are disposable or mostly disposable things. Kids clothes, party plates — things that will get damaged, at least I can look at them and let them go, emotionally. I’m not the mother who says “not in your good clothes” because I know they’re replaceable. And I living in the event, not placing a priority on the material goods.

And I hang on to my cheap sunglasses as if they were made of gold, because I can rarely find any that I actually like.


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