The Year Without TV, Part Two
The Internet was full of articles all about ways to save during financially hard times. Diana emailed me one about people buying in bulk at Costco; it gave all kinds of figures about how much you would save by simply buying in bulk. “This would be the perfect place,” she wrote on top of the forwarded news story, “to buy a new TV.”
I think we were the only people who read stories about saving money, and came away with a plan to spend a few hundred dollars on a TV. She made a good point though—they had the best deals on TVs in the area.
We headed to Costco within the next hour before we had time to talk ourselves out of the plan.
The article had mentioned always going shopping with a set price, and never go over it. We had figured a new TV would cost $300 to $400 dollars before our monitor began to go bad; this price doubled when we decided to go bigger. “We can’t spend more than $800.” I told Diana as we headed for the main entrance.
The TVs at Costco decorated the front entrance; they were arranged in such a way that there was no way avoiding them as you walked into the warehouse. No matter what you came to shop for, you would see them calling out at you, and then you’d be forced to do your shopping thinking the whole time about how nice they would look in your living room.
The TVs alternated in what they displayed. The larger ones with brighter pictures tended to show high definition displays of things blowing up and football; the smaller ones displayed cooking and how-to type shows. I’m sure there was a man who made thousands of dollars for researching the perfect place to put the TV.
I took gallant steps towards the larger, 40 inch ones, and carefully read the specifications. As I made mental notes comparing and contrasting each TV, I noticed for the first time that Diana wasn’t next to me; she was several feet away, looking transfixed at the screen of a larger TV.
“I like this one.” She said when I walked to her.
“That’s 50 inches.”
“But the colors much prettier than those.” She said looking at the 40 inch ones I had been standing at.
I looked down at the price tag: $1,200.
“Come look at them closer.”
We both folded arms and did our best to admire the 40 inch screens, but as we did so our eyes kept wandering to their 50 inch neighbors. We had seen greatness, and now could not go back.
“It’s not that much more.” I said, quickly forgetting about never going over your set price.
Diana did the math in her head and said brightly, “Only $500.”
I nodded and furthered justified the purchase by bringing up the “saving money by staying in” excuse, “Going to the movies is about twenty dollars for both of us.” I explained pulling out my phone and inputting into numbers into its calculator, “If we went to sixty movies this year we would spend $1,200.”
Diana saw where I was going with my figures, “So if we don’t go to sixty shows, then this TV is paid for.”
“Exactly.” I concluded, not bothering to point out we had never been to more than a dozen movies in any one year.
“And it says it last for thirty years.”
“Yep. So it’s basically paying for itself after the first year.”
“What do you think?” Diana nervously asked.
I took a deep breath, forgot about all logic, and said, “Let’s do it!”
I went outside the store to get a large medal cart that was big enough for the TV; for several years I had come to Costco walking past the medal carts and getting the large plastic grocery cart instead; I always longed for the day that I would get to use the medal one and at last it had come.
I situated the cart next to the TV, and struggled to get the massive box to fit. As we did so, people walking by looked at us with disgust that we were buying a TV in such times. Less than three months prior, we had been in the store, and nearly every person was buying a TV; today the section was empty.
“I feel like the Great Gatsby,” I told Diana once we finally got the TV on the cart.
“Didn’t he die?”
“Yeah—I feel like the pre-death Gatsby—the one who lived large.”
I proudly looked around as we waited in line and nodded at each passerby in a way that said, “That’s right, we’re blowing $1,200 on a TV.”
“Do you think it will fit in the car?” Diana asked.
“We’ll make it fit.” I answered with determination.
Outside the store, we looked at my small Ford Escort and it started to become clear that there was no way it would fit inside. “I’ll call my mom, and ask her to bring her truck.”
Diana would not give up so easily. “That’s going to take forever. What if we put the seats down.”
I thought about it, and even used my hands to measure it, but there was just no way.
We looked helpless in the parking lot, stranded with our huge TV and tiny car as we waited for my mom to come.
“It’s a real nice looking box, huh.” I said looking proudly at the cart.
“Real nice.” Diana, who sat with her arms crossed in the front seat, replied.
From afar people pointed, whispered and gave odd looks. A man whispered to his wife what I’m sure was “That’s what they get.”
A number of the people were walking to the movie theater that was adjacent to the Costco. I smirked at them, and commented to Diana, “What a waste of money.”
Forty minutes later, my mom pulled up and was surprisingly upbeat. I had expected her to make a comment about how we didn’t have any money and what were we doing by such a monstrosity of a television. Instead she smiled and said, “You deserve this.” I think she was pulling for the TV because if we kept spending like we were, we’d definitely move in with my parents and that TV would go in her living room.
I drove behind her on the way to our apartment, and watched each bump carefully—silently praying that nothing would happen to our investment. I ran two red lines just so I didn’t lose sight of it. I had never been so protective about anything in my life.
“If you’re this protective about a TV,” Diana, who was used to me slowing down for green lights that I was sure would turn red real soon, commented, “I think you might just be ready for a baby.”
“Let’s just test drive the TV a few years. If I don’t drop it by the time it turns five, then maybe.”
“Maybe,” Diana nodded.
At the apartment, Diana complained how badly her back hurt attempting to move the TV from the box to the top of the dresser. “Put it down,” I said, “I’ll call my dad to help me later tonight.”
“No,” Diana snapped, “My back will heal—lift.”
The tone of her “lift” command gave me the added endurance that I needed to life the TV onto the dresser. I didn’t care if the rods in my own back were strained and bent out of place—I would get the TV on the dresser.
I went to work immediately hooking up the DVD player, and said when I finished, “Help me find the perfect movie to test it with.” I thought for a moment, “How about Mama Mia? We haven’t even taken that out of the wrapper?”
“Grow a pair! You just bought a fifty inch TV and you want to watch Mama Mia?” Before I could defend my position, Diana ran to the living room and returned with Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.
“Perfect.” I said taking the movie, and then explaining, “And I was only thinking of you when I said Mama Mia.”
“Just hit play.”
As soon as the DVD loaded, our hearts skipped a beat as we saw its magnificence—the picture was glorious. We both had only one thing to say, “Think of how great it would look if we had cable.”
And because cable would encourage us to stay in, we’d actually be saving money.