The Cost of Things

One Is the Loneliest Number, So Find a Cell Phone Family Plan

About a week after I graduated from college, I broke the news to my father: I was leaving the family plan. He had been paying my cell phone bill for the previous five years, after giving me my first phone at 17. Before cell phones were standard for teenagers, my father would make me empty my pockets before I went out with friends to show him I had a few quarters for a pay phone—just in case. But as soon as my first boyfriend started hanging around our house, he handed down his old phone without me even asking. Daddy’s little girl was expected to check in on the regular.


The Cost of Living in a Non-Profit Women’s Residence

“Yes, I did it!” I thought, after a successful phone interview for my first full-time job. “I’m moving to New York!” This was followed by another thought: “Oh no, I’m moving back into women’s housing.”


Was It Worth It? The Craigslist Coffee Table

I want to tell you about my things, specifically how they’ve held their value and what they’re worth to me. From big-ticket items and impulse buys, down to a pen or cat toy, I’m fascinated by how everything holds some degree of value over time.


The Cost of Getting Settled in the U.K.

Over the course of the last seven years, I have applied for and been granted five different visas; I’ve bought my life here piece by piece, six months, a year, two years at a time. And I’m lucky, not only because I was in a position in the first place to be able to do this, but also because, in spite of a few minor administrative hiccups, my path to settlement has been relatively smooth. I haven’t been detained or deported, haven’t had to appeal decisions or pay hefty legal fees or endure long periods of separation from my partner, or face the reality of restarting our life elsewhere. At times I’ve lived in limbo, but it’s a comparatively cushy limbo. So I’m keenly aware of the privilege of this particular kind of voluntary mobility, and I also think this is precisely why it’s important to publicly examine the cost of it.


Demystifying Dinner: How The Restaurant Industry Makes Money (Off Us)

The first and last item in a category on the menu sell the best.


The Cost of Getting My Stolen Computer Back

The creepiest part about getting robbed was how everything in my room was exactly as I had left it. I was at work when I found out what had happened, and it was hours before I could get home, so I had plenty of time to imagine the worst. In my head, the place was torn inside out, completely ransacked. Instead, just one thing was missing: my year-old MacBook Air.


The Cost of Acquiring a Last-Minute Tuxedo for a Black Tie Wedding

A few months ago, a coworker of mine got married. A few months before that, she got engaged. On the morning she rolled in with one finger buckling under the weight of a god-knows-how-many-carat diamond, our six-person team huddled in a secluded office for a private, giddy, workday champagne toast.


The Cost of My NYE

Bolt Bus ticket, Seattle to Portland: $25.00
“Rent” in the Starbucks that substituted for a bus station, necessary to stay off the 30-degree sidewalk: $6.45


True Value: Genuine Italian Leather Satchel

He didn’t steal my brown purse that night.


Have a Terrible Time Traveling? Good! You’re Supposed To

The New Yorker is as angry as that sedate, patrician magazine gets in this screed about the state of the travel industry, specifically airlines, and how their intent is to make us deliberately miserable:

The fees have proved a boon to the U.S. airlines, which will post a projected twenty-billion-dollar profit in 2014. To be fair, airlines are not just profiting because of fee income. Reduced competition, thanks to mergers, helps. There is also the plummet in the price of oil, which the airlines seem to have collectively agreed is no reason to reduce fares or even remove “fuel surcharges.” But for the past decade it is fees that have been the fastest-growing source of income for the main airlines, having increased by twelve hundred per cent since 2007. …

the fee model comes with systematic costs that are not immediately obvious. Here’s the thing: in order for fees to work, there needs be something worth paying to avoid. That necessitates, at some level, a strategy that can be described as “calculated misery.” Basic service, without fees, must be sufficiently degraded in order to make people want to pay to escape it. And that’s where the suffering begins.

Extortion! Sadly, even longtime holdout (and my up-to-this-point favorite airline) JetBlue is in getting in on the action.