You can pay people to fix the things you can’t, but it’s happening less and less. Despite the recession-induced uptick in the shoe repair business, the repair business has been in a general decline for decades: As the WSJ noted, there were 7,000 shoe repair shops in the U.S. in 2009, down from 120,000 during the Great Depression. Getting things repaired used to be a common part of life, but now, aside from cars and bikes, people don’t have things fixed all that often. If you’re not in the habit of doing so, it can be hard to know where to go (repair shops are often very small, one-man or mom and pop businesses), or how much it will cost—oftentimes it feels easier to just buy a new one of whatever it is you need repaired. Lately, I’ve been trying to repair more things instead of buying new ones:
Buttonhole, $6. After a year of wearing my favorite blue button-down shirt at least once a week, the bottom buttonhole began to fray. Buttons are easy enough to sew on, but buttonholes are tricky, so I took it to a tailor for repair. I’d had him alter my suit and a couple of pairs of pants, but I wasn’t sure if it would be worth the cost to repair a buttonhole.
I’m here to convince you to shop at your local ethnic grocery stores.
I live in Philadelphia. The map above of where people of different ethnicities live in Philadelphia has red dots for whites, blue dots for blacks, and yellow dots for Hispanics. In the middle of the map, there’s a place in North Philadelphia where the north-south swath of Hispanic neighborhoods tapers down to a point and mixes with the black and white neighborhoods to the west and east. And right there, there’s a locally-owned grocery store called Cousin’s. Not surprisingly, it’s a fantastic place to shop for food.
It’s made even better by the fact that there’s a fairly strong Muslim community in North Philadelphia. So: Take a full service American supermarket, add two big aisles of Mexican/Spanish produce, meats and groceries (including all manner of hot peppers, salsas, queso fresco, chorizos, octopus, salt cod, all of those different kinds of beans and cornmeal, etc.), and then add a halal meat counter, Lebanese yogurt, and a whole aisle of Middle Eastern specialties (halva, tahini, sardines in spicy oil, etc.). It’s a dream to shop there. The prices are rock bottom, the selection is amazing, and the food quality is equal to or higher than any other major, regular-priced supermarket I’ve tried.
It’s become my favorite place to grocery shop, but I’ve had a tough time convincing any of my friends to give it a shot.
If you buy good things and use them for a long time, it can help you save money for more nice things in the future.
• The Notorious B.I.G., “Less Money, Mo’ Problems”
People tend to think of, and talk about, having money in their retirement accounts. They talk about “pulling cash out of the 401(k)” or “making money on a good stock pick.” Our casual language for these things is really sloppy. There isn’t any money in your retirement account, of course. There are shares. But that’s a little abstract, especially in the era of electronic finances, so I prefer: pieces of paper in a vault.