Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Five Dollars

I remember when I was a kid and my Grandmother got her social security check for 300.00 for the month she would give me one dollar to spend on anything I wanted. I know that might not seem like much, but in the 60's you could still buy a little something for a dollar. We would walk up town and I would get a little stuffed toy, or some farm animals or sometimes I just got a little present for her.

One month we went to Kings Department store and I found a Malibu PJ. She was a friend of Barbie's. I wasn't much for dolls when I was a kid, but I really wanted PJ, she seemed so exotic to me with her purple swimsuit, sunglasses and beads around her pony tails. Plus she was from a magical land called Malibu! She cost three dollars though and my Grandmother just couldn't afford to give me another two, so we put her on layaway for two months. When I got her I was so thrilled. I played with her for years. Sadly she was accidentally left behind when we moved once.

Forty years later, there isn't much you can buy with one dollar, or even five dollars. Recently I was asked to join a social network on Ning. It looked like a really fun network and I was pretty enthused. There was a fee of five dollars for a year. Again I know that doesn't seem like very much. You can barely get out of a Starbucks for under five dollars, so what is that much for a year membership to a network right?

I drew a mental line in the sand and I just can't seem to bring myself cross that line to pay it. I am not real sure what I would be getting for that five dollars. Social networks on Ning are free to create and they don't cost anything other than your time to maintain unless you choose to do an upgrade. I don't think the upgrade costs more than twenty dollars and to be honest I am not sure what you get for that money because I have kept my own Ning network free.

But it isn't even about not really understanding what I would be paying for. It just seems like lately every time I turn around someone wants money from me for something on the internet. It's usually not a whole lot. Twenty cents to a few dollars to list on selling venues, ten to twenty five dollars for a membership here, two fifty for a donation there. I understand that a lot of hard work and people's time goes into these sites and I am not saying they aren't deserving of the small amount they ask for. But after a while these small amounts here and there start to add up. I have to ask myself what am I getting for this money?

Recently one of the sites I sell on decided to put together a coupon book for the artists on the site as a way for us to promote ourselves. The cost was ten dollars. I chose not to do it. First of all I don't feel comfortable giving coupons for my work. It's fine if you do feel comfortable with it, it's just not what the bear business is usually about. I guess the idea is to introduce new customers with the assumption they will return. Bear artists give discounts to people who are return customers as a thank you sometimes or for other reasons that we deem a good idea, but not as a way to get business initially. Secondly I should pay ten dollars to give a discount off of my profit margin? Mohair costs about 150.00 a yard and up and my prices are already more than fair for the work I put into them.

There is a certain mentality that goes along with using a coupon and I am not that confident they would return after receiving a big discount on the first purchase anyway, not to mention there is no guarantee anyone would even choose to use the coupon. I am not real clear where they are to be distributed or how. That's probably my fault for not reading all the details though. I saw the word coupon book and knew it wasn't for me. I am not sure I would want to buy from an artist who offered a coupon either. I know that might seem odd since we live in economic times where any discount you can get the better. But somehow it would make me feel as if the person doesn't value their work. *Shrugs* I am sure they do value their work, it's just a perception I seem to have.

I am definitely not a cheap person, and I know that when you are in business you have to spend money to make money. But having people ask me for five or ten dollars up front all the time is starting to get weary.

The next time you are about to shell out a few bucks for something online, stop and think about it. Ask yourself what you are getting for that money? How much money have you put out in small increments and has it been worth it? Has it helped your business or brought you joy? If you saved up all those small amounts what could you do with that money instead? Maybe you could help someone who really needed it, or you could buy yourself something nice...like one of my bears! *Grins* I decided to take my small amounts and save them up for something that would help my business, hopefully giving me more sales that will give me money to help someone else as well as myself. I would never presume to tell anyone what to spend their money on, but whatever you choose to do, make sure all your five dollar bills count instead of passing them out without a thought to anyone and everyone who asks just because it seems like such a small amount at the time!


hollyzhobby said...

Very thought provoking. Where have all my $5 gone?

Rock and Fossil Depot said...

Excellent post and a lot of great information.

Alyssa S. said...

I remember when you could get 4 Little Golden Books for a dollar. I spent $4 dollars the other day on 4 of the same cheapo Easter hat out of the dollar bin at Target. My daughter loves the hat...we got her one like it last year..the brim unravelled until it was almost a beanie with a bow on it, at which point we had to trash it. She was so devasted. When we saw it again in the bargain bins, we bought enough to last her a few years! I felt like it was $4 well spent :)

T.Allen said...

You make a very valid point, and i love the story about you and your grandma.

I'm guilty of making far too many 'small purchases' haphazardly, those dollars, $1 and $5 do add up.

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