Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Some detail behind the title

Our family is blessed to live in a "first world" country.  You'll find a few definitions for this term out in the depths of the Webbernet, so I'd like to clarify the definition the title of our blog is based upon (from Merriam-Webster):

first world
noun, often capitalized F&W
: the countries of the world that have many industries and relatively few poor people
: the rich nations of the world

We live in the United States, and therefore we live in a first world country.  In addition to the buying and selling of services, the U.S. economy is primarily driven by the buying and selling of goods.  The value of a good is derived from its usefulness, or in economics lingo, its utility.  Utility technically has no unit of measure because a purchased good can satisfy an infinite number of needs or wants.  Some people buy goods to make tasks easier to complete, others buy goods to (attempt to) gain happiness, etc.  A good is "done" when it is considered to no longer provide utility.

Goods can be either new (i.e. fresh off the assembly line) or secondhand (definition also from Merriam-Webster):

: having had a previous owner
: buying or selling things that have already been owned or used

New goods are generally being referred to when one speaks of "goods and services", because it is the creation and selling of new goods that fuels the majority of the goods labor market.  It is also a widely believed perception that new goods are the only type of goods that can provide utility.  This is true for some types of goods, but for a large majority it is completely false.  As mentioned previously, utility is based upon the perception of the individual and it has no unit of measure.  Therefore, the utility that one person obtains from a good may be entirely different than the utility that another person obtains from the same good.

The point we are trying to make with our year-long socioeconomic experiment is not that new goods are unnecessary.  They are absolutely necessary (I mean, a secondhand good can't be secondhand without first being new!).  The point that we are trying to make is that secondhand goods can provide some, if not most, of the utility demanded in a person's life.

Ok I'm done nerding out for this post, now on to my secondhand find for this week (Becky has some additional ones coming in a later post)..

It has become a fun activity of mine to attend the weekly live auction that our nearest Goodwill store conducts.  At this weekly auction, the store takes a selection of donated items and tries to sell them for more money than they could otherwise get by putting them on the floor.  There is a silent auction component to this that runs the whole week, and then on Saturday the silent auction ends and a live auction is held.  Toys, and a wide variety of them, are essential in our house now that we have a child.  In my visit this past Saturday I managed to snag a pretty sweet lot of Mr. Potato Head toys for my son, Elijah.  Included in the lot were 3 "standard" size Mr. Potato Heads with an entire basket full of Disney-themed parts.  Also included in the lot were 2 "mini" size Mr. Potato Heads with Chicago Cubs gear (watch out Chicago friends, these may become presents for you later in the year!).  In the minimal research I did to figure out a comfortable bidding range, I found the following:

  • The Disney-themed Mr. Potato Head parts are available at Disney parks.
  • One can purchase a Mr. Potato Head "Cram-as-many-parts-in-as-you-can" box at the Disney gift shops for ~$20.
  • Mr. Potato Head has come a long way since I was a child.

Because there are 3 standard Mr. Potato Heads with enough parts to outfit each of them plus extra, I assume these came from 3 of the "Cram-as-many-parts-in-as-you-can" boxes, a total of $60 if purchased new.  Additionally, the mini Chicago Cubs Mr. Potato Heads can be found new online for ~$20 each, making a total of $40 for those.  Had I purchased this entire lot brand new, I estimate this purchase would have been $100.

Year-to-Date Numbers
Secondhand Item Expenses:  $18
Cost Savings from Purchasing Secondhand:   $82
Handmade Item Material Expenses:  $0
Cost Savings from Handmaking Items:  $0

Note: Handmaking items requires time, and time is extremely valuable. However, handmaking things happens to be a hobby we enjoy, so we don't consider it an expense. The expense of handmaking items is derived only from the materials needed.

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