How to combat the rising price of stuff

Matt Sussman and Matt Sussman

Before I start, I’d like to set the mood by playing a little Pink Floyd:

“Money, get away / Get a good job with good pay and you’re okay / Money, it’s a gas / Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash / New car, caviar, four star daydream / Think I’ll buy me a football team.”

That’s right, kids — old school bands (pronounced “ohl-skoo”) have been writing songs about money long before today’s rappers rhymed about bling. Both generations share the same feeling — more money is good. Since nobody disagrees with rock stars, everyone wishes they had more money (pronounced “KIZ-ash”).

Even when today’s college student accumulates a bit more money, a dent in his or her wallet is made when the price of stuff goes up. After all, nobody wants the money — they want the stuff that costs money. Maybe Pink Floyd should have written a song titled “Stuff.”

Any time the price of stuff goes up, two messages are simultaneously thought by a 21-year-old: “Aw, why’d the price have to go up?” and “Well, I’ve come this far — might as well buy it anyways.”

Case in point — This past spring there was a 15-cent increase in the price of 20-ounce bottled Pepsi products. (Coke products’ prices on campus remained stagnant at “in your dreams, fancy pants.”) What were we to do? We had the bottle of Sierra Mist on our tray and we were already at the cash register. Besides, you were curious to see what was under the cap to see if you’ve “won.”

Gas prices are undoubtedly the most loathed price fluctuations in the country. There once was a time during our high school years where you could find unleaded gas for 99 cents a gallon. Last month the same octane fuel was commonly two bucks a gallon. Never mind that all this time gasoline was still cheaper by volume than bottled water — licensed drivers were (and still are) fuming that the price of gas bounces up and down more than a sorority girl’s mood during Rush Week.

The dismal conclusion occurs in the middle of this column — the price of stuff goes up all the time, no matter what. The causality of price fluctuations in the market result from supply and demand curves which … who am I kidding. I have absolutely no clue. Just take a boring economics course and figure it out, if you dare.

All is not lost, and we are not doomed to piddle away our extra income as a result of the rising cost of stuff. (No, my idea isn’t just clipping coupons that save you 30 cents on a box of Wheat Thins.) In fact, I contend that the system can be beat — yes, I’m being optimistic (I’ve heard from irate readers that it helps, so I decided to try it), but we can topple the economic system through two words: independent research.

“What,” you ask, “we have to actually think?” It’s a strange hypothesis, given that you college-aged students don’t think as critically as you should, but especially for the sake of your bank account, you should use your brain — in case you forgot, it’s that organ located in your skull (unless you’re blonde, in which case it’s those two equivalent growths on the front of your torso).

Using your brain, you can track the price of stuff over periods of time, and figure out when stuff is the cheapest. Need an extreme example? No? Well too bad, you’re getting one anyways.

Reported by the L. A. Daily News, Richard Mahan did some “independent research” to determine when baseball slugger Barry Bonds would hit his next historic homerun. Mahan hopes one of those memorable longballs will be hit in the final series of the season — when Bonds’ San Francisco Giants play the Los Angeles Dodgers. Our young thinker forked over $25,000 (pronounced “TWUN-e-five-JEEZ”) to purchase all seats in the right field pavilion on Oct. 1 and Oct. 3.

He did some thinkin’: Bonds has 676 career homeruns as of Monday night. He bats left-handed and is a pull hitter — most of his homers will naturally land in the right field seats. He projected that Bonds could whack his 700th career homerun, or perhaps his 714th or 715th homerun (which would tie or surpass Babe Ruth’s total). A sports aficionado could buy one of those memorable home run balls for as much as a half-million bucks. It’s obviously a gamble, but it’s a smart plan, and it’s a creative approach by Mahan to buy himself more stuff.

Then again, keep complaining about how the price of Hot Pockets went up again. While you’re still crying about it, the price will undoubtedly go up again. Meanwhile, I just saved a bunch of money by switching my car insurance to Geico.

See you on the dark side of the moon.

E-mail stuff to Matt at [email protected].