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Patty Kleban: A Black Dress and Getting Your Money's Worth

by on September 15, 2011 6:42 AM

I was pulling a load of laundry out of the dryer the other day and smiled as I held up a dress that I bought at Target earlier this summer. It’s a simple black dress that I bought totally on a whim.

I was in the store buying something else and passed the rack with sale dresses. It cost me $19.99.

I’ve worn it dozens of times in a variety of dress-up, dress-down, add-a-different-belt, change-shoes configurations. Noting that it still looks brand new, I thought to myself, “I definitely got my money’s worth out of that dress.”

In this day and age, saying I got my money’s worth is saying something.

For a family of five, the washer, dryer, dishwasher and extra refrigerator in the garage are definitely worth what we spent on them. So is the family room carpet that we recently replaced. As is my 20-year-old Jenn Air range that is on its last legs.  And so is our solid cherry bedroom set, which we got before we had kids.

All are great examples of “I got my money’s worth.”


Good running shoes. A car that has a high safety rating. A real leather purse. The service plan on our cellphones. Homeowners insurance. The price of a college education.

At the time of purchase, we can cringe at the price. But in the end, the value we get out of it makes the money put into it worth the investment. 

Unfortunately, how many things do we spend money on and later regret?

I’m reminded of a certain Brady Bunch episode. Caveat emptor. Let the buyer beware. 

Concert tickets – usually some performer whose songs remind me of youth – never seem to be worth the price. With the outrageous ticket price and the associated parking fees, I inevitably feel disappointed after it’s all said and done. All that money wasn’t worth it. Maybe I’m not a concert person.

High-priced meals in restaurants that taste better when you make them at home can feel like a waste of money. The experience is often not worth the price. I’m not a wine drinker, but expensive wine tastes just the same to me as the cheap stuff.  Sometimes the cheap stuff actually tastes better. Definitely not worth the money.

Sometimes we call it buyer’s remorse. In life there are great bargains and incredible wastes of money.

Expenditures of our tax dollars on the local, state or national level are sometimes poorly spent and yet we seem to continue to repeat the same bad decisions.


Doesn’t that new configuration for Fraser Street and the proposed adjacent luxury high rise, partially supported by tax incentives, seem like a colossal waste of time and money? Delays. A downturn in the economy. An anemic response to non-student living in the heart of the downtown?

I will be happy to eat a big ol’ serving of crow if I am wrong, but it seems that we are missing some great warning signs that this is not going to be good value. Similarly, the chicane in front of Saints Café on Beaver Avenue with its fancy bricks and sidewalk expansion looks really nice. But was it worth the money?   

On the other hand, I like the idea of our Council of Governments spending money on regional parks. In the long run, regional parks -- including Hess Field -- will probably be a good “bang for our buck.”

Although people complain about spending taxpayer money on recreational opportunities given the current economy, spending money on parks that people can use and share when vacations and so forth are unavailable because of the economy seems like a good idea to me. The park at Circleville Road (adjacent to the Haugh Tract) is a great example of good use of our monies for the greater good.

At the risk of beating the proverbial dead horse, I will say it again: Plans to put all that money into Memorial Field screams to me of “not worth the money.”

There are rumors that the new SCASD baseball facility will eventually be built on land that is adjacent to that Whitehall Road community park. A new stadium located on that property is almost as close to the high school on Westerly Parkway as Memorial Field. It could share infrastructure with facilities that are already planned for that site, which would seem to be a better use of similar monies.

I guess I’m the only one who thinks that the money pit that is Memorial Field is throwing good money after bad. On the other hand, it seems like the money that the SCASD spent to build the elementary school in Boalsburg and fix up the one in Ferguson Township were great uses of our money.

Spending money on education is a good bargain. Kudos to the decision-makers on that one. 


The folks in Washington seem to be pathologically unable to look for bargains. After throwing away a gazillion dollars on the stimulus plan – an epic failure from both sides of the political aisle – the new job plan that we heard about this week allegedly also has some stimulus pieces to support small businesses tucked behind the proposal. 

Here we go again. It’s the proverbial “shrimp on a treadmill.” 

Every time we click on the news, we read that the value of what we get for what we spend is diminishing. The fluctuating value of the dollar. Inflation.  Recession. Outrageous government. Pet projects of politicians. Money spent on elections.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say “the government got a great bargain for the money they spent.” Is there ever any evaluation of the success or the pay-off with the money that we spend? 


At the end of the day, spending $19.99 on a dress that I have worn, worn again and for which the quality of the product was above my expectations falls into the “metaphor for life” category:

A great bargain and good product for the dollar feels great.

Patty Kleban is an instructor at Penn State, mother of three and a community volunteer. She is a Penn State Alumna. Readers of State College Magazine voted her Best Writer of 2010 and 2012. She and her family live in Patton Township. Her views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State.
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