We have discussed before - and by we have discussed I mean I have soliloquized* - about how money doesn't buy happiness but sometimes a new thing that you buy can make your life so much easier that you don't know how you ever lived without it.
Case in point:
My parents bought me my bike for college graduation. (I distinctly remember my mom asking me what I wanted for college graduation, and I said, "A bike," and she literally went, "Awwww," as if it was the cutest thing she'd ever heard. That was before she had grandkids. They have trumped all cutenesses.)
We went down to the Schwinn store and bought one, and we tricked it out. For some reason, I thought it was sexist to have a women's bike with the lower bar in the middle because I CAN SWING MY LEG OVER THANK YOU (I regret this now in my dress-wearing days), so I got a bike with the higher bar and we put fenders on it and a rack on the back - even then I was thinking that I wanted to live in a city where I could commute to work by bike.
This worked for a while. When I first lived in Gone West, I had a huge purse that I would put under the bungee net on the rack and all was fine, but eventually I wanted a new purse, which was not as large or as structured, and it got more complicated.
My old friend S. gave me a milk crate, the red plastic kind, and I belted that onto the rack with a few bungee cords. With the bungee net over the top, it could handle most of my daily commuting needs - I could even carry a gallon of milk plus other groceries in there.
The only real downside was that the bike got really top-heavy when the crate was full, and it sat right against the seat, so if I put anything in the crate that stood up tall - a binder, a box of cereal - I couldn't sit back in the seat. Another minor issue was that I couldn't put the bike right up against a lot of bike parking spots, so my locking mechanism didn't work as well.
It was fine, though. It worked for a long time.
A couple of weeks ago, when I was in the bike store waiting for them to replace the tire that was shredding, I bought a pannier on a whim. One can very easily spend $200 on one pannier, but I bought the $50 kind.
Life = changed.
I cannot even explain how much easier it is just to throw things into a pannier and ride off, with no worries about whether my purse is zipped completely closed or something small is going to fall through the cracks of the crate. I can just grab it off the bike when I get to work, carry it into my office, and have what I need right there. It isn't in my way when I ride. And best of all, it lowers the center of gravity of my bike and makes it much easier to ride.
Money cannot buy happiness, but the money spent on that pannier has made me much happier for several weeks now.
* I spelled this right on the first try, which... whoa.