After a particularly expensive four-day stretch recently (a four-figure bill from the IRS a week ago Saturday and the following Tuesday, a four-figure bill for a car repair that turned out to be misdiagnosed), I grinned when I saw the Tiffany Selections Spring 2009 catalogue in the mailbox.

Some women wear extravagant jewelry. Others long for it. I’m happy — and realistic — enough to be satisfied that Tiffany is willing to keep me on its mailing list. So I poured a glass of wine and settled onto the couch ready to be transported. However, I sensed instantly that something was amiss when the pieces on the catalogue’s cover — cushion-cut colored gemstone cocktail rings for just $1,350 — were characterized as “A Splash of Glamour.” Just a splash? I had been hoping for more of a tidal wave or tsunami. What fun is a fantasy if it’s something that’s even remotely attainable?

I wanted to gawk at a round, brilliant 18.44-carat diamond ring in a diamond split-shank setting for $6 million or gag at a “Bird on a Rock” aquamarine broach for 79 grand. If just a splash of glamour fulfilled me, like the $70 crystal candlesticks or the $100 Tiffany “Notes Ring” also featured in the catalogue, then it would have been just as easy but more satisfying to watch the complete first season of “Dynasty” on DVD instead.

It’s a recession, after all. Since no one’s buying jewelry anyway, it’s time to showcase the pieces that would make the salespeople in Tiffany’s Fifth Avenue store sneer at me if I asked to try them on. Since when is buying jewelry from a company that marks up its merchandise easily by 50 percent but justifies it by packaging it in a robin’s egg blue cardboard box supposed to be practical anyway?

The financial crisis is just about killing me. While I’m thankfully still employed, I still can’t rationalize taking advantage of most of the tantalizing deals that seem to crop up every day.

Pottery Barn keeps e-mailing “we miss you” 10 percent off coupons. Where were the coupons last year when I was decorating a nursery from Pottery Barn Baby? And now they’ve eliminated the additional delivery and processing surcharge for larger items? I’ll pretend I didn’t even hear that. It’s like I’m being punished for being a one-woman stimulus package a year too soon.

Nothing irks me more than the retailers that have reduced the price of items for which I already paid full boat not long ago. I’m not talking about simply putting things on sale or clearance or discontinuing them. Just lowering the price. Even the supermarket is doing it. It makes me feel like I was a sucker for having ever spent money on anything before.

My husband and I just got pre-approved to refinance our six-figure mortgage, but I was denied a Gap credit card with a $200 limit when I tried to open one to save 15 percent off my total a few months ago. It wasn’t such a big deal, since everything was marked so low to begin with. But to be honest, everything at the Gap should be marked lower anyway. Let’s call a poorly made T-shirt a poorly made T-shirt. T-shirts at the Gap should never be more than 10 bucks. The recession should just serve as a correction for the Gap.

The vacation deals that are splattered across every newspaper and Web site? Great, when the economy bounces back, let me know if Europe is still a steal and the Caribbean can still be had for a song. Somehow I suspect that once the stock market is steadily on the rise again that the bargain basement travel offers will dry up faster than Lindsay Lohan’s career.

Here’s what hasn’t gotten cheaper: baby formula or diapers, gas, milk, car repairs, my monthly prescription medicine, and wine (my daily prescription medicine). You know, life’s essentials.

When I complained to the local Subaru dealership that $1,200 later my car still rattles every time the gas pedal is pressed, I also asked why I stopped receiving coupons from them for service, repairs and oil changes. They told me it was because now they only send them to people who don’t frequent the dealership.

While I might not be losing, I just can’t seem to win.

E-mail questions or comments to meredithccarroll@hotmail.com.