I don’t like spending money on things I don’t need or can get cheaply “elsewhere” (which usually means online). I especially don’t like spending money on myself – at all, ever. Most of my clothes are second-hand (thanks to my mother and my old boss, both of whom get sick of me looking like I’m about to fall apart and end up offloading a bunch of clothes onto me) and I rarely buy things at full price – I’ll wait for the sale, thankyouverymuch. I will often pay for someone else’s lunch or coffee, buy a little gift for someone, or donate money, but I very, very rarely buy things for me.
Even when I buy books, the only item I consistently purchase for myself aside from food, I hold my breath while I enter my credit card details online or I walk out of the store feeling guilty and sick at the amount of money I just spent on “something I don’t need”. I sometimes leave new purchases in the bag for a week while I decide if I really need them or not. They are often returned.
When I do spend money on myself, I have to justify it. I must have a reason for buying something, and even then I try to go without it for a while. I spent Winter without a decent coat because I simply couldn’t justify buying one – I had a couple of “travelling” coats that I had overseas but weren’t suitable to wear to work, so I rugged up in wraps and layered scarves and walked briskly (remember, I don’t run) to work to beat the cold. My hair has needed a cut and colour for a month now and I still haven’t gotten around to doing it – yes, I can dye it myself, but I’m not brave enough with a pair of scissors! Earlier this week I promised myself than when the scales read a certain number, I’d get my hair done as a reward. Why do I have to justify “treating” myself to nice things? Why do I feel like I shouldn’t buy things for myself?
Last night, my mother and sister had a conversation while I was (for the fourteenth time) looking at a new mobile phone.
“She never spends money on anything,” my mother observed.
“Yeah, but look at us,” my sister rolled her eyes. “One day we’ll have spent everything and she’ll be rich.”
“True,” my mother shrugged, “so I guess she’ll have to take care of us!”
I’ve always been a bit weird when it comes to “nice” things. When I was younger I would receive new clothes and never wear them, for fear of ruining them. I have a particular memory from when I was ten of a lemon-yellow dress that was for “special occasions”. I never wore it. No occasion ever seemed special enough, so I outgrew it and it remained in my cupboard, labels still attached.
This definitely isn’t something to blame on my mother – my mother is (in)famous for buying new things all the time. She is excessively generous with money and gifts, and we’ve always had nice things. My mother, concerned for us fitting in at school, would often take us shopping for the “right” clothes to wear – I always opted for the “cheap” shops, rarely requested “labels”, and always kept new clothes pristine. I still do this today. When my sister cries delightedly: “It’s only eighty bucks!” I have a mild panic attack and try to find something else for under twenty.
Maybe I am a tight-arse. I squirrel away all my dollars and “one day” will spend them on something – a holiday, a house … bail? Just kidding!
I don’t know why it is that I never spend money on myself. A part of me feels like I don’t deserve nice things; I feel like I need a valid reason to spend the money and the money spent has to be the least amount possible.
I’ve been saying how much I need a new phone for a year now, even though I keep procrastinating because “my old one works fine”. In truth, the old one freezes, turns itself off, and takes thirty minutes to “power up” whenever I turn it back on.
I bought the phone. I held my breath while my credit card was swiped through the machine. My mother and sister made encouraging noises along the lines of: “You’re actually buying it? Wow, we were just saying you never spend money.”
Then we walked down to a jewellery store and I bought a bracelet for myself. My heart raced the entire time. I decided it was time to treat myself to something special – and to celebrate completing my thesis (I had to wiggle some justification in there). It’s a bracelet I fell in love with on Tuesday and, not being an impulse buyer, decided to look into the concept and then make a decision. I think my mother was about to take my temperature when I announced “I’ll take the green beads” and then proceeded to upgrade the lock. My mother and sister were almost as shocked as I was at this sudden spending spree, and I’m still buzzing from the adrenaline! Yes, adrenaline. From shopping.
My mother and sister had moved on while I was chatting with the sales ladies – which is my method for stalling the sale so I can be absolutely positively certain I want to spend the money, so I was left with the two lovely women, one of whom I had felt an instant connection with on Tuesday and was so excited to see again last night.
“I’m not unemployed … not anymore,” I said hesitantly. I didn’t know if she remembered me telling her this on Tuesday – telling her I wanted to buy everything but couldn’t because I didn’t have a job.
“I know, bella,” she smiled. “I know. You are going on a great journey and I hope you come back to tell me your story.”
“Oh, I will,” I smiled. And then I decided to test the phrase that has been in my mind for so many weeks – months – years: “I’m a writer.”
We laughed and chatted before I almost danced out of the store. I couldn’t stop smiling, my new bracelet hanging neatly from my wrist with the weight of pride and possibility in each green bead. Before I left she leant over the counter to me.
“Darling, in this life you just need to breathe. Everything else will work out – you just have control over your breathing. The Universe will provide everything else.”
Everything I need, I have. And I also have a new phone, a gorgeous new bracelet (with extra beads thanks to my sister and my mother), and a strange urge to grab a clean pair of knickers and board a plane to Peru.