Photo: Tinou Bao via Flickr
Tell me if you’ve done this before:You go shopping to get a few items to update your wardrobe. You try on outfit after outfit, separating the items into two piles: buy and skip.
There are plenty of “buys,” but very few “skips.” And with a budget of $200, you know you’ll be making some cuts.
Yesterday, you paid your bills and budgeted what you can spend without going overboard.
But those dark denim jeans and angora wool cardigan are calling. So is the silky teal blouse.
You tell yourself, “Perhaps I can put these on my card. What’s another $200? I’ve been paying my bills on time.”
And then it begins: “I deserve this. My boyfriend’s being a jerk. My landlord’s a jerk. I saved a cat from a tree …”
In the past, I’ve had friends tease me about being cheap. “How can you live in New York and not do brunch (for $50)? Why won’t you get your own place?“
When I presented the jeans to the cashier, I heard the same thing. “How can you buy those jeans without the blouse? We have layaway. This blouse will sell out!”
Whenever you find yourself being swayed to do something against your better judgment, or rationalizing why you should do it, a massive gong had better start clanging in your head.
You need to be honest with yourself and assess why you’re making a decision to swipe the plastic, overdraft your checking account, or call Dad to wire you $200. You’re not free from judgment here, and your decisions, like the repercussions, will be yours and yours alone: debt, a $34 overdraft fee, and resentment that will run deep and possibly damage your relationship.
You can’t even begin to make progress on your saving goals if you let society, friends, and family pressure you into their lifestyle and expectations. As Daniel R. Solin writes in his book, The Smartest Money Book You’ll Ever Read, “you have to place more value on having money than spending it” to get ahead.
I can’t tell you what “getting ahead” means to you, but I know what it means to me: Saving for retirement, building an emergency fund, and having enough funds to travel. I’ll gladly skip the angora wool cardigan to fund my dream trip to Ireland.
But most of the people I know owe thousands in debt, make excuses for their spending, and justify it all by simply saying, “they deserve it.”
There’s the girl with a closet full of Citizens of Humanity jeans ($300 a pop!) who is $40,000 in debt, and another friend who makes excuses for why her husband runs up her credit card. Her debt: somewhere around $70,000.
We deserve to treat ourselves, but BSing ourselves is a whole other issue. A money mistep is still a mistep. Remember that the next time you go shopping.