Let’s talk about money. How do you feel about it?Myself, I’ve mashed together a hodgepodge of gut reactions and moral judgements and half-remembered quotes from that time I read The Wealthy Barber when I was ten.
Part of me loooooves spending money, because shiny things!! Look at all those things that I could buy: I could buy kitchen gadgets or computer gadgets or hair gadgets; I could buy fancy cheeses, specialty meats or elaborate liquors; I could buy mini skirts or maxi dresses or tea-length gowns (spoiler alert: don’t, they’re hideous). I could buy every pair of shoes. I could buy CDs except then everyone I know would make fun of me. I could buy linens and décor for my home and weird art pieces that would be impossible to dust. I could spend several thousand dollars on a vacuum cleaner. I could spend several thousand dollars on a pen.
Sure, it’s not like I actually have all this money, but I could easily get a few credit cards and then I could pretend to have money. I could own the appearance of having money, and isn’t that the most important thing? Nobody but me (and my mom) care what’s in my savings account. There is no outward marker of how fiscally responsible I am, and unfortunately the stuff that would mark irresponsibility in my own life would merely signal greater competence (or luck) for someone with twice my income.
For some people, buying a car shows that they are settled and solvent and able to make payments on time and plan for the inevitability of oil changes and license renewals and surprise deer damage. For others, a car is something that they want but can’t afford and will only serve to make them miserable since now they don’t have the money to go to any of the cool places their car could take them.
Problem is, it’s the same damn car. One person’s manifesto to financial independence is another’s giant steel albatross, but nobody looking on from the outside can tell the difference. We can’t tell if your car or house or new dress or fancy dye-job is a good, life-affirming thing or a cry for help.
So part of me wants things things things, and part of me desperately wants to never buy things again. People have written books about spending a year without shopping, and the two things they seem to discover are 1) everybody has different ideas about what constitutes a ‘necessity’, and 2) it makes them feel really free and sane to not constantly spend money. Weirdos.
I don’t like how much of our selves and our worth we tie up in having the appearance of affluence. I don’t want to set the bar too high because I’m just going to end up being disappointed with myself. I don’t want to care about having the nicest or newest or coolest thing because I can’t afford that anyway, and all my life my family has been beating it into my head that there is no point in wanting what you can’t afford. Doesn’t that seem really depressing though? ‘Prioritizing’ and ‘budgeting’ and ‘setting goals’ sound like the kind of bullshit things that grown-ups do. Gross.
Determining what’s comfortable or important can be extremely hard, at least for me. Some days I hate myself for buying a coffee and some days another pair of sunglasses that I will lose in two weeks makes perfect sense. Some days I’m wracked with too much guilt to buy lunch, and some days I’m like “a pair of skis would actually save me money” (true story).
I’ve also been talking with a lot of people about relative value, and how while many people can tell the difference between something that is poorly-made and something that is well-made, most people can’t tell the difference between something that is well-made and something that is made by the greatest artisans of our time!!! Even if you think you can, you probably can’t; there have been a number of studies done, especially with food, that show for example that people who are told that they are drinking expensive wine will rate the wine as tasting better than those who are told that the wine they are drinking is cheaper, even when the two wines are identical. We aren’t that smart, kids.
Sure, an experienced sommelier would probably call shenanigans on this little stunt, but how many of us are the equivalent of experienced sommeliers and not just pretentious jerks?
I don’t know what my point was with all this, except to say that money upsets me, and I keep thinking I should be making more of it, and also feeling depressed about it, and feeling depressed that I’m feeling depressed that I don’t make more money. The layers of neurosis are literally endless, you guys. Hopefully this will once and for all dispel any notions that I am a chilled-out hippy love child. I am not. I am emotionally invested in RRSPs, and I don’t even have any yet. This is my life.
In case anyone is curious, at this point I save about 25% of my income, but none of that will matter long-term because it all gets spent going back to school and travelling. Which makes me think that I should be making more money, so that I could save more money, so then I think I should get a part-time job, which I don’t have time for because I’m going back to school and travelling.
I don’t suppose any of you want to pay me to mumble incoherently about vague, impractical worries I have? No? Yeah, fair enough.
Have you ever had a panic attack when you spent too much money? I used to get them every time I went grocery shopping because I had this irrational, anxiety-invoking fear that I would never be able to eat all the food before it went bad and this made me want to cry and throw up at the same time. Plus, the first time I spent more than $100 in a clothing store at one time I almost passed out. For reals.
I dealt with this unfounded terror by, well, ignoring it until I got a comfortable job in a stable environment. That and occasionally calling my mom when I couldn’t afford the rent. Not my proudest moment(s).
How about you? Do you find yourself sickened by consumerism even as you lust after some designer purse? What are your money weaknesses? Assuming you don’t make wads of money, how do you deal with all the pressures without going totally nuts?
Thanks in advance for your wisdom and guidance,