Growing up, I was an incredibly frugal child. While both of my parents have always been financially responsible and stable, I’m unsure exactly where my mentaily came from. Perhaps I was just fascinated with the independence that money could bring to a highly dependent being? After doing my requisite chores and household responsibilities, I received a modest allowance; what I did with it was up to me.
I remember being fascinated by the concept of borrowed money earning interest. I often “charged” my mom an extra quarter whenever she needed cash for the weekend. She thought it was adorable, I thought I was business savvy.
If memory serves, I probably counted my savings on a weekly basis. I was also a highly organized child (at one point literally everything in my room had its own labeled place) and found an insane amount of comfort in stacking my coins and sorting my bills.
I maintained a healthy relationship with money throughout most of my life, save for two largely disruptive cycles heralding massive life changes. The first was a shopping addiction I struggled with during my ill-fated marriage. I was that girl who would clothes shop every weekend, and occasionally during my lunch hour. I love a good deal and my tastes have never been particularly expensive, but the outlet of stockpiling clothing helped mask the crushing anxiety, depression, and fear I struggled with inside.
The second was as I made the transition towards my current career. I took at 30% pay cut, paid for expensive out-of-state trainings out of pocket, and spent my remaining time in Fort Collins at my favorite locations with my favorite people. I amassed an incredible amount of debt in that year and worked diligently during my first year-and-a-half in Birmingham to pay off my nearly maxed credit card. It was one of the greatest accomplishments of my life.
But more than just my relationship with money, I’ve been a stockpiler of nice things. Books I’ll never read, candles I’ll never burn, lotion I’ll sparingly lather on, journals I fret about “ruining” by using, favorite outfits I avoid wearing (and thus washing) to keep them as near-new as possible. Hell, I’m even stingy with the booklets of planner stickers I use to organize my time keeper.
The problem with this of course is that I outgrow my pristine clothes and because I never used them enough, they sit in my great-grandmother’s hope chest waiting until the (unforeseeable) day that I fit into them again. I buy cheap notebooks to record my daily thoughts because those aren’t beautiful enough words worthy to fill the expensive leather journal I bought in my 20s. The fancy facial serum my former mother-in-law bought me literally eight years ago sits practically full on a cabinet in the house I now share with my partner.
I know how stupid this is. How ridiculous it is to be so afraid of scarcity that I prevent myself from enjoying the beautiful things I’ve curated. And believe me, I’m millions of lightyears better than I once was. In the five moves I’ve made over the past six years, I’ve probably purged a solid 60 percent of my belongings, including an insane amount of self-care products, candles, make up, exotic spices.
I don’t consider myself a cheap person. But there is something about the feeling that these possessions are precious and irreplaceable that gets me. I’ve had my fair share of items that I got rid of and was never able to duplicate or replicate — the black lace peplum top that looked stellar with both pants and skirts, the sexy boots with the perfect shape and heel height that laced up the back, the apple-pear candle I found in middle school that is still to this day one of the best smells I’ve ever experienced. The sachet of saffron from an outdoor market in a foreign city. I find myself so attached to these things that SPENDING them in whatever capacity they offer almost hurts. And because they have become so precious, that panicked maintenance spills over to more arbitrary things too.
Knowing this month was coming up, I prepared myself to really go gung ho on this spending thing. I reminded myself of the times I’ve successfully broken the spell of scarcity. When I relocated to Birmingham, I decided the only plates I would pack was the dogwood-patterned fine china my dad gifted me (us) after my 2009 wedding. My ex and I ate with them once, maybe twice. I spent weeks purging closets and drawers and memories, and that china was literally in the back of my car headed to Goodwill. Then I realized I was more than happy to just dump this beautiful set of dishes which my father had held onto since I was 15-years-old because I was too afraid to use it.
What a sad waste.
Josh and I use that china every day now. We can’t put it through the microwave because of the gold plating but we do run it through the dishwasher. And when Josh accidentally shattered one of the dinner plates, it wasn’t a big deal. I managed to normalize what was once fancy so its loss no longer felt impactful.
What a wonderful thing to gain.
This month I started a journaling project with a set of beloved out-of-print oracle cards that I had previously been putting off until I got my hands on a backup set. Every night I’ve greedily slathered my whole damn body in the delicious-smelling Hemp lotion from my mom. I’ve used my good pens in my favorite colors any time I’ve had to put pen to paper. I took a week of vacation days to read books and drink dark-and-stormies on the beach with my beloved.
But our biggest splurge was the 500-square-foot deck added to the back of our house. Josh and I haven’t had a decent outdoor space during the entirety that we’ve been together, something we both deeply cherish and desire. We had planned to save up money and get it built in October before family comes for Thanksgiving. But when Josh was tapped for a side-hustle project that would pay for most of the deck, we decided to go all in. So the most phenomenal crew of guys (seriously, one of them worked on crutches with a broken foot) built our deck in three weeks. And I dropped a tidy sum on patio furniture during Wayfair’s Christmas in July sale.
It was a lot of money out of our pockets. And a fair share of nerves putting over grand on the credit card I worked so hard to pay off.
But it feels so damn good. So right. Our backyard is now the highlight of our already gorgeous home. And what’s a few months of pinching pennies when we can spend our Friday nights sipping cocktails surrounded by fireflies instead of at a crowded bar surrounded by TVs? It’s almost backward — the mundane has now become sacred.
August is my birthmonth and with all this spending, our next verb — TREASURE — is perfectly timed.
See Steph’s #VOWspend post here