saving, spending, and the struggle

I have a problem.  My name is Hilary Miller, and I am a guilt spender.  What is a guilt spender? Obviously, it’s someone who spends money and then feels guilty.  In most cases, this is good.  I can stretch a dollar.  I am a bargain hunter.  I enjoy window shopping, and I’m the one who really doesn’t buy anything at the end.

But when you’re down to two pairs of pants and a single pair of flats to anchor your wardrobe, being a guilt spender is a disaster.  I have to psych myself up to spend money: “I will go into the store, and I will buy a pair of jeans. I will. I will. I will. Left side!  Strong side!”  Three stores later, still no jeans.  Last week, I came close with a pair of khakis on sale for $10, but the fabric looked like it would wear out quickly.  I expect lifetime wear out of my $10.

However, finally, yesterday, I went shopping, and I actually bought clothing.  Frivolous spending ensued!  Spending on what?  Just unnecessary items like pants; three pairs of pants to be exact.  What was the total?  $26 for 3 pairs of pants, including the most perfect-fitting pair of jeans, and if you’re a girl or Boy George, you know how hard these are to find.  After my shopping spree, I had to calmly come to terms with the fact that it was okay to spend $26.  See?  This is what I’m dealing with.  I felt guilty for spending TWENTY-SIX DOLLARS for THREE PAIRS OF PANTS.  What is wrong with me?!

I need to go to the opposite of shopaholic therapy (hoardmoneyaholic therapy?  saveaholic therapy? calmdownit’stwentyfivedollars therapy? guiltspendingaholic anonymous?). Something where they make you pay $200 for the class, and then go out and spend all of the money.  Unfortunately, I am my own therapist (and the diagnosis is crazy), and my first question is, “Hilary, when did these feelings of guilt or shame begin?”  Well, it all began when…

*cue wavy flashback screen and dream sound effect

… I was around fourteen years old.  I’m sure my family would attest that I had a bit of penny-pinching sense before the age of 14, but I at least wasn’t my brother (who probably still has his lunch money from middle school <- and we love ya for it!).  Then, Christmas 2005 I received Christmas money, $100 of Christmas money.  I was rich.  All of the things I could buy: that giant stuffed horse (still a dream at 14), a sterling silver and crystal recreation of Arwen’s necklace in Lord Of The Rings, the West Side Story collector’s set, or maybe a Star Wars convention ticket.  But alas, the possibilities of purchasing would not last, when the day after Christmas we headed to the department store, and I bought a pair of pumas exactly like the kind they wore in The Island (because Michael Bay was cool at this point, guys).the_island_puma_shoes Sure I spent all of my money (by far, the most expensive shoes I owned) and didn’t listen to my mom: “Are you sure that’s what you want?” But I took one look at those strappy, vaguely European shoes, and I knew they were worth every penny.

I showed up to school wearing my new kicks with a smug smile on my face in a glimmer in my eyes.  I had gotten my Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle, and I wasn’t afraid to use it.  Then, in choir, someone, who we’ll call Scut, showed up with the same shoes.  No!  Oh, well.  At least they’re both cool.  It’s okay.  I can share the shoe light.  Then, my yellow-eyed enemy explained that he had purchased his super cool shoes at Goodwill, and they cost him… $15.  $15?!  Oh my, I shot my eye out! Just like my mom said I would. $85 down the drain.

Wouldn’t you be more cautious with your money after that?  I’ve never spent $100 on a pair of shoes since then, and I probably never will.  But at some point, I have to get to the Chinese restaurant, eat some duck, buy clothes, and sing “Fah rah rah rah…”


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