Learning to Spend on the Right Things

I didn’t make any real New Years Resolutions this year (except for one: “Learn how to drive” – more on that later). I already have a long list of things I have been working on since November. One of the things I do want to focus on in 2012 is “spending money on the right things.”

When I sat down in November to brainstorm on ways I could improve my life & love myself a little bit more, I noticed a lot of things were out of balance:

I had a brand-new, unworn Alexander Wang top in my closet but I hadn’t been to the dentist in over a year. I love my Prada eye-glasses that I wear in the evening but I can’t watch any films with subtitles because I have neglected to get the prescription updated (for like, 2 years).  I always seem to have money for nights out with friends but I can’t use my lap-top (the computer I use every day to write and work) without plugging it in because the battery has been dead for god knows how long. My daily wardrobe consists of a lot of white or light colored tops but the only flesh-toned bra I own died about a year ago. Since then I’ve just been wearing black bras with my white T-shirts in hopes that everyone will think I’m doing it on purpose to be “edgy and urban”. I have the confidence to pull this off but really, I just need to buy more bras. Of course there are also all the chiropractic appointments, doctors appointments and bills which were all put off because my mind and wallet always seemed to be elsewhere.

Yes, I have messed up priorities of the First World kind.

I’ve known these truths about myself for a long time but have just been in denial. Although I do enjoy the pretty things I am fortunate enough to own, by not taking care of other areas of my life I’ve created a lot of extra stress. A lot of the negative thoughts I have about myself relate back to how I manage my finances. I want to love myself more and part of that means changing the way I spend my money.

While I am on this topic – I’m pretty sure I’m not the only young professional woman who has felt like this at some point. I feel like we live in a culture where we’re told that it’s OK to make certain sacrifices in order to look good or have fun. When I used to work in high-end retail, several of my co-workers would routinely forgo real groceries and live on a ramen noodle diet just so they could afford the latest $750 handbag on a retail salary. A good friend of mine recently confessed that she owns 20 Marc Jacobs handbags (at $400 a pop) but feels sad that she’s never traveled internationally. I call this the “Carrie Bradshaw-ification” of society. It seems like somewhere along the line we lost our way and it became OK, even chic, cute & urban, to own a closet full of very expensive shoes at the cost of being able to do other things like own your own home. How did this happen and how do we make it stop?

Although I’ll never forgo good food for fashion (I love my veggies & whole grains too much) and try to travel whenever I get the chance, I’ve definitely been the girl at the party with the killer vintage Chanel handbag who has to demurely reach into her handbag mid-conversation to turn the ringer off her phone because creditors are calling about her  large unpaid phone bill. There’s nothing cool or glamorous about it. It’s actually just a shitty scenario that makes me feel like I failed somewhere while on the path to becoming a fully functioning adult.

The great thing about this situation is that I have the power to change it.

So, what does “spending on the right things” mean?

For me, it’s not just about spending money, it’s about spending the time to actually take note of what my real needs are. It means looking after myself, paying my bills first and only spending on experiences & things that will improve my quality of life.

This holiday season, with the help of loved ones, I’ve been able to get a few things that I actually need that will improve my life in small (but large) ways:

1. Matryosh-keys Key Covers: Following my move in October, I realized I had way too many keys on my key ring that all looked very similar. Opening the front door to my apartment building would always involve a few minutes of utter confusion trying to figure out what goes where. I saw these key covers at Nood in Victoria ($6) and decided they would be the perfect way to separate my keys and play up my Eastern European heritage at the same time. It may seem inconsequential but no longer having to spend that 2 minutes feeling frustrated every time I leave my house makes a big difference.

2. The Magic Bullet:  This sounds like it should be the name of yet another luxury sex toy but it’s actually a blender. I don’t think I’ve ever been this excited about a blender before but I love this thing! I like to make green smoothies but I have been avoiding making them because my blender is difficult to clean and it doesn’t fit in my new fridge so I can’t store leftovers. Now I can make a single serving smoothie with less fuss and waste. (Thanks Mom!)

3. Ombrello Black Riding Boots. These are probably one of the nicest gifts anyone has given me. My shoe collection is full of pretty high heels but the boots that I wear on a daily basis were worn out, hurting my feet and causing back problems. My Mom bought me these for Christmas and I absolutely love them. They’re incredibly comfortable, great quality, water-proof and I feel amazing whenever I wear them. I know I’ll have these boots for many years to come.

4. Michael Kors purse: This was my Christmas gift to myself. I know what you are thinking: THIS WOMAN CAN’T POSSIBLY NEED ANOTHER BAG. Yes, I do have a bit of a handbag “problem” but let me explain: I  love my purse collection but I realized something recently: a lot of my bags aren’t cut out for day to day wear. With the exception of my black Longchamp bag & a few summer purses, when loaded up with my daily essentials they hurt my shoulder (and this dominoes into back pain). My body was in pain all the time so I just didn’t notice. This purse isn’t as exciting as some of my other ones but it’s actually comfortable! Plus, it’s a bit smaller which will encourage me to carry less stuff on a daily basis. It was brand new but previously owned so I was able to get it at a very good price. No shoulder pain = worth every penny.

My Dad, instead of giving me a physical Christmas gift, decided to pay for some of my counselling sessions which is way better than anything he could have physically put under the tree.

Instead of hitting up the Aritzia winter sale (which I do enjoy oh so much) I’m using that money to book an appointment with a personal trainer.

Now when I’m faced with making a purchase I try and ask myself “Do I need it? Am I going to feel good about myself for spending my money on this?” If the answer is “no” and the money would be better spent on something I need more, I walk way. Taking control like this feels pretty amazing.

I’ve also started keeping a list of things I actually need and only shopping from that list. It takes a bit of discipline but it works! I already have my next purchase planned out: an electric toothbrush. It’s never too early to start preventing gum disease.

I wonder if Carrie Bradshaw ever worried about her gums?

What does “spending on the right things” mean to you?

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