[Ad – this is a commissioned post.] I’ve written before about my fear where debt is concerned. It’s something that I genuinely live with – a low-level anxiety about not having enough. It’s partly what drives me to succeed in my work; it’s also what drives to being labelled ‘tight’ occasionally! The thing is, I’m not necessarily ungenerous. If I feel somebody is deserving of a treat (I admit I’m ungenerous with people who take advantage of me or my family), then if I can comfortably afford and justify indulging them, I do.
But I hold my hands up to the fact that, as a rule, I find it very difficult to spend money!
A few years ago Dan tried to convince me to stop wasting money on cheap clothes and start opting for classic, high quality items instead, which will actually last. I could see his argument held weight and agreed with his logic straight away because ultimately, buying from notoriously ‘cheap’ shops is a false economy. Plus in terms of being judged, and sustainability / ethically, it doesn’t make me feel very nice.
Guess how long it took me to break the habit and buy my first extravagant pieces? Literally until the beginning of this year!
Analysing My Financial Anxiety
I can’t even tell you the reason, beyond an irrational fear of going broke and needing advice from Creditfix about going bankrupt. Both of us being self-employed hasn’t helped matters; likewise starting a family. But the bottom line is that for more than a decade now I’ve been firmly in the black – I’m very sensible and so is Dan. Splashing out from time to time is not going to hurt us financially, yet it still feels very uncomfortable to me.
By no means am I suggesting being a spendthrift is admirable, by the way. I’m actually kind of proud of my reluctance to spend, despite often feeling that I could have nicer things, if I didn’t actively choose to save for a rainy day instead. But I’ve started to accept that it’s okay for me to upgrade, too.
For the duration of our relationship, until the beginning of this year, if I’ve ever had nice things, it’s because Dan has bought them for me. By nature he’s the complete opposite to me: generous to a fault. For the most part I’ve reined in his lavish gestures, and these days he holds the same views I do when it comes to money.
We can afford our nice home because we don’t have loans for cars; if we want a holiday or new furniture then we’ll save to pay for it outright. Some family and peers appear to look down on us for what I consider a sensible and responsible approach to money, but I’m not in the least bothered about having the latest or best possessions if it means I can sleep at night.
It’s just stuff – and not an accurate measure of success.
Besides which, for me it’s a matter of priority. It’s more important to me that we are comfortable in our home and live in ta nice area than that we have a swanky vehicle (which we’d be paying through the nose for because we bought it brand new!).
Challenging the False Economy of Buying ‘Budget’
Yet, in spite of that attitude towards money and savings, this year I have started viewing money in the way I promised myself I would a few years ago. I’m nearing my mid thirties and I don’t want to be buying my best clothes from the supermarket. For my children who will outgrow their wardrobes within a mere season, absolutely – I’m not a snob and Tesco and Asda do some lovely bits. Likewise, if I see something I love that happens to come from one of those places then I’d be more than happy to buy it and wear it.
The difference though, is that equally, if I see something I love from a shop which I’d have previously written off as being too extravagant, I might treat myself. Indeed, the sales this year have been so incredible I’ve bought my summer wardrobe already and kitted myself out with some really beautiful items that I’d usually only admire from afar.
I feel privileged and grateful, don’t get me wrong. But I’ve worked hard and gone without for many years during which my peers have often flexed the plastic. I’m allowing myself to enjoy the fruits of my recent hard work and years of restraint.
And it feels good.
Of course, I’ll also be closely monitoring the attitudes of my daughters as they grow up and ensuring that they have a firm understanding of the value of money and the importance of spending within – and short of – their means. I don’t want them to grow up as entitled, spoilt, or wasteful.