Earlier this year, I conducted an experiment of sorts. As a person that struggled with over-saving and money-hoarding, I wanted to test a theory that I had been mulling over. I wanted to see if I could overcome my tendency to obsess over every penny spent if I just threw caution to the wind and forced myself to spend a large amount of money on items I’d normally deem as unnecessary and frivolous.
Since I had secretly wanted to do a wardrobe overhaul for the last five years, I decided if I was going to do this, I was going to do it right. So, I worked with a personal stylist at one of the swankiest locations in New York City: Madison Avenue.
After nearly two hours of touring the various design rooms, working with my stylist, trying on clothes and learning about what colors, silhouettes and fits worked for me, I fell in love with three items of clothing — which totaled $549.00. Dios mio!
For the average overspender, this total may seem like a no-brainer, but for those of us in the personal finance community who were brought up to believe that money is meant to be saved (ahem, hoarded), parting with over $500 for just three items of clothing was a Herculean task. But, after texting my girlfriend to get a friendly nudge, I ultimately pulled the trigger and walked out of my appointment feeling like I’d won.
I had done it. I had healed my relationship with money. I no longer felt guilt or anxiety spending money over pleasure purchases that I could afford.
That was, until buyer’s remorse set in a few days later. I started to revert to my old ways of thinking: berating myself for being irresponsible, catastrophizing the impact of this minor splurge in relation to my overall net worth and finding ways to justify returning everything for a full refund.
But, I stopped myself. I forced myself to wear the clothes, enjoy the clothes and think about the larger money lessons I was learning in real time that extended way beyond the experiment I had decided to conduct. Here are my two major takeaways.
Money Is a Tool With Various Purposes
As a culture, we are given mixed messages about money, but when used responsibly, money allows you to meet all of your needs and some of your wants, which brings security and joy into your life. Oversavers need to understand this concept truly if they ever want to change how they relate to money.
You Don’t Need the World’s Permission to Spend Money
In addition to calling my YOLO girlfriend to encourage me to drop half a grand on clothes, I also texted two other friends and my mother after I made my purchase. I needed some moral support because, deep down, I believed I had done something stupid and wrong and needed justification.
During these various conversations, I framed that purchase as a radical act of self-love and self-care, because I wanted to create a bigger reason for my purchase, fitting it into some beautiful feminist narrative. But in hindsight, I don’t believe spending a lot of money can be fairly equated with self-care or self-love at all. Self-care and self-love don’t require a designer label or fashion-themed Pinterest board. That’s what marketers want you to believe so you spend when you can’t afford to in the name of being good to yourself.
Splurging on luxury items is a decision — a decision that doesn’t need to be justified as anything more than “I budgeted for it, I can afford it and will enjoy using it.”
I conducted this experiment nearly eight months ago and I’m still reaping the positive effects of this experience: I continue to save and invest as I’ve always done, and I’ve eliminated the guilt and anxiety that used to come when I made a pleasure purchase. The greatest irony of this experiment (and greatest win) is that while I don’t allow the price to be the only factor in determining whether or not I purchase any item, my desire to splurge has waned. This is because I now feel that I don’t have anything to prove to anyone about my relationship with money — including myself.