Do you easily spend money to buy the things you want, or are you a cautious spender? Does it depend on what you want to buy?
How we spend our money is a reflection on what we value. Think of Carrie Bradshaw, spending a thousand dollars on a pair of Manolos. She also spent a fortune on all of those cocktails she drank with her friends. Have you seen the price of designer cocktails in New York City? Her shoes cost more than my entire wardrobe, and her cocktail budget was probably higher than my weekly grocery budget. Yet, her spending seems reasonable and in accordance with the Sex and the City lifestyle she created for herself.
On the other extreme was Monica from Friends, secretly stashing used wrapping paper so she could iron it and reuse it. To her credit, Monica was organized and planned her expenses. Though you might argue that in real life she never could have afforded that apartment in Greenwich Village, the décor inside was a fun, eclectic and affordable hodgepodge of furniture and art, and it reflected her personality and station in life.
Then there is Frankie, the lackadaisical Mom on The Middle, who cuts coupons but can never find them. She buys her teenagers junk food and takes her family to a cheap buffet for Thanksgiving. She is always in some sort of financial predicament. She too, shows her values as she always finds a way to treat her family to ice cream or somehow find the extra money to buy something they need.
From what I have observed, there are few people who either spend lavishly or totally scrimp. Most of us spend more easily for some purchases than others. Maybe you are cautious about spending money on clothing, but will spend good money on dinners out with friends. Maybe you take lots of vacations but live in a modest house. Maybe you shell out big bucks to send your kids to private school but reuse the tin foil.
I’m not judging. I just think that how we spend is a reflection of our values. I can be very cheap. I like things with a little wear on them and love a good flea market or antique store. I spend money on gifts, but reuse gift bags- though I don’t go as far as Monica and iron used tissue paper. I buy most of my clothes at Marshalls. I shop at Aldi and buy mostly seasonal produce and what is on sale. I don’t care if I have a fancy car as long as it is in good working condition. I did once pause to reconsider when I found out my 16-year-old niece had the same model car I had only hers was five years newer.
Sometimes, I will spend extravagantly. I buy good shoes because they are more comfortable and nothing is worse than cheap shoes that hurt your feet. I like good handbags because cheap ones break and I would rather buy a handbag that I can use for many years than one I’d have to replace in a few months. I also buy good furniture, because it lasts. We still have our original dining set, which was expensive, but after 34 years still looks like new.
My biggest splurge is on houses. To me, houses aren’t just houses, they are homes. It matters immensely to me how they look and feel. I care about things like crown moldings and hardwood floors, arched doorways and custom built- ins. Home is where I spend most of my time. It is where I spend days and holidays with my family and friends. It is where my life happens and memories are made. Whatever I have spent on my homes has always been worth it to me.
I know people whose cars and toys cost more than their homes. I am always amazed when I see a $50,000 truck, three ATV’s and a couple of snowmobiles sitting in front of a run- down trailer home. I’d sell the truck and the toys, buy a cheap but reliable car and put the money towards a nicer place to live.
I also know a woman who spends very different amounts of money on her grandchildren. The children in one family get expensive gifts, summer trips and a whole day of back to school shopping. The children from the other families get a birthday card and a new outfit at Christmas. Maybe she has her reasons, but if you are eight years old, how can you help but think that she values your cousins over you?
I’m not saying that I am right and those people are wrong. My response to their spending is a reflection of my values. What I know is that what we spend our money on shows what we value, and it is true that we value different things. Every once in a while, I think it is a good idea to take stock and see if how we spend aligns with what we value. When is spending worth it? When it aligns with our values.
I think I am mostly getting it right, and I put my money where my values are. What about you? Are you a spender or a saver? Do you splurge on things that are important to you? What does your spending say about you? I’d love to hear your ideas.