Austerity, Mental Health, and Guilt-Free Spending


I love to shop. Sometimes. I have to be in a certain mood. Alright, I like buying things more than I actually like shopping. I don’t have a lot of patience for it. I also can’t shop in regular stores, because I get sticker shock. That’s right, H&M, your $40 jeans offend me. That’s because I offset my love of shopping/buying things by buying them almost exclusively from thrift stores and warehouses. My wardrobe is full of Anne Taylor, New York & Company, what have you, and I didn’t pay more than $15 for each piece. And even that was hard for me. The most I’m usually willing to spend (unless I’ve gotten some kind of monetary windfall) is $20 for my Lucky Brand jeans, which are for the record normally like $100.

I am a bargain shopper. It began because I have never been outside the lower middle class bracket, but I’ll probably be a bargain shopper the rest of my life. It makes me feel good to know that I paid $10 for an Anne Taylor Loft shirt that normally would have been $40–after its first markdown. (No lie, I went into a Loft store at the mall yesterday and the shirts on the sale rack were marked down to $39.99. I left the store laughing hysterically.)

My ex-boyfriend used to chide me for making these trips to Goodwill and the Salvation Army and spending money in small, regular amounts on clothes and books and housewares that I didn’t really need. He was especially vocal about it because at the time, I was working a minimum wage job. So yeah, I mean, he had a point. I could have, should have saved that money. I could be, should be saving the money I spend now on clothes and books and housewares, or what have you.

But here’s the thing. I’m not an austere person, and I’m also not destitute. I know how to go without the extras. I went through high school like that. But especially now that I make more than minimum wage, I see nothing wrong with taking a little of the surplus money I have from my paycheck and buying a $10 dress or $15 shoes or a $6.99 book. You may or may not agree with me, and I honestly don’t care whether you do. With the economy the way it is, though, a lot of people are reigning in their spending and some are even looking down on people who continue to buy little things for themselves and their friends.

Well, guess what? One, the economy can’t get going again unless we put money into it. Austerity is clearly working very well for Europe. Two, I am a happier person when I feel like I’ve gotten a deal. I don’t care about the psychology behind it and whether it’s a placebo or whatever. These savvy purchases contribute to my mental health. They make me feel like a successful adult and shrewd consumer, and all without sapping my bank account.

Yesterday’s shopping was prompted by a costume sale at an opera house over the river from me. Loving costumes as I do, I had to check it out. I bought two things: a vintage dress ($10) and a long skirt ($2), which will probably be a Ren Faire costume. I’d crossed county lines so I decided to make a bit of a day of it, and I went to the mall. I wanted to replace my day-to-day flats, which were literally so stretched out they fell off my feet. I got a pair of black flats ($15) and a pair of earrings that were marked down ($3). Then I bought a soda ($1.50). On my way home I remembered that I hadn’t gotten the book for book club yet, so I stopped at Books-A-Million and bought Howl’s Moving Castle ($7), a cookbook stand ($10) because last time Chelsea cooked she put the book on the open windowsill and I really would like not to knock our books two floors down into the yard, and a leather bracelet on sale ($2). I also finally caved and bought the BAM membership ($18) because my roommates and I go to BAM all the time.

So that’s what I spent. A whopping $68.50 on clothes, shoes, accessories, a book, a book stand, and a year-long savings membership that will pay for itself over my next couple of purchases at BAM. Could have done a lot worse, and I don’t feel guilty at all.

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2 thoughts on “Austerity, Mental Health, and Guilt-Free Spending

  1. Nice job! I love that you shop like that. Cause I’m all about shopping like that. I balk at spending more than $15 dollars on anything.

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