Tuesday, March 6, 2012

On Giving Myself Permission.

After reading this post over the weekend I got to thinking about the whole subject of giving myself permission when it comes to spending money. Where once I gave myself permission to spend on things that made my life better / happier / easier , I now have a hard time with it. So what happened?

Well, money - for one thing. But also, something else: some kind of mental road block that has demoted me in the ranks of worthiness and which I'm having a hard time defining. 

Let's start at the beginning. Rewind eight or ten years: I was a single, working woman, self-sufficient and in the privileged position of being able to spend my money selfishly on whatever I wanted, whenever I felt like it. This afforded me all the things that made my life nicer: clothes and haircuts to boost my self-confidence; holidays to help me unwind and regroup; take-out and restaurant food when I didn't feel like cooking; an abundance of things - essential and non-essential.

Years later I went on maternity leave for the first time and slashed my spending habits. I severed my ties with the consumer world as I'd known it, exchanging my weekly clothes shopping sprees for quarterly ones, the restaurant food for home-cooked meals, and holidays for staycations.

Over time my mindset shifted from this: I want something therefore I will have something, to this: I want something therefore I will weigh up all my options, hunt around, research it to death, check my bank balance and then maybe not end up with it at all because instead we need diapers, dog food, electricity and toilet paper. 

Ten years ago I was reckless with my money, to put it bluntly. Now I'm careful. And though once the idea of being frugal seemed dull, one good thing has come from having it: I'm now in-control of my money: I know how much is available, I'm on top of paying bills, and I feel satisfied in the knowledge that we're doing okay with our money even though it has meant cutting back.

But there's another side to all of this: I've become scroogey. I tirelessly hold onto things around the house that might be re-used and recycled in other ways; I look twice, three times at a t-shirt - even if it's on sale - asking myself do I really want this? Do I really? Do I?; I look in fliers to check for promotions and I make meal plans so that I'm not wasting money on food we won't eat.

And out of the scrooginess has grown the inability to let myself have certain things. One example? A snow shovel: We've had this wooden/metal snow shovel for years. I've always hated it but always used it in some deluded dutiful way. I even used it to shovel when I was pregnant both times, even though it's heavy before the added weight of snow and I almost always end up with a twinge in my back. I've coveted a plastic snow shovel for a while and yet I cannot bring myself to get one. Because as I'm looking at the thirty-dollar price tag I'm thinking about all the other things that we might need before we need the snow shovel. And of course there are always a million and one other things that take priority. And besides, we already have a snow shovel that works, so how can I justify buying another one if we don't really need it?

This leads me to another question. Actually two questions:

1) When did I become such a bloody martyr? and;
2) How do I stop being such a bloody martyr?

Somewhere along the way my preoccupation with keeping our finances straight has gotten twisted up with the notion that I shouldn't buy things for myself - even small things that we can afford that will clearly make my life easier. And don't I want my life to be easier?

I do! I do! (she shouts meekly)

It's not really about the money because I'm quite happy spending it on other non-essential things. It's about the way I feel about spending money on myself. I need to snap out of it, to rethink priorities, reshuffle things a bit, become more aware and more thoughtful about the way I spend money. And I need to learn to once again give myself permission.


How about you? Do you give yourself permission?
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7 comments:

Christy said...

Yeah, I don't have this problem. :)

Slightly/Aubergine said...

I definitely have this problem. It's so bad that my husband has to purchase gift certificates (i.e. spend the money already) so that I'm forced to buy something. I feel guilty spending it on myself ... what an awful feeling!

Bibliomama said...

Good Lord woman, an ergonomic snow float is a NECESSITY. An ESSENTIAL. I wouldn't be able to walk upright without mine. Even though it has a pansy-ass name that I'm embarrassed to have just typed. (otherwise, yes, I'm avoiding a concrete answer because I'm still not great with money).

Sara @ Domestically Challenged said...

um, yes I do...too, too much!

Liz @ A Nut in a Nutshell said...

I struggle with this because it took me so long to get out of credit card debt. Now I'm very reluctant to spend money and yes, especially on myself!

I do sometimes, provided I've put a significant amount into savings that month.

Lady Mama said...

Bibliomama - I need one of those ergonomic thingamajigs.

Lady Mama said...

Liz - I like your rule of putting money into savings first - great idea.