Women Finances: Is Spending Your Fix?
Women & Finances is a new series written by a 20-something about her financial journey. Her columns will be appearing weekly here at 20smoney.com. You can read her other articles by visiting the Women & Finances category.
I’ll be honest. My past spending habits are a source of personal embarrassment and discussing them certainly risks perpetuating negative gender stereotypes about women. It’s true, as a woman I have the uncanny ability to look into a closet packed with hundreds of garments and shoes and see absolutely nothing to wear. Any wedding/graduation/birthday party invitation that arrives in the mail elicits the same thought–”I need a new dress”! As I pass by a polished and strategically alluring window of an uppity retail store I experience a brief moment of feeling that I’d somehow be happier/skinnier/more svelte if my $300.00 Coach tote was traded up for a $1,000.00 Gucci hobo. At any given moment I can think of at least three beauty appointments that I could desperately use whether it be highlight upkeep, eyebrow threading, bikini waxing, pedicure, manicure, facial, teeth bleaching, spray tanning or just a shine treatment and blow-dry to start out the weekend with good hair. And for no reason and every reason, be it that I am bored, depressed, or just feeling undesirable and dull, I find that I gravitate towards the mall to fix the situation. Do I sound shallow yet?
And I wondered where my money went.
The beginning of my financial reconciliation and the sole reason I began to question my habits at all was this: I got married. There is nothing like a joint bank account (and a noticing husband) to make you wake up to ridiculous spending habits. The realization was jarring. I thought of myself as a generous, selfless and nonmaterialistic person. So when my patient husband sat down with me and our bank statement after being married for one month to show me that I spent over $1,000.00 in 30 days on a category that he considered “shopping and beauty” I was shocked, defensive and argumentative. But he loved my hair when I had it done! He loved my perfectly pedicured feet! He complimented me in those hot new little outfits! The catch was that he no idea what it was costing us.
See, when the paycheck was all mine and no one else saw where it went (shoot I didn’t even pay attention to where it went!) it was easy to blow. My husband made me aware that I had zero savings to show for two years of making $40k a year after college and living at home with zero expenses before we were married! That’s right, I blew $80k (before taxes) on…what I looked like. Grab the vomit bag. It can’t be that these things really made me any happier, so why is it that I would fritter away each paycheck at the mall and salons without a second thought? My answer to this question has slowly emerged in the process of fixing my financially destructive ways.
It was a slow struggle each month thereafter to learn that I could do my own hair for “important” nights out, pedicure my own toenails and better organize my closet so that I could see what I owned, making it easier to get dressed without frustration and the temptation to run out to the mall. But the main answer to the question of why I struggled with overspending came to me in a church sermon. The pastor was talking about why we tithe and quoted a Bible verse that said “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be.” Treasure meaning money, he made the point that if you want to know what a person cares about you should look at their checkbook (or online bank statement for those of us who don’t own a checkbook). This reminded me of how my husband intentionally got me interested in the Superbowl game every year by betting on a team under my name. Suddenly, I would pay attention to every play because I had money in it—where your money is, there your heart will be! It was true.
I realized from this that it was important to pay attention to where I was putting my money because it indicated something about my heart. If I spent every last nickel on my appearance, no matter how hard I tried to delude myself , I was still a shallow, vain and materialistic woman. I realized that by not paying attention to my finances and not budgeting out my spending, money became my master. Suddenly I was sacrificing my marriage and the security of our financial future to satisfy every frivolous whim that I deemed “necessary”. It wasn’t worth it. I had to face each month with a plan and exercise self control with an awareness of my budget or I would continue to be a slave to spending.
It has been a continual process of becoming a master over money instead of money mastering me, but my perspective has certainly shifted and something in me has changed.
Have you looked at your online bank statement lately? What have you put your worth in? What is your fix?