By Danaé Reid
It is common knowledge amongst my family and friends that I am extremely frugal and that my need to hold onto a dollar often overrides any personal desires I might have. If you’d have asked me a few months ago what material things I might’ve wanted, I’d have told you “nothing” without any hesitation or giving it a second thought. But lately I’ve been attempting to be open to “treating” myself without remorse — and I’ve got to say, it feels good.
My parents raised me to be extremely money conscious, but I know they’d both agree that I took the lesson far beyond the scope of their imagination. There have been times that I’d eat little to nothing for dinner because I didn’t want to pay for groceries, nor did I want to order outor when I’d have a full on “fit” with myself because my sweet tooth forced me to buy that chocolate bar that was $1.95. Even choosing not to get a shirt from the thrift store because $8.00 for a thrifted blouse felt like an unnecessary expense. If I did end up choosing to spend money, on say, a vacation, or something that I deemed “frivolous,” I’d become anxious and internally beat myself up over the money spent.
The issue was never that I couldn’t afford any of the things that I wanted — after all, being money-conscious means a lot of saving — but my obsession with being proactive with my funds “just in case” has made me a prisoner to my own bank account in a way that isn’t healthy for anyone, much less someone as young as I was when it began.
My addiction to saving money has been confronted and judged by essentially anyone who knows me intimately and the fact that I’m a spendthrift is much more common knowledge that I would’ve imagined. I’ve been asked “What exactly are you saving all of this money for?” more times than I can count, but it wasn’t until I reached the tail end of my 24th year that I began to ask myself the same question: ‘What am I getting out of not spending my money? Why does everything over a dollar feel like a lot of money to me?
I’d never felt like my relationship with money was a problem — in fact I found it pretty humorous, until I found myself walking around my apartment literally starving because I’d only allowed myself one grocery trip per month, (totaling at only about $85.00 maximum) because I didn’t want to have a high credit card bill to pay, or when the high expense of a heating bill had me opting to wear multiple layers of clothes to bed and forced me to sleep under multiple covers, as well to keep me from shivering in my tiny Brooklyn bedroom, where one of my walls is a drafty sliding door.
Knowing that my 25th birthday was on the horizon made me realize how unhealthily I was living — not not because I needed to, but because I felt I had to. But when I looked at the rest of my life, I knew that this was not sustainable. What once began a denial of goods was becoming a denial of basic human needs and that was not okay.
My first “test” was a birthday trip to myself. As a gift, I took a trip to Puerto Rico, where I said that I would indulge fully without worrying about the cost of anything. And although I still managed talk myself out of getting a $4.99 mug because it felt like it “wasn’t worth it” or that I hesitated on buying certain souvenirs (no matter how cheap they were), I did eat three course meals for the entirety of my trip, which is something that I never would had done before.
Oftentimes when people think about money and the unhealthy relationships some people have with it, the first thought that comes to mind is people who spend in excess. However, not being willing to spend any money at all can have grave consequences as well.
I hate the phrase “you can’t take it all with you” for the simple fact that I’ve heard it an unequivocal amount of times over the years. But, it is true. And while I’m still a work in progress, will likely never be a “big spender” regardless of the size of my bank account, and I’ll likely never like the fact that I have to spend money, I will make it a point to make use of the resources that I work so hard to obtain so that I can live the life I want.
Disclaimer: The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the article belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to the author’s employer, The Philadelphia Sunday SUN, the author’s organization, committee or other group or individual.