Saturday, January 20, 2007

Years on grad school budget ruined my spending gene

I went shopping today....Not such an unusual pastime, I know, but I so rarely do this that I hardly know how to go about it anymore. Sure, I buy groceries, occasional clothing, gifts, books, items for the home or anything else I need or want for a relatively comfortable life style, but I almost never go shopping in the sense of just walking around visiting random shops, buying random things just for the sake of it. I used to go shopping like that with my girl friends when I was a teenager and we'd rather spend a day together in town out of the reach of our parents than at home, but like other activities from that period of my life (sneaking into clubs - or going to clubs altogether, drinking till you get sick and partying two or more days in a row) I just got fed up with it and stopped doing it.

Maybe I was never really fed up with shopping, but ever since I left home to go to university at 18, I never really had any money, and without money shopping is not so fun. Now 14 years down the road, after years of undergraduate education, many more years of grad school and one year in a decently paid real job I finally have a bit of money to spare. I was almost shocked when i realized that I will actually be able to put some money away for savings and still have some left to play with. I am aware that this wouldn't come as a surprise to most thirty somethings with a good job, but since the academic life style has been so intimately related with cheap food, bargains, overdrafts, loans and credit for so long I still feel nervous every time I open the bank statement or sign in to pay the bills online - but now for no reason.

So I decided to walk down to the city centre today to check out the sales since I wanted to do something else than just hang out at home and had promised myself a day off. My excuse was that I was going to look for a pair of winter boots, but I didn't find the kind I was looking for, so I ended up going into random shops, looking at random things and finding lots of things I suddenly wanted like scented candles, brightly coloured napkins, books I don't have the time to read, sparkly pens, cute flower patterned tank top, DVDs, bath salts....and lots and lots of other things.

My typical shopping pattern when I look at "stuff I don't really need and didn't even know I wanted" is: spend a looong time in a shop, touch and turn all nice items, pick one up I really like, walk around with it in hand while checking out the rest of the shop, put back really nice thing because I realize I don't really need it after all and leave shop empty-handed. But today I decided to give it a go and go shopping for real. So five hours later I arrived home with bath salts enough for a mini spa from super delicious all natural products (I got the bath soak grain jar with essential oils of orange, lemon, geranium and seaweed and bath bubbles with tangerine, peppermint, vanila and thyme), travel size organic bath soaps (shower gel with bergamot and ginger) and vanila body butter, shoes, four books (I might have gotten those anyway), four DVDs, two kinds of napkins, a magazine, cash card for the cell phone (which I also needed anyway) and a mixed feeling of wanting to pamper myself this way more often and irrational fear of the next bank statement.

It's weird how letting go of the need to control even the smallest expenses can be so difficult. It's like I am afraid that if I allow myself to buy little things to brighten up my life that i can actually afford now, I will suddenly overnight start buying designers bags and furniture and order expensive cruises and run myself straight into debt again.

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At 5:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Woo hoo!! Shopping!! I did the same thing today saxi. In my case it was two pairs of fabulous 3" high heels!! I used to wear heels all the time but stopped cold 3 years ago when my knee was bothering me. My knee problem is better now and so I've started wearing heels from time to time. What I realised anew is that I feel so much more confident giving presentations and even just being in the office in heels. So, I decided to buy a couple new pairs and wear them more often. These last few years I've been living in yoga clothes and only slightly dressed up for work. Recently I have a yearning to put some effort into my appearance. Not sure what is going on but it was fun to splurge on the shopping today. Since finishing the Ph.D., it has been hard for me to gauge how much I can spend and treat myself and how much I should save. As a student it was easy; IF there was anything left after rent, food, and necessities, then I got to spend it.

At 10:20 PM, Blogger saxifraga said...

Hi sleek

so good to see you. I don't know if you see this reply so I don't want to write a whole lot, but I so hear you on the wanting to put more effort into appearance. I actually like to dress up a bit for work, it's somehow a transition to the professional me (that being said, everything here in my neck of the woods is very casual and showing up in dress and high heels would just be plain weird). But I do like some heel on shoes and only wear flats as winter/ hiking boots, sneakers and sandals. Flat shoes makes my legs look strange - or so I think.


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