These are three things that I have in the last two years purchased for myself. Nothing exciting about that, you may say, but this time I bought new ones. For the first time ever.
I’ve talked before about deserving better than the cheapest. My parents would only spend a maximum of £20 on us at birthdays or Christmas and still do, on both my sisters and I and all the grandchildren. It tool me a long while to realise that this rule didn’t apply to their presents for each other. They were worried that we may be spoilt if they spent more on us.
I twice as a child had more expensive presents, a new bike after I’d learned to ride and crashed my second hand bike and a radio cassette player which possibly saved my life by giving me an emotional outlet. In both cases I had to beg, for a period of several months, in order to prove that I really meant it. I also had to pay half of it, which meant saving up my meagre pocket money. They didn’t believe in giving me jobs for extra so I had no means of raising more money. I now give my children an allowance for buying Christmas presents so they can have a go themselves.
It wasn’t just about presents though. My mother would always carefully consider different produces in the supermarket, before usually buying the cheapest. There’s no point in spending extra money if the difference isn’t worth it, a sentiment I really took on board. Extra expenditure on frivolities would be weighed up and my father’s views considered. Later on when my mother had her own credit card I would see her at the end of the month explaining every item to my father. She wasn’t allowed to check it herself and agree it; he wanted to know what it all was for.
Money had to last and be spent carefully, with every penny watched and every luxury budgeted for. If my father bought something new and different, like his first hi-fi, then brochures would be read by the dozen, a variety of shops visited and six months worth of discussion before the purchase.
The result of all this was that I never spent money without thinking about it carefully first, without checking a product price in several different shops before buying. I would always buy the unbranded food in the shop and only buy a more highly priced if the cheapest one wasn’t good enough. Although I did get into financial trouble with my exes as they weren’t bothered about spending money they didn’t have, I never got into debt and never spent a penny I didn’t already have in the bank account.
Much of the above is of course entirely sensibly and makes good financial sense. But I took it to extremes, feeling that I couldn’t buy myself luxuries if I didn’t actually need them and hadn’t done something to deserve them. I include clothes, books, pictures, DVDs and all sorts of commonplace items within the heading of luxuries.
It’s taken me a long while to throw off these ideas and allow myself to be spontaneous and to not worry about whether I have got the absolutely best bargain possible.
I have always accepted cast-offs and hand-me-downs and see no problem with doing that. It’s environmentally responsible as well as being economically practical. But it’s taken me all this while to accept that as well as doing that, I can treat myself. Whether it’s buying clothes or shoes that aren’t strictly necessary or a nice piece of jewelry, a DVD for no particular reason; these things I have learned.
“Always budget the luxuries first!” (Lazarus Long, Robert A. Heinlein)
But it wasn’t until last year when my television died and I thought ‘sod it, I’m getting a new one’ that I finally did, with a modicum of research. The hoover died subsequently and I found this decision a lot easier. I’ve now broken all the rules and bought a bed on a year’s interest free credit, something my father would never have done. I could have paid for it fully, although it would have emptied out my piggy bank so I haven’t quite broken my rules.
I do find it ridiculous how emotionally charged I feel at the idea of buying new items new. It didn’t hit me this way when I bought a new washing machine, probably because that’s not really a luxury. But I do feel that I’m sticking two fingers up at my father every time I make a purchase he wouldn’t approve of. And I like it.