Sunday, 18 August 2013

On Buyer's Guilt

Hi there and happy Monday!

My weekend was taken up by speaking at a conference, attending said conference, then going to a 15 course Chinese Banquet, drinking too much wine, sleeping poorly, doing a 10km fun run (on poor sleep and less than appropriate food and drink) and then bumming around.


Today I am going to talk about buyer's guilt. Specifically my buyer's guilt, and how I am dealing with it.

I grew up really quite poor, from a single parent family. Growing up, my mum sometimes couldn't work, and even when she was, it didn't pay well. We didn't have much money at all, it was just enough to pay for necessities.

Hence a fair amount of the time, my duds were from opshops, or very cheap stores, or hand me downs. And there weren't many of them. Sometimes the kids would pick on me for this. Being clever, a bit chubby and, later, having pimples, they had other things to pick on me for.

[My younger brother and sister wore trendier gear. This was because a. My mum started working a bit more, b. they could nag better than me and c. they left school early and could buy gear themselves.]

For most of my 6 years at uni, I supported myself financially, and still there was little money for funky duds. Again I felt a bit plain compared to my friends who were living at home with mostly very wealthy parents, and had generous allowances.  I dealt with it.

I remember getting my first paycheque as an intern. It was literally 10 times what I had been getting on Austudy. 

I went shopping. I spent $400, and much of the stuff was on sale. I thought that was a lot, and, for a lot of people, it is. It was exhilarating. Then a much less pleasant feeling came along. Guilt.

Every time I bought something, or booked a holiday, or did something nice involving spending money, there would be the same pattern of brief exhilaration, then guilt, and a bit of anxiety. It was quite an amorphous, vague feeling, but over the years it became quite erosive. It is only recently, with the help of therapy (more money >_< ) that I have become more conscious of it and broken it down a bit.

These thoughts were generally involved. They might not sound rational but these sort of things rarely are.

  • "You don't deserve it"
  • "You can't afford it"
  • "Your money will go away and you will be left with nothing but a pile of clothes"
  • "You are superficial"
  • "You could have saved that money and be buying something much more worthwhile".
Yes, I felt that because my Mum couldn't afford nice stuff (she can to a degree now), I didn't deserve to have nice stuff. It is amazing what we rightly or wrongly learn and integrate into ourselves.

Also, every time I made a transaction, my mum would say to me "jeez, more stuff, don't you have enough?" My now ex-husband would say to me "we can't afford that, I want to save money, you are materialistic".

The thing was, I happened to like nice stuff. Still do. So I bought.
There was also a degree of medicating other stuff in my life with a spot of shopping. It was temporarily effective. Temporarily.

 The thing was, I never, ever got us into debt, never spent more than what I earned, and we did ok! We saved a deposit up after 2 and a bit years of full time work.
I could never bring myself to do the massive designer purchase, either. Probably a good thing.

A year or two ago, I dealt with this and a lot of other things that were making me feel bad.
Some things came out - I work hard, and I do deserve nice things. 

This is not quite automatic. I still feel guilty and anxious after I buy things now. Last weekend, I went to a Veronika Maine fashion parade, and was the unwilling (ok quite willing) victim of some serious clothes pushing. There were some purchases made.

I scared away the guilt and anxiety with I work hard, and I do deserve nice things. 

I also shop a bit more mindfully now. Here are some tactics that I use:

  • I only ever buy things I love. If I am not sure, I generally walk away, or I defer the decision
  • If I love it, I will pay good money for it, within reason. Generally I rarely spend over $250 on an article of clothing, or shoes.
  • I try to wear most of my clothes rather than just sticking to the same things over and over again.
  • I try to cull regularly
  • I realise that it is ok to rehome things - normal people turn wardrobe items over every season/ few seasons.
  • I don't buy stuff that was too small as motivation to lose weight. (I used to do that. That fucked with my head)
  • I am setting up an ebay account to sell some impulse purchases
  • I have set up an automatic savings account so there is less income to spend thoughtlessly
  • I pay off credit card purchases as soon as possible, generally within a week or two.
  • I have no hesitation in taking things back for exchange/ refund if I am not happy with them.
  • I shop with the full realisation that stuff looks pretty on, but generally it won't make me happier particularly if I am not already feeling happy.
I realise that I have enough, and I am enough, and that yes, I work hard, and I do deserve nice things.

So, over to you...

Is what I am saying familiar? Foreign?
Do you have any principles re buying? Quality? Quantity?


  1. Oh yes, the guilt. I do feel it, quite often.
    Mine is also probably due to a mother who never really enjoys spending money on herself. She grew up very poor, and thinks it's awful to be extravagant with money.
    If I show her any new purchases, she always makes some negative comment.
    My solution to this is to lie and tell her that things are old or very cheap. For example, I almost always knock a 0 off the price of shoes!
    I do tend to spend big $$$ on shoes and tailoring, but I also keep things for a REALLY long time and look after them.

    my principles are that I only buy something if I still want it after 2 weeks. No impulse buys for me (or very few) and I only buy something if i can imagine wearing it with at least 5 items of my current wardrobe. It must also be fairly classic, as I'm no spring chicken and don't need a 'trendy' wardrobe.

    I'm glad that you have worked on getting rid of guilt. I think that it's a waste of time to have buyer's guilt. You DO deserve nice things and you SHOULD treat yourself!

    1. I think you are cool and trendy!!!
      I am sure your daughter does too.
      I like your approach.

  2. Oh I love this Cilla, I do. I've just written a chapter of my book that talks about my childhood and not having many new clothes ... what happened to me though was I hit 15, got my first part-time job and spent it all on clothes from then on. Didn't have the guilt - more went the other way!

    Now that I'm older, for me it's mindfulness and if I find myself talking myself into a purchase, I walk away because my number one rule is that you have to LOVE it to buy it.

    1. Indeed, you have to love it to buy it.
      I would LOVE a Balenciaga city handbag.
      Maybe someday....

  3. Love the way you wrote about this. This is something that I have problems with as well probably also due to dad was a priest before he gave it up for my mum and so I was ingrained with what I will for time purposes label catholic guilt and a heightened awareness of the poor etc but my mum was the youngest girl from a rather comfortable family so I waver between oh crap this could have fed an entire Cambodian village for a year to well this is so much cheaper than Chanel couture. Funny bc I was going to post something similar on this topic too.

    1. You should totally post something. I would love to hear your point of view on it.

  4. I've gone so many ways with my spending. I used to overspend like crazy but now I think I've got a relatively good balance on things. Now I don't shop for therapy but for need. And I don't need all that much new stuff but if I find something that I really like I'll buy it. It's complicated isn't it! :)

  5. This speaks to me! My general rule is to not buy any significant purchases at first sight. I like to mull on it overnight. If I can be bothered to return to the store, than it's worthwhile. I also appreciate a bargain. Recently my husband talked me out of buying a Jimmy Choo white leather handbag for $150 from a store that had been taken over in possession. Something about us not having excess money at the moment... He said I could get one in the future at full price. I would never value it the same way. I would always look at it with guilt, remembering how close I once got for getting it at a bargain price! It hurts! But sometimes, as a wife, it's good to let your husband have a few wins- to hold it against them as needed ;)

  6. I bought a pair of $300 shoes recently. I have never spent that much on a pair of shoes in my life. Not even close... well maybe close with runners...

    I tried them on and they were like they'd been made specifically for my feet. I felt guilty afterwards but now the guilt has gone and I know those shoes will last me longer than 10 pairs of $30 shoes, and without the pain and suffering (I have very sensitive feet).

    Buyer's guilt is something I'm constantly working on too. Plus I've been saving for travel for the past what five years or more so putting all money towards that. And then the whole sweatshop issue around clothes... that adds to it as well... yikes!

  7. my dad was always a very 'deficit model' person - we had to be frugal not bc it was a good idea but bc 'we couldn't afford it' (which I later found to be rubbish). My sister and I have talked about how we always felt guilty about buying things until we deliberately challenged the belief that there wasn't (and wouldn't be) enough. I think it's part of trusting yourself (aka getting old!). I have just started to earn quite a bit more money than ever before but I am confident enough in myself as a person to know that yes, I might be spending a bit extra lately but I am essentially a planner and a responsible person. At the moment I am getting immense pleasure out of being able to buy stuff that I wouldn't have in the past (for 'sensible' reasons). I'll get used to this income and I'll slow down I am sure. But as you say, I work hard and I earn my nice things!