Too much, yet never enough: residual anxiety over spending
May 15, 2014 5:54 PM Subscribe
There was a time in my childhood when my family was poor. Our situation improved as I grew up. But I must've somehow picked up this anxiety about things such as food and clothing. It doesn't exactly interfere with my life, but it can be a waste of mental energy and makes things a bit less enjoyable. Do you have any suggestions for me?
posted by gemutlichkeit to Work & Money (18 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
I used to be extremely, painfully cheap. I would scour the grocery stores for sales and clip coupons until I whittled my food budget down to $90 or $100 a month; I wouldn't buy an article of clothing unless it was less than $10 for bottoms or $5 for tops.
I think I've since gotten better about this. I keep a budget, but am not obsessive about it. I understand that staying alive costs money, so I'm fine with buying what I need, eating out with friends in moderation, paying for experiences and entertainment. That's all fine. Overall, I'm quite pleased with the improvement.
However, I think clothes shopping or personal care item-shopping is an area where this anxiety still crops up. When I look at the things I have (particularly clothing, which I know my mother always made me feel guilty about wanting when I was younger), I get this feeling of having too much clothing and not enough at the same time. It's a sort of hunger.
I 'enjoy' online window shopping, but the overwhelming feeling I get when I'm about to purchase something is, "... but I don't need this." And then I never buy it, even after having slept on it for up to one or two weeks, having looked at the item online daily within that time period. Back when online shopping wasn't so ubiquitous, I would often go to the store and return empty handed. On the rare occasions that I buy something, it'll be a single item off the clearance rack. The whole process was, and still is, exhausting. I used to, and occasionally still do the same thing for food: I would think to myself, "Hmm, I'd really like to bake chocolate chip cookies this week," and then, after thinking about-- nay, fantasizing about-- said cookies for an entire week, decide that the cost of buying chocolate chips wasn't worth it, and return it to the shelf at the check-out counter. I know that sounds neurotic.
By normal standards, I don't think I have "too many" clothes or things, even though it feels that way to me sometimes. Objective details: My food budget is around $150 a month, my clothes budget is around $20-$30 a month (so I do end up purchasing things!), and all of the clothing I own, excluding jackets, coats, suits, and shoes, fits into one large suitcase. I wear articles of clothing for anywhere from 2 to 7 years, but I do have some items that have gone largely unworn. (That also makes me feel guilty.) I am a student who is essentially living off loans for living expenses, but I'm also on scholarship, and have a minor job that earns enough such that it could technically cover my "fun" expenses such as clothing and entertainment.
If you've had a similar experience with excessive cheapness or spending anxiety, how did you overcome this? Any suggestions would be appreciated!