Sometimes I think I live on a completely different planet to everyone else.
We’re sat talking about shopping and my friend, Amelia, who lives in Dusseldorf complains about the lack of shopping variety there. She used to live in London and says she misses Karen Millen, Whistles and a couple of other (high-end) high street shops that she used to frequent. I have never even walked into any of the shops she’s just mentioned except Karen Millen where I bought a dress once in 2007; I still wear that dress. I see them as being too over-priced and plus, I have other priorities. £100 when shoes are on sale? No way. I could get three or four great quality shoes for that £100.
Amelia reminds me of that age-old argument about having to use your feet every day and hence the necessity of treating them well.
I tell her that her reasoning doesn’t hold water. Billions of people on this planet have been wearing plastic shoes and in many cases no shoes at all for donkeys years with no orthopaedic problems to speak of.
Anyway, I digress. I know she comes to London a few times every year so I suggest she merges all her shopping into those trips.
“You only need to do a proper shop once or twice a year, right?”
“Umm, no, like once or twice every month.”
I’m quite astonished . Personally, I shop according to need most of the time: a wedding, a major party or my work clothes looking tatty. Then once a year I will do a major shop spending about half a months’ salary in one go and then no more. I didn’t even do one of those this year, I opted instead to invest in a fabulous wedding dress.
I rarely go clothes shopping outside of the event-driven and annual wardrobe upgrade. Weird, right? That’s what I am thinking right now. Lots of women seem to go shopping all the time and my question is, where is all that liquidity coming from?
Bernard overhears us and gets interested. He comes over to seek advice on which Louis Vuitton handbag he should get his new wife for Christmas. Hello? Louis Vuitton? I remind him of the several thousand pounds of debt he still has on his credit card from his wedding earlier in the year and he says he’ll ask his pa for a bit of dosh. Ask your father for money when you are not even in desperate need? ! I won’t even get into that.
Another friend, Josephine, joins the conversation at this point and I confess to all three that I feel guilty when I spend too much on myself. I believe that coming where I come from (i.e. Malawi) I can only remain true to my roots and to the meaning of life with simplicity and generosity where I can afford it. I said that rather than buying a £600 Louis Vuitton handbag, if I had that cash sitting around, I would much rather call my mum and ask her to find me someone who needs secondary school funding.
You’re by now thinking, well, if they have the cash, why not? Thing is, I’m not sure that they do. Amelia asks why I have such a stark view on money management although I earn ‘loads’ more than her.
It’s simple. I think what I value the most in life (besides friends and family) is freedom, the freedom from being tied down by a job or by bills or by a mortgage. Whatever excess money I have, I find some way to invest so that as soon as is possible, I will own my house outright and all bills will be paid for from unearned income - income from investments.
Our conversation veers into Amelia’s dislike of non-natural materials. “I only wear cotton, wool, leather, viscose and other natural fibres. Nothing that starts with a P.”
“So you’re high maintenance, basically.” I chimed.
“No but if I can get the natural fibre, I will, they feel better.”
“I haven’t noticed any major difference in how I feel in different clothes.”
“Of course they feel different. If I find a really fabulous dress but it’s the wrong material, I won’t buy it.”
For the first time, I come to the realization that the material of clothing is a major factor in some people’s shopping decisions. I judge clothes visually. If the quality looks good visually, I’ll buy it. I have never even thought to check the label to ensure it’s natural! Is that just me? Please tell me it’s not. Geez, a whole other world has just opened to me. I’ve just had to check what my sweater is made from. It says 100% cotton Phew!, I’m not being judged. But even if I was, I have never cared, no point starting now.
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