Attitudes towards money and suitable clothing
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.
Buying myself that freedom will mean more time to enjoy with family and to pursue hobbies and charitable causes. For me, this obsession with clothes and nice cushy things seems insane, absolutely crazy.
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.
Agreed. We Malawians are a very unique, funny, high-spirited and optimistic bunch. Today, is my one monthiversary and I have decided to give a tribute to the awesome motherland by linking in this video from Kiwiz007.
...Or at least that’s how I felt for the first hour after watching The Ultimate Guide to Penny Pinching on TV. They rounded up a select group of Britain’s best penny pinchers and I was astounded at the extent that some people will go to, to save a penny – and in some cases it was literally a few pennies:
There are only 24 hours in a day. Part of the reason I work is to buy myself some leisure time. I have a plethora of hobbies which I want to pursue in my non-working hours – reading, writing, spending time with my family and friends, sleeping?! Rather than spend an hour going through price comparison websites to decide where to shop, I can do one of the above.
I thought, if these people chased enterprising ventures with as much earnest as they do the bargain hunting surely they would by now be raking it in? One can spend so much time trying to save a buck when in fact, spending the same amount of time trying to find a new revenue stream would earn you two bucks.
Finally, Peace of mind
Sometimes people underrate the importance of having peace of mind. Ms Coupons admitted that whenever she heard there was a deal to be had somewhere she just had to go there and get it – even if she didn’t like the product in question! Come on? I wouldn’t want to have that kind of stress. She felt she was being wasteful if she didn’t take advantage of a deal.
My opinion on the matter is – let’s pursue frugality but let’s not be obsessed about it. I’ll try to be generous of heart but I won’t be wasteful; I’ll try to save money but I won’t make it the bane of my life.
By Heather Katsonga-Woodward
I'm always thinking, debating, considering and revising my views - some of those deliberations will be shared right here.