What my last 100 bucks says about me:

I have come to realize that the way I spend my money says a lot about who I am as a person and the sequential order in which I buy things has even more to say about me. If I were to look at the sequential order of my spending a year ago, I would be introducing you to a very different individual. Last year you might have met couponing Alexa, purchasing off brand one-ply toilet paper that would never be used and was purchased for no other reason than the fact that she could not resist a good deal.

What I am trying to say is that looking at the sequential order of my last 100 bucks has taught me a lot more than I thought it would and not just about myself but also my relationship with money.

The first purchase I tracked was my Grande Soy Latte from Starbucks at $4.69. This caffeine boost came 3 and a half hours into my day at 9am post workout and before class. Luckily for me, I have the Starbucks app and can enjoy my latte. The money I used to pay for this latte feels like monopoly money — I simply tap a few times and my transaction is complete.

What is especially unique about this purchase is the way I decided to pay. I have to willingly put money on this app for a specific purpose: to indulge my need for a Starbucks latte. The Starbucks app spending tool has become a type of “special money” where the understanding of its use is different than the fundamental understandings of traditional market money. Viviana Zelizer brings up this idea of special money and its role in, “The Social Meaning of Money: ‘Special Monies.’” This money has a single purpose: to purchase Starbucks products. The Money cannot be used outside of Starbucks and to be even more thorough — can only be used at independent Starbucks locations. I cannot go to a Barnes & Noble and expect them to take this form of money. The Starbucks app is highly specified and plays a very distinct role in my world.

My next purchase comes straight from my credit card at Roots: Natural Kitchen where I purchase my salad for $9.00 at 12:30pm. It is not along until my next purchase comes, at the supermarket, where I purchase, you guessed it, food. The blueberries, spinach, cauliflower, and yogurts brings me to a total of $20.50. I used my credit card to make this purchase as well.

Very possibly at this moment it may seem like you are meeting hungry Alexa but, these purchases relate to an even bigger picture when paired with the rest of the $100. I can justify to myself quickly swiping my card for essential purchases like food that fits my diet restrictions.

At 5pm on that same day, I headed to the Nike in Charlottesville where I purchased a sports bra for $39.97. I was in desperate need of this. Working out five days a week warrants new gear every once in a while. I effortlessly bought the sports bra with my credit card and went on my way.

I quickly ran over to the nearest CVS where I purchased a new pair of headphones for the gym. Don’t get me wrong, I am a loyal Apple customer — I almost exclusively purchase their electronic products. But as a frequent gym member, I cannot tell you how many of my headphones go through the wash. I have come to find that CVS’s $16.99 headphones are one of the few that can survive multiple washes.

I struggle to pull out my twenty-dollar bill to make this purchase. Handing over a crisp twenty to a CVS employee is something I do about every two months after misplacing the last pair of headphones. It never gets easy. Every once in a while I begin to feel guilty about using my credit card and try to get myself to use cash. I make sure I only use cash when purchasing one of my many pairs of headphones hoping that it might make me more money conscious — this usually only has short-term consequences on my spending.

I find that I really struggle with paying for things with cash. Cash feels like actual money (probably because it is) and puts a layer of guilt on me when I spend it that credit cards just don’t do. I also question my relationship with price. For some purchases in my life such as a MacBook or a new screen for my iPhone, I don’t hesitate to spend. However, with some other purchases (especially those made in cash) I struggle.

My relationship to price can be examined with Frederick F. Wherry’s, “The Social Characterizations of Price: The Fool, the Faithful, the Frivolous, and the Frugal.” Looking at my purchase of t the headphones, I see a Frugal side of me — where others may see the Frivolous. I am quick to compare my regular spending of electronics at a high end company such as Apple. I do this to justify that paying $16.99 every two months is acceptable because generally I pay a lot more. Another side of this Frugal persona is paying in cash. When I pay in cash I think I am being very conscious. I also consider myself to be calculating when it comes to purchasing very specific things. For instance, I don’t hesitate to buy workout clothing because I believe that it is absolutely essential to my lifestyle whereas, for headphones, I search eagerly to find the most competitive price.

Wherry brings up the idea that price also has social functions. In a social world, how much money I spend on clothing and electronics identifies me in a specific group. Although it is not always accurate, accepting the costs of certain things can show the world around you that you are either Frugal, Foolish, Faithful or Frivolous. We also see this with the large misconception on the 1%. Although we think people are in the 1% because of their high incomes… generally the people that make up the 1% are there because of assets. It is easily to be fooled by somebody’s relationship with price or money.

The following day I make my last purchase that brings me to the $100 finish line. I bought ten Alkaline Waters from Trader Joes. This purchase goes on my credit card and brings my total to $101.05. If you exercise somewhat frequently I would definitely recommend this water. The electrolytes allow for a faster recovery time and to somebody like me, that is important and worth spending extra money on — our body lives off of water, why not give it the best quality for the lifestyle you live?

Looking at my sequential spending it becomes pretty clear to me that you are meeting fitness Alexa. Having Type A personality has really affected my spending habits. When I begin something I generally over-commit. When I was in my yoga phase, you could find my sequence of purchases include avocados, yoga classes and the appropriate yoga attire.

What I am currently into dictates how I spend my money. Six months ago I would buy two avocados a week and now I would rather be handcuffed to a Duke student than buy one. And who knows, maybe next year you will meet tech Alexa with all the latest software and technology.

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