Spending More Money Is Easier Than Spending Less

Sometimes, a big purchase feels better than a million small ones.

Photo: Dana Voss

About three weeks ago, I left the house very decisively in the middle of the workday to go to Nordstrom Rack. Usually a trip to Nordstrom Rack is an hours-long affair, spent carting around various pairs of shoes and contemplating discount body lotion, but this time, I knew exactly what I wanted. I bought a leather jacket, paid $200 for it, and stood outside under the awning by the Duane Reade, staring at my phone, quietly moving the money from my savings account to my checking account. I went home and was back at my desk in fifteen minutes; the entire process took me an hour.

“I just spent $200 like it wasn’t a big deal,” I texted my sister. “Who am I?!”

“You always freak out about money,” she told me, “when you have absolutely no need to.”

That’s only sort of true. Small purchases — the magazines, the Kit-Kats, the $10 shirts bought to fulfill a desire rather than a need — are the ones I agonozie over the most. I don’t need a magazine, a Kit-Kat, some new body wash and maybe a lipstick or two. But, anytime I go to the drugstore to get the one thing I actually do need, I end up leaving with five other extras. Budgeting for those extras is mostly unnecessary, at least for me. I am okay enough to be able to spend $30 in a day without having to recalibrate my entire month, but it’s the fear of those small purchases addding up to bankrupt me that causes distress. They never do; I keep such a short leash on my bank account and the balance that I would know before the bank would if my money dipped below the $100 mark. But, the ease with which I spend money, especially in the smaller increments, is enough to give me pause.

Larger purchases are planned; they are considered carefully for weeks at a time before deciding to find the money and throw it at something that may or may not be an actual “problem.” Light jacket weather — that tricky time of year when it’s sunny but brisk and a sweatshirt isn’t enough — was the problem. The leather jacket, purchased after thinking about it long and hard, was the solution.

Do big purchases stress you out? Do you feel okay with frittering away tiny chunks of change versus plunking down $500 to buy something that isn’t a plane ticket or a new water heater or something? Is this just me?