Treat Yourself?: A Friday Chat

Always Eat The Cake (Before It Goes Bad)

ESTER: Happy pre-cruise Friday, Nicole! Are you excited? (Of course you’re excited. That’s like asking, Have you packed your necklaces with cute animals on them?)

NICOLE: I am very excited! I have packed fewer necklaces this year than I did last year, mostly because of the types of dresses I’m bringing with me. But I did make my annual color-coded outfit grid, and it is beautiful.

ESTER: I’m so glad. Are you going to continue your “treats vs denials” tracking while on ship? Because I imagine you’ll be faced with lots of interesting conundrums.

NICOLE: I was thinking about that, yes. How to catalog my spending for the inevitable “How Much I Spent on the JoCo Cruise” roundup. I like the idea of thinking of it as treats and denials. The great thing about the boat is that so much of the treats are already built into the cruise booking. Like, I’ll be able to eat as much food as want, including desserts, for free.

But yes, there are opportunities to spend money at every turn! Excursions, adult beverages, jewelry sales, etc. So I could very easily tell you all of the things I denied myself, once I return.

ESTER: I am excited for that. Maybe I’ll keep a rough tally too and we can compare.

NICOLE: So what do you consider a treat vs. a denial? Do you have to have been thinking about buying it for a while before you can say you’re “denying” yourself something? Or does it feel like a denial every time you say no to an impulse buy?

ESTER: No, I appreciated the distinction you made in the most recent piece about this, because I think considering an impulse buy and deciding against it isn’t necessarily self-denial; sometimes, even most of the time, it just feels like judiciousness. I mean, self-control is not the same thing as self-denial, right?

When it gets tricky for me is when I do kind of need something — like new boots — and it’s February, so everywhere I go, boots are on sale, but I’m still waffling over the purchase because it involves spending around or over $100. Getting myself boots wouldn’t be a treat, if I need boots, right? Or is it? (It feels like it is.)

Footwear is a gray area. Kind of like food. We need food, if not dessert. The piece of cake I had after lunch, the last bit left over from this adorable little Valentine’s Day dessert my mom brought up last weekend, was definitely a treat. And yet, if I’d left it any longer, it may well have gone bad.

NICOLE: Yes, always eat the cake before it goes bad! That’s probably one of the other reasons why buying boots feels like a treat; the ones you’re wearing haven’t gone bad yet. They might be getting there, but if there isn’t water coming up through the soles, you don’t really need boots yet. Or so you tell yourself. Even though you could save money now by shopping the sales!

ESTER: Right. Anything at least partly fun, or “frivolous” seeming, can be seen as a treat, even if it’s simultaneously useful and important. That’s where I think a lot of my trouble comes from. Just as there’s a difference between self-control and self-denial, there’s a difference between self-care and self-indulgence. I’ve just not always sure where the line is, and that leads me to veer too far in one direction.

NICOLE: And since we’re a money-oriented group, spending anything more than the minimum required to take care of ourselves and our loved ones feels like failing. Or like we’re doing something wrong. So many of my Doing Money interviewees tell me they feel guilty about such small purchases, just because they’re “discretionary” or “extra.”

ESTER: I relate to that so much. But what, ultimately, is “discretionary”? We could all probably reduce, reuse, and recycle much or even more than we do, though it would affect our quality of life. At what point do we say, “Enough?” Or, “I’m entitled to whatever pleasure I can afford?”

NICOLE: I feel like if we had a better way of handling emergencies, we would be better equipped to make these decisions and feel better about them. I get this sense that we’re all saving pennies now because we’re waiting for an appliance to break or a healthcare need or something that’ll suck up all that extra cash. Because even when it’s a small emergency, like my rotten head of broccoli, I don’t feel bad about solving that problem with money.

ESTER: Remember that immersive theatrical experience I told you Ben was taking me to for our anniversary? There was a scene in it in which a few of us spectators were taken to a fountain, given pennies, and told to make a wish out of the first thought that came to mind. The word I thought, as I looked down into the water, was “Safety.” And yet I have also learned over the years that no amount of money in the bank makes me feel safe.

NICOLE: Yes. All of this. Today I had to take some money out of my savings account to make an early rent payment because I’ll be overseas when I should be paying rent, and because the checks that would have helped me pay the rent without taking money out of savings will arrive while I’m away. And it still makes me feel all panicky inside, because that money is supposed to stay in the bank and never be spent, just in case I need it.

ESTER: What did you do with the panic? Talk to it?

NICOLE: No, I made a to-do item to return the money to savings and figured out how to apportion my next six or seven checks accordingly. The Nicole Method. ;)

ESTER: Indeed: getting things done. :) Well, have a terrific cruise! I hope you feel great about whatever treats you say Yes to, both during and after.

NICOLE: I will keep careful notes, I promise you! I hope you and The Billfold have a terrific week while I’m away. Also, to the handful of Billfolders whom I know are also JoCo Cruisers: come say hi!