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A Money Lesson: Spending and Self-Esteem

I couldn’t get this out of my head: Self-worth builds net worth.

I recently found a financial advice column by Suze Orman, “What Money Has Taught Me About Personal Power” that I cut out of O Magazine back in 2009.

What caught my eye was all the underlining I had done under the heading, Self-worth builds net worth. Here’s one nugget that particularly resonated with me: “…we spend more than when we feel less than.” 

How true! It reminded me of my recent struggle to resist a Macy’s special on a skin care line. Buy two items, get a cosmetic bag filled with free samples. These are so tempting! I have half a dozen of these bags in my bathroom cupboard.

At first I resisted and tossed the flyer away. But when I started feeling stressed out and beleaguered, I found myself rationalizing why I should head out to Macy’s for those products: My facial cleanser is almost gone (even though I have two more tubes in a drawer). I just ran out of the body lotion. (But wait! I already have an extra that I bought in the last promotion.) 

Even though I knew I didn’t really need these things, I could feel an almost physical, and definitely emotional, pull to buy something, something to give me that uptick in adrenalin that comes from a successful shopping expedition. 

Suze goes on to say that when she watched how she used money, she discovered that she was trying to keep up with her wealthy friends, spending money she didn’t have. She didn’t feel “good enough,” so she spent to “prove” her worth.

Skin care products aren’t going to relieve the source of my stress or help me deal with it. Shopping can be a diversion—like food. And just like over-indulging in food, over-spending results in a sense of shame and panic—knowing I’ll have to face the credit card statement in the not-too-distant future.

So like Suze, I’m watching my reactions to not spending and not buying. So far it’s been quite an education.

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