I did it. I bought another fancy bag. My second “grownup bag” of my entire life, purchased almost a year to the day of my last one. Only the difference is I didn’t feel bad about it this time, I didn’t feel shameful in my gratuitousness as I walked down the street holding a paper bag, the word MARNI emblazoned on the front. No. This time I deserved it. “I’m thirty, damn it!” I told myself, a rationalization that is probably indicative of the future trajectory of my savings account, slowly tapering as funds are funneled into things like $1,000 shoes and out of the “I want to buy a house one day” stash. Stupid New York. You’ve made me such an expensive person!
Since I received my first paycheck as a pre-teen, a whopping $200-something dollars scraped together by slaving away at the local Robeks for $6.65 an hour, I’ve been squirreling away money every chance I can get. Though, admittedly, my Depression-era-like tenets of saving were not something I naturally gravitated to on my own; it was my mother who first walked me into the local Bank of America, wielding her weird calculator built for financial analysts, and forced me to deposit exactly 25% of that paycheck. To the penny. Parting with that $50 bill was absolute hell. And due to raging pubescent hormones and the thought of all the Coffee Bean Ice Blendeds my mother was singlehandedly robbing me of — I sort of hated her for it.
But that’s what parenting is: Cracking the whip before your kid is too old to resist you, ingraining in them such positive habits like saving, and removing the absurd, instantly gratifying inclination to spend $3,000 on a snakeskin backpack with Japanese zippers (don’t worry; I’m not there yet). To my credit, I did really well adhering to the frugal life throughout most of my twenties. Being a freelancer my entire career, you have to plan to weather the storms — blank, empty spaces where you phone doesn’t ring for days at a time, when each trip to the grocery store means a dip into a paycheck you might not be getting that month.
But then I moved to New York, the city that will suck you dry if you let it. And it’s not even an unpleasant bloodletting. Losing all your fortunes in New York City is a sign that you had the time of your life! Brunches, dinners, cabs, fancy lady bags. It’s the world’s most expensive playground. Vowing to abstain from the fun takes a fortitude most do not have, or, like me, check at the door. As a friend screamed in my ear at a club once, “NO ONE HERE SAVES MONEY. THEY’RE ALL BROKE.” Which is something remarkable, considering the place we were at served $18 cocktails and expensive future ex-girlfriends. It wasn’t a place you came if you were broke.
Over the last few years, I’ve learned to dance somewhere in between being sensible and not caring. Being so strict with my cash was exhausting, though there is certainly a payoff — namely, security. But penny-pinching is dull, depriving yourself of the most stupid pleasures (even if it’s just taking a cab home at 10 p.m. instead of getting on the subway) isn’t necessary all of the time.
Sometimes there’s no cheaper and easier thrill than being a lady of luxury.