Growing up, we always knew that we didn’t have a lot of money.  We would ask my mom, “Are we rich?” and she would reply, “We are rich in love.”  That seemed like a perfectly acceptable response to us, and still to this day, I feel blessed to be rich…in love.  But sometimes?  Sometimes I want to be rich in cash.
I have had some sort of “job” since I was about thirteen (maybe younger if you count raking leaves for neighbors…or babysitting). The reason I started working in the first place was not because my parents wanted to teach me the value of hard work and a dollar. I’m sure they wanted us to learn that lesson, but I don’t think they were looking to drill it into us at eleven or twelve. I started working because my mom could only afford to buy our school clothes at Kmart or Hills, and being in the public school system, I wanted to dress like the popular girls in school…and they shopped at the mall.  So I would get my little paycheck every two weeks and supplement my school clothes money so that I could buy clothes where all the other girls bought clothes. And I became an All-American Teenager.

The irony here is that while you would think I was learning about hard work and money, I really wasn’t.  I was learning how to be a consumer, and I was thinking about what I wanted to buy next. And instead of putting money away in a savings account, I was spending money on low-quality clothes with high-quality price tags.  Sometimes when my mom would compliment me on an outfit, I would tell her how much it cost, and she would say, “Wow.  You probably could have made it for a lot less”. I would reply with something like, “yeah, but who wants to sew?” and be on my way. This lasted for a very, very long time. And then one day I realized that I was stupid.

For the past several years, I have been living the life of the poor person that I am. I have been living well within my means and still, I am struggling to make those two ends that seem galaxies apart, meet.  I am thirty years old and I feel that, financially, I am an infant.  And while I have a plan, and I know that it will not be this way in a couple years, I find myself looking through store windows and wanting.  And yet…other days I prefer the simple way I live…I find comfort in wearing the same clothes over and over and over until they have holes and lose buttons. And even then, I hide the holes and use safety pins to keep things closed.  I feel like I’m doing something good and I take a little bit of pride in re-using things and recycling and living without the excess.  It’s kind of thrilling, really.  At the same time, it reminds me of my age…and how I am about the same age my mother was when we shopped at Kmart.  And now I understand why.

However, last night I was at the mall, and I found a dress for $16. Of course, this was a great deal, so I bought it. Then, I went to Express because they were having a clearance sale, and I found a shirt that I liked. When I looked at the sale price, it was $30. When I held the shirt up to the light, the cotton was so thin, I could see through the material. I knew there would be a hole in the armpit after a few washes, and it probably cost the company 20 cents to make. But that teenage girl that still lives inside got the best of me, and I wanted it.  I rarely go to the mall anymore and even though $30 is quite a splurge for me, I bought it (I am still having some guilt, in case you hadn’t noticed). As I was leaving the store, I heard my mother’s voice in the back of my head, “Honey, you could have made that for a lot cheaper.”

I need to buy a sewing maching.