Growing up, my parents were young immigrants in the United States struggling to provide for our family while studying to be doctors at the same time. Needless to say, money was tight. Through years and years of grooming, frugality became second nature to me and because of it, people called me materialistic. It was a force of habit for me to bark, “How much was that?” or “Was it on sale?” whenever I saw someone with a purse or a shirt I liked. I didn’t feel it strange to walk down the cookie isle in the grocery store and scrutinize the rows and rows of boxes, thinking about how much they were per ounce or feeling that trigger of excitement when my eyes fell upon a tag that read: Buy One Get One Free. But as my family grew and developed, rising up into society, living the American dream… I kept this habit, this virtue, close to me.
I can’t tell you how many times my mom has proudly recounted how I’d said, “Mommy, is this one cheap enough?” And I can’t tell you how much I began to detest this feeling— this obsession with money. Don’t get me wrong here, I have lived frugality; it is, and will always be, a part of me. I realize that for some people it is a struggle to keep their hands on their money, but for me, it’s the issue of learning when it is okay to spend it. Being too conscious about money is not a good thing. Putting away every penny into your piggy bank may eventually make you rich, but by that time, will you truly be able to experience what you love? By living frugally, you save the money for tomorrow, but in the meantime, you begin to forget the important things in life and that sometimes money can bring you closer to happiness.
Spending those extra ten dollars to go out to the movies with friends on a Saturday night may not actually buy you happiness, but it can buy you a bucket of laughs and a cup of memories. And forking over that extra $50 dollars for a private lesson with your coach, so that you can feel the accomplishment of beating the other players isn’t horrible. This may be old news for some people, but spending that additional money means something to me. It means pushing aside my old values to make room for new ones. It signifies that I have grown and adapted to my life. I am still neurotic about finding the best deal, and wince when I see money pass from my hand to another’s, but I am now able to fully appreciate the lessons my mother taught me as a child. I know now that life shouldn’t revolve around buying the cheapest thing, or the most expensive for that matter, but being aware of your life and current situation and knowing that sometimes, it’s okay to splurge.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.