Friday, May 26, 2006

Can't Buy Me Love

Yesterday I ordered these new heels for work as a replacement for the infamous (and… er…fragrant) problem shoes. The shoe powder isn’t working and they just kind of gross me out. Especially when I get home from work and slip them off, only to have Alex run over and bury his face in them because he’s looking for the decomposing rodent that must be hiding in one of the toes.

You can always count on man’s best friend to draw attention to an embarrassing issue.

So yes, I love the shoes, but it took five days of staring at them online, all stealthy and stalker-like, before I could bring myself to hit the Add to Cart! button. Three days later, I clicked Proceed to Checkout!

My husband and I are careful with our money. For many years, we had little. Dates were making pasta and watching whatever movie was on TV, because even a video from Blockbuster was a little too pricey. God, what would we have done if gas cost $3.20 a gallon back then?

I’d have been riding my bike on the beltway, that’s what.

When it came to pulling together a wardrobe for work, it was tough. I became an expert at mix-n-match. I had three pairs of shoes: brown, black, and navy. The black and navy shoes were exactly the same style, which led to a very embarrassing day in my life when I wore one of each color to work. At the time I worked at an adolescent day treatment center, so I tried to pretend like it was Crazy Shoes Day.

No one believed me, so I shortened it to Crazy Day.

Everyone was down with that one!

Growing up, I was very aware of money. My parents weren’t the kind of folks who would cheerfully hand over ten bucks when I wanted to go to the mall. For most things we wanted, we had to come up with the cash ourselves. We did chores to earn our allowances, of which we had to save half. Any lawn mowing or babysitting money I earned also had to be divided equally between spending and savings.

I had a mutual fund by the time I was 7 years old, which was where my paltry savings went each month. My parents did not contribute to this account. I was not allowed to touch the money in it. As a result, it grew over the years.

When I was 16 and got my first job, I got a checking account, a checkbook, and a credit card. I already knew what a FICO credit score was and I lived in terror of not paying my credit card bill on time. I usually sent the payment in two weeks early. To this day I have never, ever carried a balance on my card.

I’m thankful to my parents, especially my pop, for giving me a healthy respect for money and savings. It’s served me well thus far. (I also think it's why I'm somewhat obsessed with My Super Sweet 16. You mean these parents just give their kids $300,000? For a birthday party? I couldn't even get two bucks for pizza!)

To be honest-- thankful though we are today, my brother and sister and I had unlimited jokes about dad's frugal ways when we were kids. Once in Florida we passed a cheesy little discount store named Don Cheapo's and it was all over. We almost peed our pants over that one, laughing and howling ten miles down the road. Dad is still known to this day as Don Cheapo, and mom, of course, is Donna Cheapo.

(This is why you have children, right? So they can mock you and throw your careful teachings back in your face.)

Being so fixated on frugality and saving, I’ve often been afraid to have any fun with my money. This became clear when we bought our house three years ago. We worked our asses off to save for it, fought the crazy DC area market to win a bid, went to closing and got the keys. As we stood exclaiming in the empty living room that was ours, all ours!, our voices echoed throughout the house.

“You know,” M said, “We’re going to have a lot of shopping to do.”

Fearfully, my eyes scanned the room. Mentally I calculated how many couches and rugs and tables and lamps we would need. And a lawnmower! Oh my God, WE HAD A LAWN THAT NEEDED MOWING.

I moaned, imagining all the dollars that would be spent.

But over the past couple of years, I’ve let the dollars flow a bit more freely, as evidenced by this and this and this. Oh, and maybe these. Wheeee! Spending [no more than half of my] money is fun!

Last night I told my husband about the new heels I'd ordered online.

"Awesome!" he said. "They'll look cute on you."

I studied him. "You know, most husbands wouldn't have that response."

He laughed. "I know."

"How come?"

"The last thing I'll ever have to worry about is you spending too much money."

It was my turn to laugh. "Thank you. I think."

"Besides," he said, "You never used to buy nice things for yourself. You deserve it."

And I wanted to marry him all over again, right that minute, but there wasn't time. So I went into the kitchen and made him some homemade baked ziti, which is every Italian boy's dream come true.

(yes, I used a coupon when I bought the ziti. Are you crazy?)

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Blogger His suzy said...

Liz, that's so sweet. My grampa was an extreme penny-pincher (they even made a lot of their clothes), but the rest of us are benefiting from it now.

And the shoes are so cute!

12:06 PM  
Blogger Elsa said...

The shoes are super cute - I love them!

And I totally understand about growing up saving...saving...and saving. My parents are immigrants, so they had to save to buy a house, car, etc. My grandparents and their 4 kids (one was my mom) came over to America from the Azores Islands (Portuguese) with their suitcases and $400 - not much for 6 people...even in 1960. Anyhow, they definitely didn't take $ for granted. But I have to say, my parents found a nice balance between saving and having a good time. Even though they were savers, they enjoyed traveling, nice clothes, charity, etc. When I started out on my own, I was quite frugal - always used coupons, bought clothes on sale, etc. As I get older, I have more of a balance - I still save, but not to the detriment of not having a nice time and enjoying "stuff". So I spend my money mostly on entertainment like traveling, theatre, going out to eat, etc. I'm not a "thing" person, so I don't buy too many "tangible" items (i.e. stuff for the house, clothes, etc). I'm more into enjoying my time rather than material possessions - so that's where I put my money.

1:02 PM  
Blogger Bearette24 said...

I had a friend in college whose parents were both doctors, but they told her they were "poor and had to shop at Almy's." She's now a doctor herself, but extremely frugal.

College summers, I used to work at a movie theater and give my mom most of my money toward tuition. One girl I worked with asked, "Do you get to keep anything?" I resented it at the time, but it's a good idea to save. Even now I have an account I don't touch.

2:32 PM  
Blogger Frema said...

With five kids in the family and one stay-at-home mom, we weren't on welfare or anything, but money was often tight. I got a job when I was 16, too, and have pretty much had one ever since. I bought my own dresses for school dances and often gave money to my younger siblings for things like neighorhood carnivals.

I was the only one of my siblings that worked during high school, though, and now the youngest one is thirteen and will probably never have to work for spare cash. I'm glad my parents are doing better, but I'm really glad I learned about making money so young.

P.S. I have to say, your taste in shoes is muy fabulous.

4:26 PM  
Blogger chris said...

nice post. i don't see anything wrong with saving money and pinching pennies. i'm working on that right now.

4:33 PM  
Blogger His suzy said...

Frema, every time I see that little picture of yours, it makes me giggle a wee bit. :)

6:08 PM  
Blogger Kim said...

FYI, my ol' buddy Kris has informed me that if you put your leather shoes in the freezer, they don't smell anymore. I've tried it and it works!

9:22 PM  
Blogger Carolyn said...

Great shoes!

I wish my parents had imparted money lessons to me. Sadly, I seem to spend more than comes in.

It seems the kids always have their hands out. Maybe I need to become Donna Cheapo myself.

12:06 AM  
Blogger verniciousknids said...

You've got yourself a winner there...your hubby...and your shoes ;)

6:19 AM  
Blogger Frema said...

Thanks, Suzy! I keep meaning to update my profile picture. I also keep meaning to update my blog, but, you know, whatever. :)

10:53 PM  
Blogger Liz said...

I'm glad you guys have always liked my shoe selections thus far, but I'll trust you to tell me if I ever choose something hideous. Bloggers don't let bloggers buy hideous shoes.

Kim-- really? I was planning to joyfully toss the stinky shoes into the trash when the new ones come this afternoon, but maybe I'll do a freezer experiment first...

Pop was careful with his money but always generous with his time and love. He is a great dad.

9:37 AM  
Blogger verniciousknids said...

I'm curious to know if freezing the offending shoes now will fix the problem...or will the odour simply be frozen and so then when you next wear them and your feet gradually defrost them...the scent will come wafting out?!

11:32 AM  
Blogger Liz said...

Or maybe the stink could be absorbed by the freezer and its contents? I hope not. I have some lovely homemade pesto in there.

12:13 PM  
Blogger Roxanne said...

Eww, stinky feet flavored pesto. Remind me not to come eat at your house. ;)

I, too, grew up learning the value of money and hard work. My grandpa owned a 'mom and pop' grocery store and my parents eventually leased the business portion. From the time that I could peek over the countertop, I was waiting on customers. Bagging, ringing up on the register, stocking shelves, counting the money at the end of the day, and my all-time favorite .....spying on the customers who were known for shoplifting. It made me appreciate all that my parents were able to provide for us. And it made our family much closer since we were able to spend so much time together even though we were working.

12:27 PM  
Blogger Liz said...

Maybe I'll write in to the Iron Chef show and suggest stinky shoes! as a secret ingredient.

12:31 PM  
Blogger His suzy said...

If the stink is caused by bacteria or something like that, I'm guessing freezing it would just kill it, not postpone the stink. At least that's what I'm hoping. lol

1:03 PM  

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