We’ve been talking about Bad Behavior for the past couple of weeks and this time we’re talking about how we’re bad with money. Our staff dishes on purchases that make them feel the worst, horrible spending habits, and all the ways the rent is too damn high.
What’s something you spend money on but you feel guilty about it because somebody of your income level should probably not spend money on this thing? Why do you do it?
Al(aina), Staff Writer
I feel guilty about literally all of my spending. I live alone, I have wifi and cable, I pay for Netflix and Hulu, I buy lunch more often than I should (there are TWO Chick-fil-a’s on my campus, what else am I supposed to do??). I make around $13K a year and take out around $35K in loans a year; I should be saving as much money as possible. But here’s the thing: I am happy-ish. I know that I feel safe in my home, I don’t have to sit in silence, and I’m eating during the day (when otherwise I wouldn’t). I spend my money in a way I know I shouldn’t because right now, that’s what I need. I don’t think I’d make it through grad school any other way, and when you’re broke, it’s harder to think about the future. I can be good enough right now, and honestly, that’s all I have the capacity to think about.
Alexis, Staff Writer
This is the best question because for once I can say EVERYTHING! I feel guilty about spending money for food, transportation, therapy, books, a nice night out, educational shit, apps, games, everything!!! And once I hit a manic phase: WATCH OUT! Off the top of my head, during those phases I’ve bought: a Wacom tablet, a POCKET C.H.I.P. (FROM CHINA), 10+ books, courses that I’m 900% sure I’ll take and will definitely change my life/move me into a better tax bracket but like don’t, binders that don’t fit, and comics and video games. Literally the only thing that doesn’t feel out of my league spending wise is donating/buying gifts for people I love. But don’t worry, feeling guilty is like one of my main character traits, so I definitely don’t feel like I’ll be stopping any time soon. I’m a real fun time y’all.
Heather Hogan, Senior Editor
I’ve always spent too much money on video games. When I was a freelance writer struggling to buy groceries and put gas in my car, I’d still happily drop $60 on whatever new open world RPG and just eat Hot Pockets for the next two weeks. HOT POCKETS. (I wrote that in all caps because of the TV jingle.) I’m more responsible about it now, but to this day I start itching if I walk past a GameStop. Video games have always been my main source of escape, from the time I got an Atari 2600 in 1984 until the time right now when I have a Nintendo Switch and I don’t have to think about Donald Trump being president when I’m smashing bokoblins and lizalfos. Super healthy!
Erin, Staff Writer
This is going to sound way more dire that it actually is, but food/drinks when I’m going out. When you’re at a bar with a DJ spinning a vinyl of like, the Beastie Boys or whatever, no one needs to be spending $18 for an okay glass of wine in that kind of environment. But sometimes you really do find yourself spending $18 for an okay glass of wine next to a man in a graphic tee while a DJ plays Beastie Boys on vinyl. I think I’m willing to do this (even though in every other area of my life I’m very quick to abstain from something if I don’t think it’s worth it) because I’m constantly aware that death awaits us all and I’m more inclined to want to heighten an experience if I can. Thank you for your time.
Yvonne Marquez, Senior Editor
I want to say food but I never feel guilty for spending $$$$ on a quality meal. I will gladly throw down $50 on an A+ meal complete with an appetizer, a main course and dessert. Food is my absolute favorite thing in the world and I love sharing it with people I love. I don’t mind spending my money on a delicious meal because I’m paying for an experience. My five senses are engaged and I’m investing time into relationships with my partner or friends or family. It’s beautiful. But I know very well I should be eating beans at home. I get bummed out when the food is subpar and then that’s the only time I regret my purchase and wish I could take it back!
Another thing I spend an outrageous amount of money is my hair! My hair cut and balayage is expensive af but I want my hair to look good. It’s like $225 plus tip for a cut and redoing my balayage and girl, I shouldn’t be spending that type of money. But I do it anyways because I want to feel good and look good. I want to be a trendy queer and have good hair even though I only leave my house to go to Trader Joe’s and walk my dog. I rarely style it but when I do I take all the Instagram selfies, duh. Also I really like my hair stylist and the money goes straight to her and not the salon she works at and my reasoning behind paying her an insane amount is that I’m putting money back into my community. So there’s that!
Rachel, Managing Editor
The biggest ticket item, if we’re being totally honest, is rent — when I moved out of the home I shared with my ex last year I made the decision to find a one-bedroom and live alone, even though it’s definitely a stretch on my income. I had just missed living alone so much, and even though the responsible thing to do would have been to find a roommate, having a roommate as a 30-year-old divorcée sounded sad to me (no judgement! just, you know, feeling insecure about where my life is at) and living alone in a one-bedroom I love as a 30-year-old, drinking box wine in a houserobe, sounded great. And I was right; it is great! It’s just also kind of expensive (relatively, I do live in the Midwest).
As far as a pattern of behavior, I think the thing I have the worst self-restraint about is… buying treats and things for other people? I don’t really want to think about what kind of weird codependent mother hen impulse it comes from, but if I’m meeting a friend for drinks it is like almost physically impossible for me not to just cover the whole bill; if someone I love had a bad day I will absolutely use my last $20 to order them a pizza when I’m still five days out from getting paid. This sounds like humblebragging but I swear to god it is not! This is a really stupid impulse and probably comes from some really dumb places of like basing my entire self-worth on how much I can provide to and for other people! I am in debt!!!
Riese Bernard, Editor-in-Chief
Postmates. It takes only the slightest tip of a to-do list from manageable to slightly challenging or the smallest unexpected mid-day time-sucker for me to justify ordering in. I love cooking breakfast, lunch has never held much interest for me in general (I prefer a series of aimless snacks consumed between 12 noon and 7pm), but dinner… I deeply desire a good dinner, but… I do not want to make it.
[Sidenote: I accidentally didn’t skip two weeks of Blue Apron recently (I know I should just cancel the membership altogether, which I only got in the first place b/c my then-gf and I were gonna do Whole 30 and they had a Whole 30 situation, but I cannot bring myself to) and found I genuinely looked forward to making those dinners. So maybe it’s not cooking I dislike, it’s eating the uninspired meals I usually cook? Also, I recently mentioned that I was happy to discover Blue Apron meals work just as well for one person as they do for the advertised two people, and then Kristin was like “yeah, ’cause then you have one serving to save for the next day” and I was like “oh, no, I mean like, because I eat 1.75 servings myself and then save the leftover meat for Carol.” And I got a lot of blank stares so IDK maybe there’s something deeply wrong with me, like a tapeworm.]
Still, ordering dinner saves me time when I need it, which is most of the time — I work a lot, more than any one person should, and I like to hoard the hours I don’t work to spend with friends. Also there are so many delicious restaurants within a four-mile radius of my apartment and people I’d like to overtip to bring it to me!
[Sidenote #2: If I’m being 100% honest, I occasionally order Postmates for meals besides dinner. Listen, for two years I lived in a giant house in the country and there was only one place, a gas station pizza parlor, that was willing to deliver to me! So now I’m… honestly there’s no excuse…]
Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya, Staff Writer
Oh god I spend so much money on food. Look, I know food is a necessity in life and not something that you should feel guilty about paying for, but when I tell you I spend a lot of money on food… trust me… it’s a problem. In particular, since I live in New York, I spend a LOT of money on having food delivered to me. Fun Fact: It’s pretty easy to discern when I’m depressed based on my Postmates order history. But even when I’m not having food brought to me by kind strangers, I still spend a lot of money on food — whether I’m eating out or cooking elaborate meals. I know how to eat on the cheap when I really need to, but I’m irresponsible when it comes to my food budget more often than not.
Archie, Comic Artist
I’m an indulger, I LOVE to indulge myself. In like, anything really. I think it’s probably because I’m a Taurus? It’s definitely not because I’ve got the money, that’s for sure. Anyways, I’ve always indulged myself in a lot of ways with a lot of vices and I’ve always refused to feel guilty about it. Capitalism makes us think one thing is more worthy than another or that if you’re broke you should only spend money on the necessaries. And yah, obviously one needs to survive first, but we gotta live too! And usually that’s how I excuse my habit of eating out a lot and wanting to get “a drink” at the end of every shift. But probably the most frivolous way I spend money is on books. I will buy at least two *NEW* books a month. And I don’t even feel bad about it because I love supporting authors and supporting local bookstores but also damn, get a library card! When I was working as a server I used to joke about how THIS was my retirement plan, I’d get old and open a lil used bookstore out of my house where I sell niche fiction and non-fiction LGBTQ books and there wouldn’t even be one book by a cishet man in the house. I’ve also spent like HUNDREDS of dollars I didn’t really have (at the time) on old lesbian pulp fiction and I dunno. I have a feeling this retirement plan isn’t actually financially secure. They sure look real pretty on my shelf though.
Laneia, Executive Editor
I try to be VERY frugal and stick to this tight-ass budget, which usually only allows for one restaurant/take-out party each month, and matinees only when we have gift cards, and one or two new shirts for the kids. I put money back each week so we can make a major purchase in April 2019. Like, I’m dedicated to this budget and to being good at money. So I was struggling to think of something I’m buying that’s kind of out of my league; an unnecessary thing that only serves me. Whenever I do spend money on myself, I have such buyer’s remorse that it’s almost not worth it, so I try to avoid feeling that way!
At first I was going to say that I probably spend too much money on ingredients for cooking, because I love to cook and I especially love to cook new things that these weirdos haven’t eaten before and which call for ingredients I don’t yet own!! The first two weeks after payday, please do get entirely out of my way in this kitchen, because I have many, many new things to create! It’s gonna take hours and lots of money! Wheeee!
But then, friends, I went to my hairdresser last week and when it was time to pay, I thought ah yes, this is the thing. It started out being a transitional color/cut situation, on my way to an extremely close buzzcut in time for summer. Then A-Camp happened, and everyone was SO NICE and SO EXCITED about my hair! I’ve never received so many compliments in my LIFE. Lizz Rubin was even like, “You can’t ever go back. This is you.” So now I’m still getting my hair bleached and toned, and I really, truly don’t ever want to stop! It is me! It’s the most flattering haircut and color I’ve ever had. It makes me like my own reflection! But y’all, I can’t believe how much money I’ve spent to make my hair this color, and then to keep it this color. It’s INSANE. So that’s my thing: the blonde hair on top of my head. Long may she live, I hope.
Valerie Anne, Staff Writer
I just keep saying yes to DOING things. From things as small as dinner or as big as going to Minnesota (?!) for a one-show-only con. (And I mean, it’s a Wynonna Earp con! So I’m very excited! But I think maybe my FOMO shouldn’t be stronger than my will to be able to pay rent on time every month.) The idiots at Capital One gave me a second credit card and I’m just like “Oh yeah sure I can do that” because I have room on it without any thought about how or when I’ll pay it off. I don’t make nearly enough money to be traveling so much!! I think the thing is, I lived paycheck to paycheck for so long, there were times when I was paying that overdraft fee two or three times a month at least, weeks were it was ramen for lunch, ramen for dinner every night. So now that I am in a more stable place, I act like I’m rich, buying campfire-scented candles in the middle of summer, throwing money at a reusable straw kickstarter that isn’t even sending product until November, tipping waitstaff 30% or more even if they were just average at being a waiter, buying whatever t-shirt strikes my fancy on Redbubble because there’s money in my PayPal account and if it’s not in my Bank of America account yet it doesn’t count. According to Gaby Dunn’s podcast Bad With Money, I have “poor person thinking” and it’s all my parents’ fault. I’m not nearly as bad as I used to be — I actually have a spreadsheet now that helps me keep track of upcoming automatic student loan payments — but the closest thing to a savings account I have is the exact amount of money my roommate pays monthly in rent tucked away so if she abandons me on a whim like my last two roommates did, I can cover a month and not have to borrow money from my mother. And part of me thinks probably I should have a proper savings account but also part of me thinks the world is ending anyway so might as well have fun while it lasts. I have a feeling someday I’ll regret that my credit score is shit. But until then I’ll see you in Minnesota. And Toronto. And maybe LA.
Alyssa Andrews, Comic Artist
I’m not into *things*. I don’t really online shop, or drop hundreds of dollars going out all the time. I’m pretty frugal with my cash. However! my monthly coffee budget… is in the triple digits. Like, higher than my grocery budget. It’s disgusting. And it’s not just the drinking of the coffee, it’s the ritual of *buying* it. I find excuses to get out of the house and buy that delicious cup of what-will-inevitably-give-me-the-shakes (almost) every. single. day.
I couldn’t tell you what it is exactly that makes me do it, but honestly — if I had to really process it with myself, it’s just a small luxury that I feel like I earn. I work constantly. Like, seven days a week I am hustling to track down jobs and drawing until my hands are sometimes literally cracking and bleeding — and I’m still (like everyone else) barely scraping by in getting my bills paid and feeding myself. It’s one of those little treats that I do for myself and fund little by little every day under the guise that I just deserve to have some of my hard earned cash go directly into making my days feel a bit nicer.
Also, TBH I’ve never really sat down thinking about just how much that five dollars a day adds up until… like now. So there’s that.
Cameron, Comic Artist
I don’t wear a whole lot of makeup, but I own a lot of it. It makes no sense. This is where my Sag Sun and Taurus Rising run wild. Every five or six months, I’ll go through a very short but hard-burning period of “What if I were the kind of person who wears make-up? What if I looked like I cared about my appearance? What if that’s who Future Cameron is?” Then I buy a very, very tame eyeshadow set & other tame items from Urban Decay, which is not celebrated for its tame looks.
“Why Urban Decay,” you might ask, “Aren’t they expensive?” Reader, yes, they are very expensive! But I used their stuff once and liked it and trying something else seems like a risk. The way the math works out for me is: I’m going to spend this money and I’m going to do it because I’ve decided that make-up will fix an unrelated problem that, in reality, requires work to fix. I won’t realize how ridiculous this entire charade is until I’ve gotten it out of my system.
I’ve gotten better about this lately, really. Or, I mean, I’ve branched out beyond makeup but I’ve ALSO reined in my impulse buys by (finally) regularly using a spreadsheet for budgeting. Now when I’m feeling like a superficial change will fix a persistent life-problem, I put things into an online shopping cart and stare at them for a while… Then I look at my spreadsheet and delete everything in the cart because I like not starving more than I like metallic eyeliner that I’ll never use. I really do wish I’d had this spreadsheet before I imprinted on a cologne last year though, because I’m 100% going to use it ’til I die. I’ll have no money to leave my loved ones but my corpse will smell amazing.
Carrie Wade, Staff Writer
I order food from elsewhere more often than I probably should. Breakfast and/or morning coffee are the main offenders. I’m somehow always rushed in the morning no matter how early I wake up; it’s gotten worse since I moved to the East Coast because my commute is more involved, but has kind of been a problem for the past few years (despite the fact that I’m a morning person by nature). So I often end up forgoing breakfast in my own home in favor of getting it on the way to work. I think it’s because I’m obsessed with being early/terrified of being late to anything (especially my job). If I feel like I’m skirting that line in the morning, breakfast and coffee will be the first to drop from the routine, because I always know I can get them on the other end. I work in a business district, so there’s no shortage of options, and thus the cycle continues. It’s so unnecessary, too, because I’m a good cook! But my sense of upstanding obligation kind of cancels that out in the mornings right now. I’m working on it.
Carmen, Staff Writer
My most honest answer to this is: ANYTIME I SPEND MONEY IS WHEN I FEEL GUILTY ABOUT SPENDING MONEY!!! Because we are all living in the dying embers of a capitalist hellfire and on some level being a millennial means being eternally being broke and having feelings about being broke. It’s a cycle. So, anyway! We have fun!
I probably feel most guilty when I spend money on makeup and fancy skincare products (I’m looking at you Glossier. WHY IS YOUR SUNSCREEN OVER TWENTY BUCKS for such a teeny amount? AND WHY DOES IT WORK SO GOOD?). We talked a bit about this in a previous roundtable; I loooove makeup! It’s my femme armor. It helps me feel strong and capable. If my face is painted, then the world isn’t seeing me at my most vulnerable; they are seeing who I am allowing them to see, and that makes all the difference.
The thing is, I also love expensive makeup. The fancy, good stuff that fills up shiny Sephora shelves and come in brand names like MAC, or Fenty, or Stila or (gasp!) Dior. Did you know that one tube of Dior mascara costs $30? Dear reader I will keep it real with you, I do not have $30 to spend on a tube of Mascara when Maybeline makes one for seven. You know it, and I know it. So, I try to break the habit. I try to tell myself that L’Oreal lip stains are just as good as NARS. Sometimes if I squint just enough, I even convince myself it’s true. But then Urban Decay will release a new Naked eye palate or whatever, and I’m starting back from square one all over again.
I shop sales and clearance. I buy “last season’s” hottest colors for the cost cut. I buy travel sizes or samples instead of the full bottle. I squeeze my Sephora insider points until they cry for mercy. I cut corners. Mostly that helps me get by. Still, I wince every fucking time.
Stef Schwartz, Vapid Fluff Editor
If I’m being real, I feel terrible about everything I spend money on ever, whether it’s taking a cab when I could just as easily wait 20 minutes for the train or ordering a spring roll with dinner. I’ve been trying to save up for a new laptop for about a year, but every time I come into some cash, I seem to blow through it immediately. I generally either have money saved up and no time to do anything with it, or tons of time and no cash to play with; as a result, I buy myself presents I do not need because I believe I deserve them. I think I buy myself presents to make myself feel better about working so goddamn much, sacrificing time I might have for a fulfilling personal life. Today it was plane tickets, tomorrow it may be kitchenware, and after that it will probably be guitar pedals. Someone help.