PHOTOGRAPH: Iulia Iun, 123rf.com
“I pride myself for being a frugal person who is able to save for a rainy day. Being a full-time homemaker, I take it upon myself as a loving wife and a caring mother to ensure that the household expenses are duly paid for and that as a family, we do not spend beyond our means.
Unfortunately, I have one major weakness that hindered me in achieving my personal ideal of being the perfect, purse strings- holding housewife – I have a taste for the high life. I do not have extravagant spending habits, but I do admit liking fine dining and designer goods.
Before I left my high-paying job to take care of my kids a few years ago, I thought nothing of spending money on the excuse that such “luxuries” were necessary treats. I had dialed down on such habits in the past year, but recently, they returned with a vengeance!
Lately, I have been hanging out frequently with my former shopping and dining “partners-in-crime” (office girlfriends I used to work with). Whenever we meet up, I would dress up to the nines, and they would remark on how I have managed to upkeep my lifestyle and how jealous they were of me [not needing to work and living life like a “tai-tai”]. Being happy with their compliments, I did not correct them on their misconceptions, but instead went along with this pretense.
In order to keep up appearances, I started spending copious amounts of time and money to upkeep and update myself. I would keep abreast of the latest fashion and lifestyle trends, and then buy the latest “It” bag and shoes, and try to experience the most popular activities so that I would not fall behind. However, I went about this “strategically”. I would constantly hunt online for sales, promotions or discounted buys on second-hand goods platforms. I would take advantage of any soft-opening specials or app and e-mail coupons that I found for fine dining opportunities. I was quite happy with myself for managing to hook such deals while keeping up with the Joneses (or in this case, my girlfriends).
But because of pride, I would say little about the gently-used luxury handbag I bought on the cheap, that group-sharing discount deal on a popular champagne brunch, or the sample heels I managed to score at a bazaar. I would divulge nothing of my secret money-savvy ways and pretended to be a lady of class and wealth.
This led to even more penny-pinching and devious methods to cut corners. I would meet my girlfriends for expensive high-tea sessions and only order a salad on the excuse that I was on a diet. I would borrow my sister’s new bag and pass it off as my “flavour-of-the-month” purchase. I even tricked my husband to placate me when I am mildly displeased with material goods when he didn’t have to!
It was my daughter who brought me to my senses. One day, while shopping for her birthday gift, I scolded her for wanting an expensive toy just because everyone in her school had it. With tears in her eyes, she looked at me and said, “But Mummy, you always buy expensive bags even when it’s not your birthday… to show off… and you don’t want buy me toys anymore!”. It was then it struck me how right she was. I had become so calculative about my material gains and status that I had started taking advantage of my loved ones, losing their trust and love in the process.
In the last few meet-ups with my girlfriends, I have been clueing them in on the discount deals to be found around online, and sharing more about my love for my husband and kids rather than my love for designer goods. I should not have been so insecure about appearances; my girlfriends revealed a shared passion for hunting down good deals and value lunches in town. There is such a thing as being cheap and good – my habit.”
This story was originally published in Singapore Women's Weekly.