I like to think of myself as frugal. To me, that means I eschew day-to-day luxuries and conveniences so I can afford the things that really matter to me like travel, drinks with friends, and greater financial freedom in the future.
You might think that because I don’t normally treat myself to things, I should love gifts — they’re free and often very nice. That sounds pretty frugal to me!
But as I continue to plan a wedding — and listen to others rattle off fancy things I should register for — I am realizing that while I should be relishing this opportunity, it makes me feel uncomfortable.
It’s not that I don’t like nice things.
I follow fashion religiously, like to shop for clothes as much as the next big city fashionista, and want to own the “it” items of the season. Every time I pass by a colorfully embellished window display, I think to myself: Gosh, I want new clothes.
This is admittedly hard at times — especially at the start of sweater weather (my favorite 😉 ) — but I’m able to keep my wants at bay by buying secondhand clothes and taking care of the clothes I do have.
It’s not minimalism.
I hate to admit it, but I really do like stuff. Whether you call them tchotchke, knickknacks, or thingamabobs, I’ve got plenty. Decorating a space is like creating a rich work of art: Sure, it’s nice for it to be visually appealing, but what’s more important to me is that each component has meaning. My apartment is stuffed with small, eclectic flourishes of stuff — each piece connected to a memory or person.
It’s that receiving expensive gifts makes me feel guilty about my career choices.
The reality is that — even though I’m used to forgoing nice, expensive things to further my own financial freedom — my small income is ultimately a choice.
My career, though rewarding in non-monetary ways, is less than lucrative. If I had chosen a different path, I might have more money to have certain upgrades like better linens or a bigger apartment that would make life more comfortable — and seeing expensive items on registries makes me insecure about not being able to afford them on my own. It reminds me how much I dislike having to choose between nice new clothes and financial stability.
Worse yet, it makes me question my priorities. Even though I know that those things wouldn’t make me happier, when I’m in situations like these, I catch myself wondering: if everyone wants to buy these for me, then maybe I’m missing out on something.
What it boils down to is that I don’t feel comfortable accepting gifts that I wouldn’t buy for myself.
So how do I put my guilt aside enough to accept these generous gifts and enjoy the one day when people want to pamper me?
Has anyone else felt this?