My magic spending number

Here's what I thought people would say when I told them I was going to spend $1,000 a month on myself.


  • you must be really rich if you can afford that
  • how short-sighted – you should invest that money for your retirement
  • that's pretty shallow; if you have money to spare, it should go to a good cause
  • um, have you noticed your kids/husband/house could all use some new stuff more than you?
  • I guess lunch is on you, then, Ms. Moneybags

What I didn't expect was for anyone to say, "Only $1,000? Why not $2,000?"

Two of the first people I told about my project were women who already spend money on themselves in ways I admire. My friend L, who helped me come up with whole the idea of budgeting some money for myself and writing about it, always has great clothes, designer accessories, manicured nails and terrific hair. My closest relative is the opposite of me; she buys what she wants and picks her clothes for quality and style rather than price. Neither woman thought $1,000 was extravagant; both mused that perhaps I should spend more if I really wanted to make a statement or do a meaningful experiment. 

So, why, $1,000? Why not more? Why not less? 

First and most importantly, this feels like what I can afford. Whatever calculus I'm doing is on a gut level, and a financial advisor might disagree, but I feel as if I can spend $12,000 this one year only and be okay with that decision whatever my future holds. It's probably the bare minimum my mom would want me to spend. 

Second, I don't think I could spend less and get the same sense of freedom. As I realized when I started visiting some of my city's upscale shops, $1,000 won't go as far as I thought. It's way more than I'm used to spending but I'll still have to make choices, and the reasons behind those choices are inherently interesting. 

Finally, I'm afraid of being judged (by myself and others) if I spend more. I can justify $1,000, barely, but $2,000? Right now, that just seems extravagant, short-sighted, shallow – basically a justification for all the criticism I expect from others. I might feel differently once I start shopping in earnest. I'll keep you posted. 

In the weeks ahead, I plan to talk to other women about how much they spend on themselves – and how they decide what is enough, and what is too much. If you'd like to weigh in, I'd love to hear from you.