“I’m just not the kind of person who spends money on that."
When it comes to spending, we all have some kind of baseline for what we think is normal. And when we see someone spending in a way that doesn’t fit our “normal,” it can cause surprise, envy or condemnation.
The scariest part of going public with my Shopping for Happiness project was knowing that I was inviting friends, family and strangers to judge my spending. Why shouldn’t they? I’ve done it myself, shaking my head at other people’s spending habits and reassuring myself, “I’m just not the kind of person who spends money on that."
Well, I’ve changed. These days – for the length of this project, at least – I am the kind of person who spends money on that.
Take paying for someone's services or expertise. I have long laboured under the (egotistical) conviction that I am good at figuring out how to do stuff – in part because as a “thrifty” type, it always seems worth it to me to read the manual, comb through online guides, watch instructional YouTube videos…you name it. (“Instruction Lady” is one of my nicknames.)
But this month, when I challenged myself to spend money on services I haven't used before, I found that my attitude towards small-business owners, entrepreneurs and service providers has shifted. I’ve gone from thinking, "they're charging me for something I should be able to do myself" to thinking, “I’m so grateful that that these skilled people are willing to provide this valuable service for me."
In June, I paid to have posters professionally framed, then paid a professional to come to my house and hang up those pictures and a dozen more that we’d meant to hang but never had. I hired a graphic designer on Fiverr.com to personalize a sports logo, then hired a local bakery to put it on a cake. And in my biggest expenditure yet, I hired a caterer to make and serve the food at my husband's 50th birthday party.
Cake logo aside, these are all things that theoretically, I could have done myself. In the past I probably would have done myself because it was cheaper to do so, because it was the fiscally responsible thing to do and because I wasn't the kind of person who spent money on things like that.
But now that I've forced myself to look beyond the money worries and ego that were in my way, I’m able to see and appreciate the training, expertise and goodwill of the people I’ve hired.
The framer made our Prince concert posters into stunning mementoes (with purple frames, of course). The picture-hanger winced when I showed him where I thought they could go, then looked at all our rooms and walls until he found a far more appropriate place to hang them. As for the caterer, in addition to making and serving fantastic food (and cleaning up!) he and his team helped me plan the proceedings and rearranged all my furniture to allow for the best possible flow of guests, food and drinks. The night unfolded without a hitch. Why? Because the people I hired know what they are doing. It's their business to know.
When I believed that I should (or could) be doing the things that specialists do, I wasn’t giving due credit to their professionalism. It's their job, they’ve trained for it, they take pride in doing the best work and providing great customer service. They are providing services that have value, and that is why we pay them – not because we are too lazy or busy to do the job ourselves.
Sounds obvious, right? Still, I have a feeling that this is one of the more significant mindset shifts I'm going to take away from this project. Deciding to feel good about paying for services changes how I interact with the people whose work touches and improves my life. I can feel grateful to have the help of skilled professionals when my budget allows, rather than feeling guilty and wasteful because I'm not doing everything myself.
So I’m owning it: I am the kind of person who spends money on that. (Here's a promise: I won’t judge you for spending money on that too, whatever your “that” may be.)