Spending is the new saving

November 18th, 2008

I just spent $80 buying four tickets to my daughter’s upcoming theatrical debut. Hours earlier, I spent $137 on a pediatric dental check up. (Oh, the pain of having no cavities.) We celebrated by spending $5.60, even with a coupon, at the overpriced ice cream store. I haven’t even tallied the cumulative damage of grocery shopping six separate times last week.

The sum total is I hate to spend money, and I never hated it more than now.

But after reading one of my favorite mamas shout it out, and the country’s most sensible columnists spell it out, I had a revelation earlier today. I’d better go with the flow. In fact, I’d better flow even mo’.

Spending is the new saving.

The only way to keep this boat afloat is to start bailing it out.

We’re going to have to save this sinking ship by spending money.

This is acutely painful to me, and in that way I can be sure that it is my penance. Because it is so powerfully my own lesson, I have to start by apologizing for dragging the whole globe into this ordeal with me. Sorry, shipmates.


I know, I know. After I just railed against wanting the things we don’t need, now I say we need to buy what we don’t want. What I’m really saying is what I’m saying to myself. I cannot be both optimistic and fearful, trusting and stingy, loving and miserly. I did my best to cover my bases. I didn’t expect it to turn out this way. Now I’m going to have to do the really difficult thing.

I’m going to have to admit that it didn’t turn out the way I expected it to.

I’ve read what some of you write about financial pressures, where you stand, what you’re in and what you’re not. Layoffs and loans. Skimpy paychecks and thrift store bargains. Market trauma. Unopened IRA statements. Maybe you had a lot to lose and did. Maybe you didn’t, so you’re not far behind. Either way, we’re all in it together. And I will say this: I have had my time to work hard and save money. What I saved was never intended just for myself, but to ease the way for others: my daughter’s education, my family’s age and infirmity, my commitment to the dharma, and a comfort against the vast dark specter of uncertainty. I am no financial genius, and I am no saint, but I felt, up to now, secure. But more than that, I felt smart, disciplined and dutiful.

But I’m none of those things. I have no insulation from bad news or disappearing digits. No buffer from the bottomless bottom line.

But as of now, I have four tickets to some guaranteed good times, and paying top buck is the only way I can share.

God bless us, every one.


  1. Sometimes the only buffer, the only certainty we really can have is that things will get better, and things will get worse. I always comfort myself by saying, this is really hard now so that I can appreciate it when its really good.

    Comment by Jeannie — November 18, 2008 @ 2:34 pm

  2. Oh, spending and wanting and needing and craving and saving. I just gots to do what I gots to do, you know? Even when I don’t really know what I should do. That means I buy the Heath Klondike bars and the fashion magazine and the thrift store sweater vest and the target ballet slippers, but not the designer purse and the brand new camera.

    But I am thinking about starting a blog where I talk about my love of stuff, as opposed to my journey to art and spirituality. But it’s gonna have to be cheap stuff.

    Comment by Rowena — November 18, 2008 @ 3:42 pm

  3. Drastic measures for these times, but I applaud you!


    Comment by Cat — November 18, 2008 @ 3:59 pm

  4. Even during the best of times, I feel that pull between optimistic and fearful. Thinking that if I worked hard enough and was disciplined enough I could create security. So much for that.

    Let’s all buy shoes!

    Comment by Mama Zen — November 18, 2008 @ 4:00 pm

  5. i love hearing this part of your journey-everyone else is thinking abotu it anyway! and i come hear to find your wise gem of an outlook about it all. keep it comin’. and we should all pay top dollar for our childrens shows and teeth-much better than buying clothes made by children, eh? takes “buy local” to a new high, and no need to make extra room in the closet or on a shelf…

    Comment by pixie — November 18, 2008 @ 4:49 pm

  6. I try to remember that I am part of the flow of the universe. Prosperity requires give *and* take! I try to be gracious and grateful when I spend money, as well as when I receive it. I think of it as another level of mindfulness.

    Comment by Judy Merrill-Smith — November 18, 2008 @ 6:23 pm

  7. I bought “footie” pajamas for my boys today to compensate for keeping the furnace turned down so low. My mother’s voice will always echo in my soul, “Put on a sweater”.

    Comment by Mama Goose — November 18, 2008 @ 9:13 pm

  8. When dh sees the Pediped bill I just racked up, I will link him to this post. Thanks for the excuse! 🙂

    Comment by Terri — November 19, 2008 @ 2:00 am

  9. While it feels like an excuse to buy things I sort of need (like cold-weather clothes), the title is still a tough pill to swallow.

    To ease the (my) pain, here are some ideas: buy a bucket of food for the food pantry, a pile of books for the cops ‘n’ kids reading program, and a variety of items for the nearest mitten tree. Then add lots of people to the holiday shopping list and buy them gift certificates for some great local mom-n-pop shop.

    Thanks for throwing some light on the subject from a different angle.

    Comment by RocketMom Cheryl — November 19, 2008 @ 4:13 am

  10. i was just at macy’s today and after reading mr. friedman i felt that i was being patriotic in some weird way.

    Comment by Phyllis Sommer — November 19, 2008 @ 4:14 am

  11. Dear friends,
    How serendipitous! I just returned from my monthly neighborhood book group, where we had already decided to have fun and read a Sophie Kinsella Shopaholic book next month. Now we’re going to meet at the mall, have dinner together, and then shoot off in a kind of scavenger shopping spree to buy gifts for a needy family. No, we don’t need anything for ourselves. Neither do we need the money that we think we need for another day.

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — November 19, 2008 @ 4:54 am

  12. if i could only figure out how to get some i would surely spend it. but then again, i don’t need it now or later.

    i feel blessed not to have lost anything that was never mine.

    there is food in the kitchen. the kids have socks. they go to a beautiful school. my apple trees made so many apples the food bank now can make apple bread for a year. right now, somehow, my wireless internet is still on.

    i surrender to this karma of living behind and late and negative. these times have been all my times. there must be something to it. some gift of insight in driving on E for 45 miles.

    so much love.

    Comment by mb — November 21, 2008 @ 1:04 am

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