September 14th, 2012
When Frugality Does More Harm Than Good
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Frugality can be a lot of things – helpful, necessary, difficult, annoying – but I have developed a special talent for making it an unpleasant obstacle to bettering my well-being. While I’m a careful saver, I’ll spend money when I feel the situation calls for it. I’m not too tight-fisted. Work shoes need repairing? I’ll spend the money, because it’s better than buying a new pair of shoes! The vet says our cat might have a heart murmur and needs an echocardiogram? Of course we’ll do it, HE’S OUR BABY! Is my sister travelling to Russia for a semester, and am I freaking out about it? A gift of emergency money it is!
But I’m not so keen on spending money on myself when I really, really should. Take, for instance, my ongoing issues with anxiety. I participated in a study a few years ago on “Generalized Anxiety Disorder,” because I apparently suffer from it, but find the description so ridiculous that I try to ignore it (who doesn’t suffer from anxiety about things? It’s like calling something “Occasional Stress Disorder” or “This is Totally a Normal Human Reaction Disorder”). I generally channel this mentality into a laser-like focus and efficiency, planning things months and years in advance, keeping an obsessively clean home, and making sure that everyone around me is alright at all times. It’s likely not the healthiest approach, but it works.
But lately, I’ve found myself suffering from nagging anxious feelings that are harder to allay with my usual focus. Don’t get me wrong, I still self-medicate with the usual Type-A tendencies; but I’ve found myself wondering if there aren’t ways I could ease the anxiety, just a little bit. The problem? These methods cost money. For some reason, I have no problem investing in a good work bag, or my cat, or shoe repairs, but the thought of dropping cash on a therapy session is just too much for me.
“I CAN TAKE CARE OF THIS, EVERYTHING IS FINE,” I tell my husband.
“Maybe you should . . . stop scrubbing the kitchen so vigorously?” he’ll respond, or gently remove my hand from my organizer, where I’ve been carefully writing out all future plans into 2014.
I’ve also considered yoga as a way to help with anxiety. I’ve done it before, and found that having an hour where I’m forced to stop and focus on nothing but my breathing is actually really beneficial. But even there I encounter inner frugality demons. It’s $15 a class! I have an exercise video at home! I can do breathing exercises myself! Think of how much more I could contribute to our IRA if I just manage this anxiety on my own! But, as my husband points out, I’m not, and some things (read: mental health) are worth the small cut to our savings plan. (He has also recently taken up banjo lessons, in part because to fill our home with the dulcet tones reminiscent of “Deliverance,” and in part, I think, to prove that it is okay to spend some money on fulfilling activities – the world will not implode).
And so, while it’s an ongoing struggle, it’s one I’m trying to win. I’ve even started looking at the local yoga studio schedule. Now I just have to figure out a way to part with the $15.
Abby Dalton lives in Massachusetts with her husband and their cat. She occasionally blogs about money at Make Love Not Debt.
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