The Entertainment Book is replete with coupons for discounted oil changes, theater tickets, comedy clubs, hardware, symphony concerts, driving school, carpet cleaning, and a dizzying array of other goods and services.
Me? I went straight to the cupcakes BOGO.
Yes, I zeroed in on Cupcake Royale, which was a cupcake seller when cupcake sellers weren’t cool (“Est. 2003”). The coupon promised three gratis treats if you bought three.
After checking the flavors on the website, I was a goner – how can you not love a shop that offers a “Royale With Cheese”? That’s a chocolate cupcake with cream-cheese frosting as well as a wink-and-a-nod toward this scene from “Pulp Fiction.”
I went, I saw, I bought.
Then I second-guessed. A lot.
A sweet transgression?
With the coupon, the cost was $9 for six large cupcakes in four different flavors. Way more calories than I needed but dang, they were tasty. Next time I’m going to focus on the Lemon Drop, whose icing was so good I wanted a cigarette afterwards.
That’s the way I feel now. At the time, I felt guilty. I shouldn’t have spent that much on sweets. Aren’t I supposed to be saving for a vacation? I could have bought 15 pounds of pinto beans for the same amount of money. Shame on me.
After a while I switched to rationalizing the purchase:
After all, a movie ticket costs $9, and six cupcakes provided at least as much enjoyment. No annoying previews, either.
After all, I’m not going to bake myself a birthday cake this year because I’ll be traveling. Happy natal day, a month early.
After all, I hardly ever go out to eat – what’s $9 compared to what I’d be paying at a restaurant?
And then another part of my brain interrupted, a part that remained silent for years but has finally begun to assert itself. Here’s what it said: It’s my damn money! I earned it! I’ll spend it any way I want!
Seriously. Why this need to justify my behavior?
As if I were somehow transgressing by indulging in a non-essential item.
As if I should donate to charity every dime not spent on pinto beans and the electric bill.
As if I’m not ever allowed to have fun. Or cupcakes.
A little give
I remembered a Grumpy Rumblings of the Untenured post called “Is it OK for personal finance bloggers to be balanced?” In it, pseudonymous bloggers Nicole and Maggie tweaked the unwritten law that PF bloggers must always be beyond reproach, or at least approaching the off-ramp.
A line of theirs that stuck with me: “Do you have to call all of your spending ‘sinful’ and admit guilt and swear to do better any time you stray?”
Well, no. I’m usually the one telling people, “Go ahead – budget for a little fun.” As my friend and colleague Liz Pulliam Weston has written, a little splurge money should be written into any spending plan.
“Even the tightest budget needs a little give,” Weston notes, “or the whole thing is likely to go out the window.”
She’s right. I know she’s right. But for far too long, my wishes and wants were riders attached to the legislation of other people’s needs. I suspect this is true of many middle-aged women.
For example, I liked to take my daughter and her husband to a movie every now and then. Until recently I would rarely if ever treat myself to a movie, even if it were one of those free movie tickets. Someone else had to be involved to justify the excursion.
Zombies and sprinkles
Well, I’ve seen two movies in the past three weeks. Neither of them was very good. There weren’t nearly enough zombies in “Resident Evil 3,” and the vignettes of “Hereafter” just didn’t knit together cleanly. Good thing I didn’t pay for either one of them.
But I did go. And while I do feel somewhat sheepish about eating six cupcakes in a little over three days, I will defend to the death my right to have bought them.
In fact, the next time I want to celebrate a special day I’m going to go back to Cupcake Royale. I might buy one of those “Legalize Frostitution” pins, too.
What about the rest of you? Do you agonize over treats? How often do you give yourself permission for small or large indulgences?
And if your budget is uber-straitened, what kinds of frugal delights do you enjoy? I used to savor a long, hot bath and a new library book. In fact, I still do. The combination is almost as good as a Lemon Drop.