Women and Money

Body image is very personal. VERY. Issues of shame and guilt and self-worth swirl around when body image is discussed, and many women are reluctant to share their inner thoughts for fear of being judged. My hope is that the more we talk about how we view our bodies, how we feel about them, and how we wish we could feel about them, the more that reluctance will ebb.

Spending habits are also very personal. Issues of shame and guilt and self-worth swirl around when finances, shopping preferences, and money matters are discussed, too. And my impression is that leveling judgment on a woman for her weight or stylistic choices is considered by many people to be cruel and inappropriate,* but those same people may feel perfectly free to chastise her for blowing a paycheck on a new pair of heels.

Why is that? Why are people – especially women – subject to open scrutiny and critique for how they manage their finances? If someone else spends her money differently from how you spend yours, does that affect you directly in ANY way? Why does it matter to you? I suppose I could understand reactions of outrage if people found out that Melinda Gates spent 70% of her money at Prada and Chanel and gave nary a dime to charity. But even then, it’s really none of our business what she does with her dough. Her money, her choices.

Two years ago, I began a 6 month shopping ban. You can read the epic saga right here, but, in a nutshell, I was shopping and spending unchecked, causing financial damage, and feeling utterly lost and out-of-control. So – as many style bloggers have done before me – I decided to create a self-imposed ban. I knew quitting cold turkey would just backfire, so I allowed myself $10 per week to spend on used clothing, shoes, and accessories. Nothing new for 6 months besides gifts.

I did it entirely for myself, because I was feeling awful about my relationship with shopping, not due to any outside input. It was fun and it was hard and it was weird and Already Pretty readers had varied reactions. Many were supportive of my project, many more fascinated by my progress, and a small minority quite judgmental about my slip-ups. And since then I’ve become wary of posting about my finances and shopping habits, or publishing photos of my shoe collection, my closet, and my jewelry. Because whenever I do, sprinkled in amongst the inquisitive, friendly, and respectful comments is the inevitable handful telling me that there is clearly something wrong with me, that I need to seek help for my shopping addiction, that I am setting a bad example for other women simply by owning so much shit.

And I’ve justified myself until I’m blue in the face – it’s my hobby and passion, the blog is my side business, I have both the money and storage to support my shopping preferences – but I honestly don’t understand why I should have to do so. What I do and don’t do with my money is my business. No one knows how much of it I have, or where it goes, or why – not even my husband. I cannot wrap my head around the hostility that my vast shoe collection prompts from a certain segment of the population. I’m not spending anyone else’s money on those shoes, or storing them in anyone else’s home. Where does this disgust and resentment come from?

These may seem like questions with obvious answers, but I’d like your honest input: Why are women so harshly judged for how we choose to spend our money? Why is it so distasteful for a woman to be observed using her disposable income to buy clothing or shoes or accessories, or anything related to style, fashion, beauty, or appearance? Why do people feel so free to hand down judgment and unsolicited advice about financial management? What do you perceive to be the differences between how people judge men and how people judge women in matters of money?

*Not all, obviously. Cattiness still exists, of course, and plenty of people of both genders feel free to judge on weight, style, and outward appearance alone.

  • ignia

    Well, I think every woman needs to seek help for her shopping addiction: there must be some strong hand available to carry her nice bags of pretty things around. :)

  • Scholar Style Guide

    I always wonder why people think clothing and accessories are so indulgent, but luxury items in other categories are seen as "legitimate."

    Men buy plenty of things that serve essentially the same function of what I might call preening. Just because I'd rather spend my extra $50 a month on shoes rather than a smartphone doesn't mean I'm any more indulgent. And I don't plan to buy a brand new car until I can pay for the whole thing in cash, but I don't go around turning up my nose at people who'd rather finance a new car than wear a really nicely constructed coat.

    I can't understand the difference of opinion in gendered spending unless it boils down to this: because women have had access to disposable income for a much shorter period of time than men, our spending habits have not yet become normalized in the same way that men's have. So I'll keep paying off my credit card balance every month, thankyouverymuch, and I kindly encourage everyone else to worry about their own spending habits more than they worry about mine.


  • Deborah

    If you're asking why woman are endlessly and forever mean to each other, I wish I knew.

    It smarts. And it sucks.

    Let it roll dear Sal. It's easy for them to hide behind their keyboards (I'm speaking to you mean girl).

    You are brave enough to share your humanness with us and shame on those that will pounce on that and point.

    It's cowardly!

  • poet

    To simplify it very much, I think it's part of a larger tendency to badmouth things that individuals themselves can do to achieve their own happiness. Authoritarian systems don't like these things because a large part of their power comes from controlling people's access to happiness, and the Western world has been living in authoritarian systems for much of its past, so these ideas have been around for a while… and they hold especially for women because their traditional role included being self-sacrificing caregivers. And indeed, this sucks. A lot.

  • Jingle Bella

    I suspect that it may be left over from the idea that the woman is in charge of the household finances, e.g. in a situation where the man is the main earner and hands over housekeeping money to his wife. i.e. a woman should be spending money on food, running the household (e.g. laundry detergent), and looking after the kids (e.g. school uniforms).

    A woman who bought an expensive coat rather than her kids' school uniforms would, and I think quite understandably, be judged as being irresponsible. But obviously this is not the same as any woman happening to choose to buy an expensive coat!

    I don't think that society's psyche has necessarily caught up with the fact that women are earning and have their own disposable income and shouldn't be expected to be managing the household finances – they should be managing their own finances (and if that includes some/all of the household then so be it).

    And agreeing with Scholar Style Guide – it makes sense that as women have had access to disposable income for a much shorter period of time that will have an effect. I would guess that it's something like the last 50-60 years? And before that, the women with disposable incomes were probably by and large ladies of leisure who *were* indulging themselves.

    Change takes time. We'll get there. Eventually.

  • Cynthia

    I honestly don't know what the deal is, but I'm not 100% sure it's just women who get shamed about money and finances in this country. There's a lot of stress attached to it for everyone.

    I'm paying my mortgage, I'm making my car payments, I'm putting the max optional pre-tax withholding into my 401K. But I don't have a 12-month cushion of savings, and I have an unpaid balance on my credit card. And I'm unmarried. So if somehow my well-paying tenured job evaporated, I would rather soon lose my little house and my car and my means of appearing middle-class.

    America is this place where, if you fall on financial hard times, the general attitude is it's because you're a bad person. Calvinism has such a deep and perverted hold here. Enjoying yourself = bad. And then if you dared to enjoy yourself and suddenly become insolvent, worse. Half of Americans have a deep resentment of the idea that even a small fraction of their taxes could be used to help unemployed people survive, or poor children eat. It's a dog eat dog world and oh my, if you screw up financially, it is SO your fault.

    The bootstraps/poverty's your fault crowd almost seem to enjoy seeing people fail and suffer. And so, if you spent too much on shoes and became unemployed and lose your house a couple of months sooner as a result, there's someone who's going to want to see that as a divine judgment of your worth (and also their relative worth).

    In a completely opposing strain though, we also have shame attached to having so much while other people have less. Poor children are starving in India and you're buying X? My parents were born at the tail end of the depression, and we were pretty poor in the 70s when I was a kid, so there was some shame in our house about buying or even wanting luxury items.

    When I started doing GAAD, I was planning to do a "full disclosure" series about what I had to work with in my wardrobe. But I posted just the collection of dresses I have, and, though no one shamed me even a tiny bit, the comments did sort of kick off that second kind of shame for me. Because there I am with my 30+ different dresses getting comments from people who are doing just fine with six.

    I'm not sure I'll be continuing that series.

  • R. M. Koske

    Hm. I wonder if it isn't at least partially tied up with the idea that women should be selfless givers, always. Women shouldn't draw attention to themselves. Women should derive most of their satisfaction and happiness from supporting other people.

    Which is bull****. And we know it, consciously. But perhaps there's still a remnant of that hanging around in society's expectations. Spending money on clothes and shoes is not only spending money on yourself, not only doing something for your own satisfaction (aka "selfish") but it is also vain, trying to draw attention, and good women shouldn't do that. (Riiiight.)

    With all of that baggage, I think there's also a very good chance that some people are extra nasty about it because they fear they are like this themselves, or fear that they are perceived that way. Maybe they're holding themselves back from doing what they want because of these restrictions and resent someone who isn't so constrained.

    In case it ain't obvious, I don't believe this crapola for a second. But I do think it is quite possible that this is behind some of the nastiness and judgment.

  • Franca

    This is a great reminder that other people's choices are none of your business, even if they are completely different from your own.

    Luckily, in my personal circle of friends, I don't feel that women are judged more than men are on this. I think this is to do with my own circumstances. I am eminently sensible with money, always have been, whereas boyfriend Dave has been through a long journey of reckless spending and debt, and while he's much improved, the basic tendency to spend is still there. And several of my gilrfriends are in similar situations, so in my minds boys are much worse than girls. But like you say, really that is not my business, only theirs and their partners!

  • Лидочка

    I don't really have an answer but rather a comment. I find it really amusing that a lot of people don't find it strange when some people spend tons of money on items that appear (and, essentially, are) useless – like stamps, toys, etc, for their collections, but are so ready to judge you for buying things you ACTUALLY use – like clothes and shoes. Of course, I agree that, in either case, that's none of anyone's business how you choose to spend your money. I have a lot more stuff than a lot of people, and I get stuff pretty much every week but I thrift and buy things on Ebay so I feel that I'm actually spending less money than a lot of the people I know because they buy things for full price. But every once in a while I get someone who looks at my clothes and says: "OMG, you have SO MUCH STUFF!", and I can almost see them calculate the cost in their heads. I find it so frustrating that people can label you as "irresponsible", when in reality they have no idea how much anything in my wardrobe costs! Ok, I'm done now…:)

  • Katie

    There are lots of reasons. Bad ones, anyway.

    Shopping and concern for appearances is consistent with the "dominant capitalist patriarchal paradigm" that flattens any woman's value into something that measures looks alone…and if you didn't spend at least as many entries defending Real Women in all our gorgeous colors sizes and flavors, they might be right to call you on it.

    Many people *don't* believe that what someone does with her money is her business — many people believe that spending money on shoes when folks are starving and homeless, particularly in a bad economy, is cruel. While such people would probably be more effective starting their own blogs, I think you're stuck with that one just because you have disposable income and blog about doing something other than charity with it. From my own less-socialist point of view, I probably would come here less often if I didn't know that you offer plenty of thrifting and budget tips. (the metallic pen for shiny hardware is genius)

    Jealousy plus the natural anonymity of the internet is a horrible combination. It's basically just as Deborah, above, said — people hide behind their keyboards. They don't know you, they see you're happy with who you are, they feel the urge to nitpick, and they do so without thought for whether their reasons make any sense or will be heeded.

    It's silly, and shallow. The internet is big. If they don't like you, they can easily go somewhere else.

  • Anonymous

    In the past, I had similar reactions to the fact that my husband and I have four children. Four! How dare we; don't we know that two is the new norm? I remind myself that no one has ever helped support our children, no public assistance (although I don't fault those who seek it), not even public schools. All of our children are bright, healthy and have never been in trouble with the law. So I guess some people just like to have an opinion about everything, even those things which are personal to each of us as an individual.
    My personal "shoe stash" is fabric!

  • Sal

    Katie: Interesting. I can see how discussing/posting about only one thing thing I spend money on would create false understanding. I actually do give to charity, out of every single paycheck. But that's completely irrelevant to the blog, so it's a piece of information that gets obscured, and feeds assumptions.

  • H. Brown

    this is such a timely topic for me, as i just spent a weekend spending more on clothes than i needed to, after already buying my self-proclaimed "treat for the month" the weekend before. i think self-image and finances are very closely linked, and i so often wonder at my shopping habits–i seem to shop to feel some power in my life, to staunch emotional hemorrhaging, or to build a sense of myself i feel i've lost or can't find unless i look right. i struggle with that. all that said, i've come a long way. i've struggled with debt, and i'm largely out of that now, and where i used to spend in the hundreds on a single trip when i didn't have it, now i'm spending in the tens, and it's money i do have. i don't know what the answers are, but i do agree that we are too mean to ourselves and to one another, and those who are mean to others are usually ten times harder on themselves. if i want to change my spending habits, i need to encourage myself in doing so, not castigate myself into it. and nobody else needs to take it upon themselves to chastise me for either meeting or breaking a code i've set for myself. some will, of course, but it says much more about them than it does about me.

  • 3goodrats

    I think some of the criticism is just jealousy. But also, money and finance is a rather taboo subject in a lot of ways – we are all in very different financial situations and nobody really knows anyone else's situation. I think sometimes this results in feelings of insecurity and constantly comparing oneself to others.

    It's silly to leave negative and judgmental comments though. Nobody is forced to read your blog! I used to read a blog that was supposed to be about a particular topic, but transformed into just posts about things the person purchased and trips she went on. I didn't like it (and it definitely made me compare myself to her financially!) but instead of complaining I simply stopped reading it. There are other blogs I enjoy much more so why waste time with one I don't like?

  • purpleshoes does carry on

    Alright, so: I'm anti-consumerism, I am, I am, even though I just spent two hundred dollars at Target because having one set of sheets is boring and makes for a lot of late nights waiting for the dryer to finish. And I went overboard. (Pretty sheets! My room looks nice!)

    No one ever singles out dudes who must have every new gadget instantly for finger-wagging. People have tried, because computer components (clearly something I also buy, or I wouldn't be typing) are hella toxic and involve some fairly rare minerals over which there are presently resource wars. There's a lot of mixed baggage with everything we consume; everything from cars to organic lettuce to iPhone apps has some kind of downstream cost, and unfortunately in this world economy if you follow the chain of production far enough you can usually find something awful. But female spending, and spending on feminine items, is always coded as luxury, while stereotypically male indulgences, like ten video game systems or a new cell phone every four months, don't come in for the same kind of shaming. (Incidentally, I've just looked into it, and Fluevog has a much better labor history than Apple Computers does. You could point out that you're supporting family-owned small factories in Portugal, if you wanted.)

    So yeah, I blame the patriarchy. Remember to that even fifty years ago, men considered it appropriate to audit the money that women spent because it wasn't her money – her husband or her father were giving her an allowance.

    Last note in a whole lot of typing: a working group at Duke University coined the phrase "effortless perfection" to describe the culture in which women are supposed to look hot all the time but never let on to doing any of the icky girl things that make women look that way – you're supposed to pretend that you just rolled out of bed with a full face of makeup, and the reason why you're so thin is because you have a delicate build. Actually thinking about, caring about, and shopping for clothes is one of the places where this myth that women are just biologically pretty-pretty and don't work at it gets punctured. It makes it clear that gender is a performance, and people lash out against that. Even/including other women, either (as per previous caring-about-clothes conversation) because they find that performance hard, or because they've internalized the idea that gender makes the difference in whose consumption is the problem.

  • purpleshoes does carry on

    Alright, so: I'm anti-consumerism, I am, I am, even though I just spent two hundred dollars at Target because having one set of sheets is boring and makes for a lot of late nights waiting for the dryer to finish. And I went overboard. (Pretty sheets! My room looks nice!)

    No one ever singles out dudes who must have every new gadget instantly for finger-wagging. People have tried, because computer components (clearly something I also buy, or I wouldn't be typing) are hella toxic and involve some fairly rare minerals over which there are presently resource wars. There's a lot of mixed baggage with everything we consume; everything from cars to organic lettuce to iPhone apps has some kind of downstream cost, and unfortunately in this world economy if you follow the chain of production far enough you can usually find something awful. But female spending, and spending on feminine items, is always coded as luxury, while stereotypically male indulgences, like ten video game systems or a new cell phone every four months, don't come in for the same kind of shaming. (Incidentally, I've just looked into it, and Fluevog has a much better labor history than Apple Computers does. You could point out that you're supporting family-owned small factories in Portugal, if you wanted.)

    So yeah, I blame the patriarchy. Remember to that even fifty years ago, men considered it appropriate to audit the money that women spent because it wasn't her money – her husband or her father were giving her an allowance.

  • purpleshoes does carry on

    Last note in a whole lot of typing: a working group at Duke University coined the phrase "effortless perfection" to describe the culture in which women are supposed to look hot all the time but never let on to doing any of the icky girl things that make women look that way – you're supposed to pretend that you just rolled out of bed with a full face of makeup, and the reason why you're so thin is because you have a delicate build. Actually thinking about, caring about, and shopping for clothes is one of the places where this myth that women are just biologically pretty-pretty and don't work at it gets punctured. It makes it clear that gender is a performance, and people lash out against that. Even/including other women, either (as per previous caring-about-clothes conversation) because they find that performance hard, or because they've internalized the idea that gender makes the difference in whose consumption is the problem.

  • La Historiadora de Moda

    I agree with Cynthia that it's not just women who get shamed for spending, especially not in this economy. I think we just may be hyper aware of the shaming that happens to us as women who are particularly interested in clothes.

    I also am going to say that as much as it sucks to deal with criticism about your spending habits when you put them out there for public discussion you open yourself up to both the oohs and ahhs and the possibility that some people may think that maybe more of your paycheck should go to charity rather than shoes. I'm not saying that's right.

    Your blog is about a lot of things, Sal. Daily outfits, self-care, professionalization, self-esteem etc. I don't see why discussing charitable giving falls outside of the scope of your blog.

  • H. Brown

    google quote of the day by dorothy parker: "take care of the luxuries, and the necessities will take care of themselves." :)

  • orchidsinbuttonholes

    I thought that series of posts – those about your decision to begin a ban and those that tracked your progress – were honest and brave and so thoughtful. It sucks – big time sucks – that for that, you got some petty and disrespectful and mean comments.

    I'm really conscious of not commenting on how people spend their money because I know how it feels to be on the receiving end of such rude comments. I think that we shouldn't have to explain our decisions to spend on a new pair of shoes or a gazebo or a dresser for the spare bedroom (or a spare bedroom) or a vacation or a(nother) child or whatever. Ever.

    I wish I knew why we did this to each other, because I think a lot of good discourse gets shut down prematurely or never is begun.

  • angie

    It's a touchy subject for me because I still can't figure out where the need stops and the obssession starts.I did quite some shopping last year when I started my blog but by the begining of summer I stopped and I started sewing some clothes to quench my thirst for new stuff.What I'm trying to say is that I feel quilty myself to have the energy to judge others.

  • Jenna

    I'll admit, I've lied to my boyfriend about how much I've spent before, even though it's my money I'm spending.

    I suppose that for women judging other women, it's part envy, part personal preference, and part that we are taught that spending money on clothes is irresponsible. It's I Love Lucy syndrome; maybe we all have a Ricky Ricardo in our heads telling us we've been bad if we spend money on a new hat.

  • Rebecca

    I think that people of both genders are shamed for spending money, but if a women spends money on fashion or beauty her spending may be more obvious to others.

    Like a previous commenter, I also think that our society isn't always progressive about how we view women who choose to work and spend their income on themselves, rather than their husbands or children. I know I've gotten negative comments about being selfish for not wanting children and wanting to use my income for other purposes. While that may be true, being selfish isn't always a bad thing and shouldn't necessarily be judged negatively.

  • Peter

    This is marvelous subject and good for you for taking it on. I don't have much to add that hasn't been said and as a man I don't feel the same kind of heat from others about how I spend money.

    But I will say that her in America we have a tendency to pathologize behavior that doesn't fit OUR norm. When people are having more sex than us, it's TOO much sex and they must be addicts. Same goes with drinking, eating, shopping, etc.

    Of course there are people who use shopping as a distraction from life's challenges and why not? It's fun! Other people watch TV, play video games, garden, etc.

    I think the problem is when we internalize others' judgment of us. We start to suspect that they may be right and we may have a problem. It's hard not to, especially if we're sensitive, caring people attuned (and easily affected) to the opinions of others.

    No one should shop themselves into debt, but this is what you DO, it's your specialty and your passion and your TALENT.

    Would anyone criticize an art collector, a coin collector, a vintage automobile collector? I doubt it. There is something about clothes… Maybe because the value of them is so hard to gauge: we see them on sale so often it's tough to see them as having fixed value (like coins).

    But when (if) you leave your wardrobe collection to a museum of contemporary fashion (as many wealthy people have) people may think better of your shopping choices and recognize their value. Think of yourself as an archivist!

  • Kara

    I think there is a gender slant to this kind of criticism. A man I know has 25 separate video game systems, and hundreds of games for them, and that is considered a hobby. I have maybe 60 pairs of shoes (that cost far less then his "collection"), and that is considered silly, girly behavior. Sometimes, though, I think it is just a difference in what each person values. I don't believe that every troll on the internet lives like a hermit in a cave and gives all their income to the poor. I enjoy buying clothing and shoes, and other people like electronics, and other people like upgrading their houses, and other people like playing fantasy sports… I think people forget that what seems fun and important to you is absolutely ridiculous to someone else. The important thing is not to get our judging-pants on!

  • Diana

    I really do think that much of the judgmentalness regarding spending money has to do purely with jealousy. I understand that not everyone is as fortunate as you or me as to have disposable income to spend on new clothes, BUT that does NOT make us financially irresponsible. Yes, I buy more clothes than most people, but I also never ever carry a credit card balance and I do save some of my money. (And I'm a postdoctoral fellow in academia, so I don't make a lot of money…)

    As long as you are responsible about it, what you do with your money is your own choice. OK, if you are so in debt that you are going to lose your house and your family is starving, maybe you have a spending problem. Even still, this means you need help, not judgmental people telling you what to do. But, assuming you have the money to spend, you don't have to justify it to anyone but yourself. You shouldn't donate to charity, either, just because someone is pressuring you to; you should do so because YOU want to help a particular cause. It's YOUR money, and YOU get to decide what to do with it.

    Regarding men and women, I think that men can be just as judgmental as women when it comes to spending. It's just that society somehow encourages women to do so in a much more public manner, whereas I think men do so privately, either at home or in their heads. It drives me crazy, by the way, when I read or hear a woman say something like, "Oh, I bought a new bag/shoes/whatever today, and my husband is going to kill me!" Men are just as indulgent/impulsive when it comes to spending (just not necessarily on clothes) so why should women always feel guilty? There is NOTHING that says women are any less good with money management than men (in fact they may be better, as the old-fashioned housewife was the one who managed the household finances anyway!)

  • Myrna

    Why are women so mean? Why are people so judgemental? It's both hard to figure out and so heavy especially when what you're writing about is meant to help and you get criticism instead. It comes down to fear in some way. It always does. Perhaps it is tied up in the number one fear of rejection. Perhaps the writer is feeling different and wants everyone to be like them so they'll be like everyone else. It confounds me.

    Your reply to one comment about giving and about multifacetedness is interesting. I've found that people think they know me because they've read about one part of my life on a blog that is mostly about sewing as if that is it – the total me. Even though I'm quite honest and sharing as you are, what I write is not the whole me just as Already Pretty is not the whole you. Nor should we have to bare all. It'd be lovely if people would spend more time working on their own issues or opt to build up rather than tear down when they comment.

  • Candice Virginia

    I don't think people should compare themselves, it only leads to jealousy, hurt and misunderstanding.

    It takes a serious commitment to channel jealous energy into something productive, but I think it's worth it.

  • leah

    Shoes and handbags are marketed as high luxury superficial items – they are also aimed only at women. Gadgets and cars are marketed as useful and necessary – to men. We wonder why these messages stick in our psychology after we buy them. It's not like the marketing saturation magically evaporates once the money is handed over, so it follows that women will be derided for their choices. It's not right but that's definitely part of the reason why.

  • Rad_in_Broolyn

    I don't think that anyone should judge a person based on their spending habits. I also think we shouldn't judge people based on how they do not spend. I've found in my limited time in NYC, people brag about the money they spend, and it's a pretty weird experience for me. Everyone has different goals and desires on how to spend, so more power to them.
    Since I teach young people, I do think that they, male or female, would benefit from some financial planning education. I think that consumption is fine, but I wish people were educated about what it means to be a young, without much income, and in a lot of debt- as a way to inform their consumption choices (I had to help a relative with $12K in credit card debt- and he was 22 years old!) There are some blogs written by much younger women that read like "shopping blogs," in which accumulating a lot of stuff seems like a goal. It's not the blogger's job to teach his/her readers about financial responsibility, but I wonder what kind of message it sends. I don't judge and I don't know the blogger's financial circumstances. Blogging for me helped me realize how much shopping relates to my moods and I've done my best to identify the emotions and be mindful about spending (GAAD helps!) I am glad to see when IFB does posts on responsible spending, avoiding credit card debt, financial education:
    (I love how Already Pretty does this, as well as other blogs that I read).

  • K.Line

    I think people like to judge, and judgment of consumerist habits is an easy mark. I also agree with Peter about the pathologism of habits that exist outside of the judger's norm.

    I only care about my own feelings about my own spending. If I feel concern, for some reason, about what I'm spending on, then it's for me to sort out with my own psyche. I may solicit feedback from others (when I'm feeling brave :-)).

    I do spend much less on premade items now that I sew. No time to spend on anything other than sewing stuff!

    And I undertook a shopping ban after you did yours – I feel that mine was less hardcore but maybe it wasn't?

    It was very useful in helping me to contextualize my desire to spend. I recommend it for everyone – who wants to do it.

  • Karenina

    Yeah, I get this too. I spend a lot on clothes, I really do. But I always pay my bills on time, keep my credit in check and stash away for savings and RRSP first.

    People are always galled at my sheer number of shoes and clothes, but then again, I am galled at how much they spend on cigarettes, lattes, eating out, smartphones and so on. I don't have these vices, so naturally I have, oh, a few hundred dollars more to spend on clothes.

    I agree that people need to butt their noses out of other people's finances, and women in particular. Why is it okay for guys to spend themselves into the poor house for electronics or music or booze, but when a woman likes her shoes he has "a problem". Such a double standard!

  • Anonymous

    I have such mixed feelings about my shopping habits. On the one hand, I do feel good about my body, confident when I'm able to craft some stylish outfits, and I think I more effectively communicate a joyful attitude about life when I am well-dressed. This doesn't mean it's all ethically or wisely done – I could, quite easily, quit buying clothes and start donating more money to charity. I could dedicate my life to such an endeavor. Probably I ought to; but I've also dedicated my life to a low-paying vocation that does (I say this with modesty) a great deal of good in the world. Not sure it would be a better choice to be an investment banker workaholic who donated tons of ill-gotten cash to the poor. (Yes, I'm exaggerating for rhetorical purposes.)


    I ran into this exact judgement from my husband this weekend. I have not gone clothing shopping in over a year. (yes, really!) I had 4 long sleeved shirts for the fall/winter. I needed new clothes, to feel good and to keep myself warm. I planned my shopping spree $400 cash, asked for permission, and bought things I knew I would wear. However, when I got home, he still asked me why I needed new clothes and gave me a hard time about it — EVEN though he bought a $2000 bike 2 months ago, when he already has 2 perfectly good ones! Not fair!

  • Syed

    Spending habits are always one of those things that come under fire but I've never really understood. Someone can make fun of someone for spending £200 on a pair of shoes, but ignore the fact that they themselves spend a ridiculous amount on a part to make their car engine sound louder. We all have something we like to indulge on, I think the world would be pretty boring otherwise. Provided you are not spending in such a way that it harms your finances and commitments, all power to you.

  • Future Lint

    Finances are such a personal subject, it is odd for other people to concern themselves with it at all, but writing a blog about my personal style, I think it comes with the territory. I am voluntarily showing people my outfits every day, and not too much else about my life. I guess it's all about priorities… I would rather bring my coffee and lunch to work every day than eat out and get a $4 latte, and have the extra $ to spend thrifting. Some people like clothes, or video games, or going to the theater, or gamling, or going to concerts, or going on vacation, etc. and they are the only ones who get to decide what and where to spend their money. It's unfortunate that clothing and shoes are such an immediate visual thing, I can't tell by looking at you that you spent $80 on dinner last night, but you can tell right away if I am wearing new shoes.

  • Work With What You’ve Got

    Nathan has been unemployed for 2 years, and even though we have never missed a bill payment, been late on the rent or short grocery money or borrowed a single dime in that time…I find people are judgmental that I still buy new things. It’s none of their concern and does not affect anyone in a negative way, but I still get snide comments from family and friends. And weirder still, I get attitude from shopping buddies when it skews the other way and I the accounts are down enough I am not shopping. That is also unacceptable to people. I can’t win.

  • JennyDC

    This is something I struggle with myself. I like shopping and dressing well – I call it decorating myself! Some people have door wreaths for every season, I have clothes and shoes. But I do feel guilty about it and don't know why. I have no debt at all, a ton of savings both in 401K and other places (easily a year of living expenses). And even though no one has ever said anything to me, I'm convinced they are silently judging. Doesn't help that I am in a field where women who give evidence about caring about their appearance are slightly suspect (Audi's blog has really resonated with me!).

    Part of my guilt I think comes from recognizing that shopping is a bit of a crutch – I have found your HALT (hungry, angry [or anxious for me], lonely, tired) to be a good tool for trying to recognize when I am shopping to try to ignore some feeling I don't want to deal with.

    I guess it comes down to we all have different spending priorities and should try not to judge. As long as the spending is not damaging, who cares if someone has 60 pairs of shoes or a new iPod every year?

  • Michelle

    When I am reading a blog and thing, "Oh! Pretty Shoes!" and then look them up and discover that they are WAY out of my price range, I am jealous. I can't afford $300 and $600 pair of shoes. I only have a few pairs of shoes I've spent over $40 on. I would imagine that some of the backlash is along the lines of thinking, "Those shoes are beautiful, but I suffer along with cheaper and less beautiful shoes, and everyone else should too!" and then posting, "How dare you!"

    Woman can be very un-supportive of each other.

  • angie

    It's a great question, Sally. Why people are judgmental about *anything* is worthy of several PHD thesis scripts – especially when they comment from behind an anonymous protected keyboard!

    First, I'm sorry that you were the victim of harsh judgment during your shopping ban last year. Shame on those people.

    Second, life is too short to not enjoy your passions! You've carefully created a KILLER footwear assortment and that’s commendable – and part of your work to boot (pun intended). Keep embellishing the collection and remember that it's nobody's business but your own HOW you spend your money.

  • text machine

    I agree that there's a double standard in regards to men/women and spending. I also agree that in theory we shouldn't care/make judgments about other people's lives but in practice this isn't really how people behave in social situations. We use the people around us to figure out how we feel about ourselves, our choices, and our relationship to the rest of the world. Sometimes it sucks and people should be aware of the potential of this tendency to be unnecessarily mean/bitter/bitchy but mostly we just need to be less defensive about our choices and own them the best we can. There's something in this essay that reminds me of Charlotte from SATC after she quits her job and feels like Miranda is judging her – "I choose my choice! I choose my choice!"

    It's hard to put yourself out there and I admire your bravery to share your feelings and insecurities on a daily basis. I just think it's a waste of time dreaming of a world where people aren't going to have thoughts and judgments on what you share.

  • Sidewalk Chalk

    I think some of the judgmental attitude might stem from jealousy — why can SHE have what I don't? etc. I think another part of the criticism may have to do with the fact that society may not realize that women can have disposable incomes outside of their family and their kids, and many may judge a woman for buying for herself rather than for her kids. It's a pretty dumb, shallow mentality.

  • Kelly

    I think it's a moral superiority thing. If Jane Doe sees your shoe collection, and a tiny bit of her wishes she had the money/resources/space/lifestyle to accommodate so many pretty shoes, well then at least she can feel better about if it she tells herself (and you, and the rest of the world) that she is somehow better for not having spent her money on that. And one way to do that is to attempt to tear you down.

  • Jenny

    I'm not sure the shaming is gendered, I just think it's about different things. Remember the hoo-hah about the cost of Bill Clinton's haircuts? And what about men who buy toys like sports cars and 3-wheelers? Oh, midlife crisis, they're compensating for something, ha ha ha. Why is it our business?

    Anyway, I agree with Cynthia's very articulate comment. In the US, if you're poor, it's because you did something wrong, and if you're rich, you did something right (though there's shame in being rich, too.) We love to lay blame in this country.

  • LK

    I'm sure just like many of the women above have said, from one blogger to another, you will always get people who hate on what you post or what you do. Who will send nasty messages (usually anonymously) to you, about you, even though they don't know you. I've learned to ignore what they say, and use comment moderation :)

  • Anonymous

    People find it hard to believe that clothes shopping could be a form of self expression, but it is. I don't think people view art collectors as "addicted" but the only difference between a painting and clothing is that clothes are beautiful works of art that are worn instead of hung on the wall. The extra-harsh criticism that women get for spending money is part of the outdated notion that women are psychologically flawed and weak to begin with and it's assumed that some form of psychosis motivates everything a woman does and all decisions they make. Or at least the decisions that attract attention to themselves. In contrast, men who are gamblers are viewed as sexy and powerful. And gambling really IS an addiction. All this bashing of women's shopping is just more sexist crap. And often women are other women's worst enemies, especially when women exercise their powers of CHOICE.

  • Nubby Tongue

    I don't agree with this train of thought, but this is my theory:

    If I spend $100 on a cell phone: I have it for several years, I can use it for entertainment, business, and emergencies. Often it has multi-functionality, too.

    If I spend $100 on a fancy dinner I get the experience of eating fantastic food, I spend time with someone I love, and I get to make a fun memory.

    If I spend $100 on a ticket to a concert, I get to see someone famous, I get to make another memory, and I might even get an excuse to travel.

    But if I spend that $100 on stylish clothes I run the risk of them falling apart, wearing out prematurely, getting damaged, going out of style, or being unflattering. Since clothing is so accessible, articles that have too many flaws will just be replaced (more $) and rot in a closet.

    I think people (somewhat subconsciously) see clothing as a short-term, selfish investment. Modern, mass produced, "disposable" clothing might be, but not everything is.

    In your case, your style is refined, timeless, personal, and methodical. You aren't going to impulsive buy a $90 pair of destroyed white denim skinny jeans unless you know how to integrate them into your wardrobe. You might however, thrift them for $10 as a fun experiment.

    Like you said, it's your hobby and your money and you can do what you want with it! It's not like you're killing puppies.

  • Jodi

    Thanks for another great post Sal. I think the main thing for me is to ask why I spend money on what, meaning, am I trying to fill some void that shopping only fills for a quick few minutes or hours?

    Why do I have to have that (ie) skirt? To fit in? To feel better about myself? and then even once I have the skirt, how long does having it actually accomplish the goal?

    For me, I like to spend money on things that I am empowered by and buy them because I love and value them rather than as a quick fix to make me feel good.

  • Elena

    I will say that i have been in tears when i look at items that ive bought on a whim and can't use/wear. I spend too much, on things i don't need and feel really bad about it. I think that our culture of consumerism (sp?)has a lot to do with the "need" we feel to amass items. I think that if it wasn't so expected to buy the best, newest etc then maybe we would be able to edit what we spend our money on and feel good about it.

  • In

    Money matters are extremely sensitive and touchy subjects even with family members (I am going through this right now and it is not pretty) so I don't understand why people in the internet world think it is any of their business to judge anyone who tries to share their spending habits on their own blog.

    Sally I am with the group which thinks what you do with your money is your business. Nobody has the right to judge.

  • sorry, had to be said.

    Okay, fine, I'll put it out there:

    There are only so many resources on earth. There's only so much gas to run the tractor; there's only so much topsoil to grow the cotton; there's only so much farmable land to choose what crops grow. There's only so much corn to feed the cows to make the leather to make the shoes. There's only so much carbon dioxide the planet can absorb to ship the stuff to you. It's not that your money is a scarce resource – it's that the actual physical stuff in your stuff comes from an extremely limited pool of total stuff the planet can produce. There's no reason why anyone else deserves that stuff more than you do, and there's no reason why you deserve it more than anyone else. The fact that anyone can have fifty pairs of shoes while someone else has one is accidental, and yes, giving someone jobs in the shoe industry is one answer, but the planet can't make infinite shoes. We actually are, in some way, taking shoes out of a total global maximum number of shoes.

    Now, I try to address this by loving my stuff. If I buy one beautiful pair of shoes, which I love, care about, make the effort to maintain, and am delighted by, then I am having much less impact then someone who "doesn't care about stuff" and therefore doesn't care for the things they own. And in your case, Sal, you do use these things as teaching tools – scolding you for owning a lot of sweaters is kind of like asking a baker why they need so many bread pans when the average person only needs one. But yes, it is everyone's business how much we consume as a country. Whether it's an issue that can be resolved by humorless scolding – see my comment – is a different question.

  • hikari07

    Perhaps its because I live in the odd isolated world that is a college campus, I actually find an odd mix of judging for spending too much, and then others judging for spending too little. I've definitely made (bad me) and heard comments about a friend that always seemed to show up to events with a new coach bag or heels or something, but those complaints stemmed out of the fact that she'd bail on plans with us "because she didn't have any money". We were more upset that she was choosing to go shopping over us, or at least that's how we felt. I don't know of any other times that I've judged or been judged for spending too much.

    On the flip side, I sometimes feel judged by the more stereotypical members of the social greek community for not spending enough, although its a very very small percentage of them. I don't think anyone in my particular house would judge me for my lack of current season coach purse or knock off Sperry shoes, but some of the hardcore members of other houses (and campuses) would. There are sadly those few people that think they have to judge others to make them feel better about themselves. These are the ones that somehow make themselves the most visible to the rest of the world, and perpetuate all the negative stereotypes.

    I'm all for going back to my parents generation where it was completely socially unacceptable to bring up the subject of money with anyone but your family or extremely close friends. It's my business thankyouverymuch.

  • joelle van dyne

    very good question, and i wish i had an answer! i think part of the comments on people's spending comes from the fact that we respect people we perceive as having self-control. and for some reason, when a woman shops regularly, or has way more shoes than necessary, there's the interpretation that she's spending money out of control. of course, that doesn't have to be the case! but i think a lot of people see things that way- when i see mean comments about fashion bloggers in general, there's always a comment that they're shopaholics in serious debt.

    that's really just silly. having a closet filled (or overfilled as the case may be :) with nice stuff doesn't mean anything about someone's self-control, or financial situation. i know a lot of bloggers (myself included)forego other things in favor of fashion- fancy food, travel, booze, a nice car, or whatever the case may be.

    i sometimes wonder if people still haven't all come to terms with the fact that women can work, and make their own money, and spend it on something that makes them happy, and be able to control how much they spend- no matter how much or how little that amount may be. ~joelle

  • Hope

    I'm with many other commenters here: I think most of the judgement that comes from other women in regards to how we spend our money is just jealousy. Which, I think jealously is normal, and I struggle with the same thing, but I don't show/verbalize it like I see some other women doing.

    I know in my case, I have a co-worker who constantly judges me for what I wear, even if she doesn't say it, I can see it in her face. And it annoys the crap out of me even more when she asked me how much I spent.

    I also think that it stems slightly from intimidation, as well.

    In the end, it's the money that I earned, and we live in America, so I'm going to spend it how I please. It's no one else's business.

  • Olusola

    Ms Sal, this post strikes me so much that I just have to comment. IMHO those hurtful comments stem from jealousy period. Jealous unhappy people figure out that if they can hurt others and make them equally unhappy, then maybe their unhappy lives wouldn't look so bad. It's sad really. I don't think its just a female thing though, it just appears that men manifest it in a differnt fashion. eg jealous women would make catty comments and give you the evil eye. Jealous men will try to get/show something they have that's bigger and better than yours :) All's the ugly side of human nature.
    O, http://www.mammalooka.com

  • …love Maegan

    I dunno ..this is a tough one. I only imagine people {women especially} who are judgmental towards others' spending habits happen to feel guilty about their own habits and/or are shameful about themselves. Or maybe just jealous that they can't afford or don't spend their money that way and wish they did?

    I mean it is YOUR money and no one {except maybe your husband} should really have a say about it. I understand if it's a problem with debt and there's irresponsibility but still, no one else's business.

    I strangely have this issue with my mom. She chooses not to spend money on herself but wishes she did. She has a martyr complex. I get packages in the mail daily …some gifted, some purchased and she just happened to stop by on a day I got a big box delivered from Victoria's Secret and while I wasn't going to open it she pushed me to …then made me feel horrible about my purchases saying things like "Wow, it must be nice" and "I could NEVER shop like that". I wish it didn't upset me but it did to the core because she has no clue what our/my income is and/or what is gifted, etc. yet she was being judgmental about my shopping. When I thought about it later I realized it was less about me and more about her …her need to be the victim of life keeps her from making any choices for herself or ever getting anything she wants. It somehow makes her feel like a better person feeling shitty about herself. Weird. But that's not my problem, nor should she put her guilt on me for it. But she does anyway.

    Sorry for the novel 😉 I obviously cannot write about it on my blog because my mom reads it.

  • Kyla

    I think people judge others' spending so harshly, and it hurts so much when they do, because in our consumerist society so much of our idea of "self" is attached to what we have, what we can't have, etc. How often do you hear "I'm feminine because I wear skirts and heels…" [what they buy] vs. "I'm feminine because I believe in kindness and diplomacy over force…" [their actual personality]? And for women, as others have noted, all attempts to assert a "self" is criticized. My boss was teasing me for my perfume collection until I pointed out he easily spends 10x more on his hunting and fishing equipment.

    On the other hand, I'm not sure I support the idea that buying large amounts of stuff is completely morally neutral as long as you can afford it. While I like clothes, and my perfume, and my camping gear, I try and remind myself that the cost on the tag isn't the only cost of the object. By buying beyond what I strictly need, I'm contributing to and supporting a consumerist mindset that has destroyed large parts of the environment and caused a lot of suffering in those who haven't come out on top of the social pile. It also has a cost to ME, as I'm fully aware that the rat-race of capitalism means I'll never feel I have enough and drives that guilty feeling I get when I look at my bank statement.

    However, that doesn't make snide criticisms of others' spending habits at all acceptable. Like any grey moral issue, I think it's mostly an individual decision, and when it is debated deserves more than a juvenile attempt to shame someone for having too many shoes.

  • Sal

    Just wanted to say that, as always, I'm REALLY enjoying reading everyone's thoughts and opinions. Thanks for contributing honestly and respectfully. You are ALL stars.

  • rb

    My mom always said that when someone says something mean to you, it is really about them, not you. I am sure that is true in this case, too. Hang in there.

  • Alyssa

    This post was so timely for me. I do feel quite guilty when I spend time/energy/money on shopping. I think my guilt has to do with my beliefs about how I *should* be acting. For some reason, caring about my clothing doesn't feel like a legitimate concern to me. As a mom and professor, I can rationalize the importance of looking and feeling confident, stylish, and put together. Yet, I feel guilty about the effort that it takes for me to do so. I hope to reconcile some of these negative feelings soon.

  • Anonymous

    p.s., and I'll be anonymous for this one.

    There is this tension in my family about spending money, where we definitely judge each other. My sister is very disorganized with her spending and she spends a lot of time and money clothes shopping at discount stores, and recently bragged on facebook that she could no longer close her closet doors.

    Then she emailed me and our other sister and asked us to chip in for her son's new $800 laptop because she was "broke." My other sister and I declined to chip in, for a variety of reasons but largely because we knew she was spending elsewhere and she could have bought the laptop if she had prioritized it. So we were judging her spending, for sure.

    But then later in the month, I mentioned shoe shopping and my sister made a snide comment about how I could do that but not pay for her son's computer, so she was clearly judging my spending as well.

    However, that's all family b.s, obviosuly between me and someone I know well. I just wondered if your anonymous mean girls may be projecting some of their own personal situations like mine onto you.

  • Christa

    I think the reason men are judged less harshly is because (in general) they tend to save up their disposable income to spend on larger purchases, such as a boat or a car. Women, however, tend to be more detail-oriented (in general) and therefore spend their disposable income on more, less expensive items, such as clothes, shoes, bags, etc.

  • Meli22

    This is a subject near and dear to me- I have gone through some financial revelations in the last year- which, of course, have affected how I feel about investing in my habit. MY being choice words- I try very hard not to judge others, because their situations, needs, and backgrounds are so different.

    Sometimes, when I see someone post about something they just got- I get instant envy/lust/love and want to buyitrightnow! However, I try to use certain strategies for my own purchases- and lately have stayed away from blogs that in my opinion really stimulate my shopping 'need' demon. Those blogs tend to do nothing but post wishlists and shopping hauls, FYI… not that that is BAD, but they hit my weak point.

    Anyways, I think we all have our own inner balance- and for those of us that are NOT balanced with finances and their habit (be it smoking, shopping, crafting, whatever it may be) I wish them much luck! Addictions are just that- and while people do overspend or are irresponsible, I think they need support and encouragement rather than tearing them down. :)

    And by the way- I think you are an excellent role model. You are always so clear to point out how HARD you think about what you say, buy, and do- you're not encouraging people to be irresponsible, but quite the opposite. You enjoy your CHOSEN hobby- which you can support in every sense of the word. What more can we ask for?

  • Simply Playing

    I find myself "justifying" my spending to my husband as we are a one income family and it is my husband who works. He tells me I don't have to explain my purchases to him that he trusts me to not to spend beyond our means. When I reflect, I did the same with my father justifying what I wanted money for. Just wanting something was not o.k. So maybe it's a little bit of learned behavior?

    I also think that it could stem from Puritan roots of spending on anything not absolutely essential is wrong. Things are not supposed to make us happy – we are supposed to just "be" happy from within.

    We have so many taboos in our culture but discussing money is definitely one of them. My friends and I recently discussed our money problems for the first time ever (we've all known each other for over 25 years) and it was such an eye opener for me. They had their private money struggles just as I did. I felt such relief and a lightness of spirit.

    So, please keep writing about how you spend and enjoy your money. Maybe if the discussion of money becomes more public we can all drop the shame, guilt and judgments.

  • Kafine

    Speaking as someone who came from a less than priviledged background, spending on unecessaries has always been something I just don't really understand, because I've never been able to do it. It's not SO much a jealousy issue (although I'd be lying if I said there wasn't an element of that), as the fact that I've been trained to see these things as superfluous, and when the money is available it should be put towards a greater, more worthy, or longer lasting cause.

    So when my freind buys a new £60+ coat every winter I don't think she's a BAD person, I just don't understand that choice, as someone who is perfectly happy to wear the same £25 one for several years running, untill it falls apart.

    A large part of when this starts to taste bad though, and when I am sadly guilty of starting to pass comment on people's choices, is when they will toss their money around and then complain when it isn't there any more. When they realise their luxuries don't make them happy/last forever and want to have their cake and eat it too. So you got your coat and your shoes that you never wear, and now you want to borrow money? Uhuh.

    But of course, if you can genuinely afford these things after covering the essentials, then cool. That's your buisness :)

  • Sheila

    What an awesome article, Sal, brava! I think the judgement stems from the fact that the majority of the population sees fashion as shallow, period. Spend the same amount of money on say, collecting stamps or decorating your house or travelling and no one says boo, but heaven forbid you spend it on shoes!

    When people finally realize that fashion is an inner artistic urge that we express in an exterior way, well, I think that only then will people stop judging us.

    And as for me, I have only 3 years left on my mortgage and am only 1 small payment away from paying off my December vacation that I put on my Visa. I'm good with money, and I have a budget for fashion. It's my choice, no one else's.

  • Mardel

    I don't know why people are so mean and why it is so easy for some people to be judgemental. I do think it is harder for women, so much pressure is put on us by society and family and there are so many mixed messages concerning attitude, clothes, strength, intelligence, beauty. I think that some women feel put down and pressured from so many sides, and only able to strike out at other women as a power play. But to judge does not help the situation, only perpetuates it.

    I think people need to learn to deal with their own issues. But I do think you have a great blog and are clear about what you do here.

    I wonder also if the availability of quick, easy, cheap throwaway fashion contributes. After all what is the point of saving clothes if you can run right out and buy something new for $20. I'm not recommending this, I think it is a sign of something we've lost.

  • V

    In my experience, people need an excuse to judge others. Comparisons place the observer in context as well as the observed.

    If they, the observer, weren't judging you on shoes and clothes, they'd judge you on something else. it's just that money spent and clothes worn are easy targets. Money and cost are just easy metrics.

    I wound up defending the fact that I use a pre-paid cell phone instead of one with a monthly bill. Mine wasn't "real".

    After I explained that I had no desire to pay for minutes that I would never use and aspects of service I don't want, my brother shut up about it.

    He also doesn't get why I wear hats. My core reason "because I like them" is also alien to him. He also introduced me as "the family eccentric" as though he has to explain me to the people he knows.

  • Amy

    My dear Sally,

    Your blog inspired me to branch out a bit from the v-neck/jeans rut I was stuck in. I had thought that being 130 lbs overweight and looking stylish were mutually exclusive. So, I happened across your blog, bought some flattering clothes, started wearing some of the piles of jewelry my husband has bought me over the years, and got fairly positive feed back. I also got the "How much did that cost?" questions and the "She's putting on airs" looks. (Don't think I don't see that, bitches!)

    The thing is, women/people in general are raised to evaluate their own lives in relation to other people. More than that, they are taught to judge so that they can feel better about themselves when someone is doing something different or doing better than they are.

    In a nutshell: Haters will hate, so f*ck 'em.

  • Anonymous

    It's interesting, but somehow I think it might be seen as more forgive-able if a woman had, for instance, one "nice" designer coat costing $500 instead of ten cheap ones around $50 apiece. Which leads me to believe that it is more about perceived quantity of stuff than about actual money spent. A woman (or person, really) with lots of clothes, no matter the price, is seen as unable to understand need and resourcefulness, unable to gauge the value of an object. More than this, I think people unconsciously judge her for the amount of TIME she must have spent picking out said items. Basically, people see a big collection of stuff, and probably think not only about the money, but also think to themselves "Who needs that many shoes? Why spend time on a shoe collection?" I think even people with a lot of money who are not into shoes might ask that, which shows that it is also women's perceived needs and priorities (not just financial situation) that are judged.

  • Angeline

    Good question. I don't know, but it's not fair. While I do sometimes think to myself "why did they buy that?" it is always in reference to people I know in real life, who have expressed financial problems to me personally, but continue to spend anyway. Even so, it's none of my business and I would never say anything. Everyone has different priorities and they should be able to decide what they spend their own money on.

  • Meadow Walk

    Kafine said a lot of what I was thinking so I'll just point up to her. For example, today I am wearing a pair of Sketchers I bought 4 years ago. They were $60 and that was a lot of money for me to spend on a pair of shoes. And I was judged for it. Yet I have worn them every single day for the past month, and many many days over the summer (probably 75% of the time), and that is the case every year. I kind of feel like, these shoes are "perfect", exactly what I want, exactly me, and so why would I want to try and find something else, something more?

    Maybe that is a part of it — the idea that a woman is not contented with what she has but is always seeking the newer, better, more exciting thing. Maybe it relates to notions of sexuality and promiscuity too.

    Anyway. From this post I just read your whole thread on the shopping ban. It was really interesting to read. I had many thoughts as I was reading about it. I don't want to write War & peace here tho.

    One thing I thought was thus — I have this annoyance with people on the internet who …hm what is the word. Not LIE exactly, bc some things are private and no one is obligated to share what is too personal with me or the world. It's more like a sort of PR, a sort of "spin" that might seem harmless but it is not.

    For example, a blogger who only shares the happy moments, the good pictures, the great outfits. But there is an underside to it that is not shared or even alluded to. So then women are reading these entries and all we see are the pretty clothes and great shoes. We don't see the underlying reality. What do you have to do in order to look that good? How much time does it take? How much money? How much space? A lot. And so many bloggers show only "the end result" without the truth of what it takes to get there. Thus leaving other women feeling inadequate or "less than."

    So I appreciated the whole series because you were very honest about the whole thing. Yes you look great daily but here is how much time, money, effort it takes to get to that point. And here is the dark side of it, the not so perfect side, the insecurities and anxiety, the struggle.

    That is a WHOLE picture. That is a complete picture. Now when I see your outfits, I feel it is a more rich portrait because I know more of the backstory. You did not pop out that outfit fully formed and effortless. There was a process. Part of the process you love, part is a struggle.

    Thus you or some nameless person might see me and judge me as looking "schlumpy" (not that you would, but bear with me here), but the truth is I spend just as much time as you do on your clothes, but in other areas.

    Therefore I get to choose that without the inner critic voice that beats the tune "why can't you LOOK more like her???" Because then I can answer "because that requires X and Y and Z and I am not doing all that. Instead I am doing A and B and C that fit more with my life goals." And then I can appreciate your outfits and enjoy without them being a way for me to attack myself.

    And in terms of judging you for how you have a "shopping addiction" and I don't — well I can judge that as soon as I drop this extra 50 lbs I am carrying around. No one is perfect. We all have our areas. I have been reading some great books that point out to me that your area is my area is her area — they are just "wearing different outfits."

  • Val-MN

    Very interesting topic. I agree with a lot of the comments regarding jealousy, prior views of what women should spend $ on, what is viewed as important spending versus frivolous, and the specific kind of marketing to the genders.

    I, too, view my accessories and my clothing as collecting things that I like and of which I take good care – like any other "collector" would. However, we fashion collectors actually USE our items instead of letting them just be "on display" in a library or a garage, etc.

    I used to have an annoying co-worker who would always compliment me on my jewelry and then ask "is it real?" Now, 75% of my jewelry is real gemstones/silver/gold, but I like fashion jewels as well as the real. So, when she would ask the nosey question, then I would just think to myself that she is envious because she has kids and has to spend her $ on them versus my being single with no dependents and having more disposable income.

    Sal, you do a great job about documenting not only your fashion journey/ideas, but also self-esteem/happy "thinking" websites, etc. That's why I started looking at your blog (from your Lori & Julia interview). So, keep posting whatever you want to share…the positive comments will outweigh the negative.

  • lisa

    This post really hits close to home for me because of something that happened just a couple of months ago. Long story short, someone who was a close friend was caught out saying she'd be "embarassed" to have spent as much as I have in the past on a single handbag and that the "girls who do are kinda retarded." Unfortunately, whether it's jealousy or her own guilt/shame complex around her spending habits or her beliefs, her attitude doesn't seem to be ripe for change, and I don't see her becoming less judgemental over time. She and I are no longer friends.

  • Joanna

    It is because, ultimately, there are many many deeply unhappy people in this world. One of the ways that unhappiness seeps out is by judging others because it temporarily makes one feel better about personal choices. Let it slide Sally, it isn't your problem.

  • Roisin Muldoon

    Another thought-provoking post Sal, thank you!

    I wonder if, for some people, there is an element of only feeling able to justify their own choices by attacking the choices of others. For example, recently someone I know had a baby. Pre-pregnancy she spent a lot of money on clothes and shoes for herself, and has a lovely collection of outfits. Obviously after having her baby she had an additional financial commitment so stopped spending money on clothes for herself. All perfectly understandable and reasonable, of course. However, she became critical of other people who spent their money 'frivolously' and I wonder if this was a way of making herself feel more comfortable with her choices.

    I don't have any financial commitments past rent and bills and I do spend money on myself. I don't follow fashion but buy dresses and shoes that I enjoy wearing. I see it as a form of self expression. Most things come from ebay or charity shops or sales, but that's not the point – the point is, it's money that I have earned and that I have the right to spend as I wish. I found the comments of my acquaintance irritating and upsetting but I don't want to let anyone dictate to me what I should do with my life and with my money.

    A previous commenter wondered if there is still a feeling that women should be 'selfless' and that spending money on ourselves is abhorrently selfish. I think this is certainly an issue. There is still great societal pressure on women to be please others. Doing something to please ourselves can be seen as threatening.

    Anyway, I may not spend my money as 'sensibly' as other people might like, and it may be selfish of me to spend my money on myself, but it's what I'm going to do. Let the haters hate! x

  • tinyjunco

    why nasty comments – anything from a truly idealistic person who cares deeply about what our consumerist society is doing to the earth and to us, who feels they have to call out over-consumption wherever they see it; to someone who got emotionally beat up every day for four years by the 'popular girls' (one of whose left forefingers is an exact ringer for yours).

    i've yet to get any nasty comments on my blog, but i've gotten tons in real life. if you're truly comfortable with who you are and what you're about, those anon whackjob remarks should make no difference to you. they don't know you and they are talking out of their hind end.

    i do think it's a little naive to deliberately go out of your way to put yourself out in public and not expect to get at least some negative feedback. people are people – it doesn't make it right, but at the same time their rudeness, etc. is not your problem. maybe give yourself permission to let people make a@@holes out of themselves without your feeling responsible for 'fixing' them? " )

    (my word is 'prell' !)

  • Anonymous

    Honestly, I think spending on new items rather than purchasing from thrift/consignment stores is good for the economy. You should be commended.

  • Gloria

    I'm an accountant so I know a thing or two about finances…but I also enjoy shopping and clothes. I built myself a budget. First things first: make sure you are saving for retirement, have some liquid savings put away for emergencies, and all the bills paid on time. If you can't do that, no new clothes for you. BUT, if you are financially prudent, make all your credit card bills on time and are on top of any debt then buy clothes! Enjoy yourself! There is nothing wrong with buying what makes you feel good. However, you can't end up in the poor house because of shopping habits. My point: there is no reason at all to feel guilty about your purchases if you are taking care of business elsewhere in your life.

  • Mina

    As others have mentioned, I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that women have been independently managing their finances for much shorter a time. Give it another 20 years and it'll be better. Another 40? It'll be virtually unnoticed by the young adults of today. These sorts of problems take generations to change. But I agree; a woman's finances are her own, and it's no one's place, man or woman, to pass judgement on how she takes care of it. If she's in trouble, she'll handle it accordingly. Almost everyone learns finances the hard way, after all.

  • Sassy Molassy

    Wow, such a great discussion going on here in the post and comments.

    I think there are a variety of reasons why we judge women so harshly, which have all been said more or less. I think it's a combination of the fact that 1) there are jealousy issues about what someone can spend on clothing 2) what women should be spending on themselves as caretakers 3) how much they should be consuming (i.e. do we need 5 pairs of boots and a dress in every color of the rainbow?) 4) whether or not clothes are seen as a necessity %) concerns about how our buy habits effect mother nature, and the list just keeps going. Thanks for the great post!

  • Jenny

    I am reading The Thoughtful Dresser: The Art of Adornment, the Pleasures of Shopping, and Why Clothes Matter by Linda Grant which addresses this very issue, among others. It is a very interesting book and I highly recommend it. The author writes a lot about how an interest in fashion and shopping is seen as shallow and frivolous by most of society and the correlation is that people (women) who spend money on clothes and shoes are also shallow and frivolous. As Ms. Grant writes, it is an odd stance since being naked is the one thing society will not tolerate. Everyone, no matter how poor, has some form of clothing to wear. We will allow people to starve, to be uneducated, to be homeless, but we will not allow them to be naked. There are entire charities formed around the collection of old clothing for poor people.

    On a different note, I recently started reading your blog and I really enjoy it!

  • Amy

    I vote for the obvious answers – first, total sexism. A lot of people still think that women are more frivolous spenders than men (which is completely unfounded, but I'm guessing stems from a time when women had little to no control over finances, since for whatever reason, it was not their 'place'). I'm guessing being fashion bloggers who are regularly obsessed with clothing and shopping (deemed frivolous in their own right by scads of people, which is another topic entirely) only compounds the issue, as some people assume that we just don't think or spend money practically – and I agree with Scholar Style Guide regarding the fact that luxury purchases in categories other than fashion are unfairly deemed more legitimate or acceptable (and that it's very unfair that a women purchasing shoes is judged more harshly and viewed as more indulgent than a man purchasing a new smartphone).

    The rest I'd have to assign to jealousy, or sour grapes. People who might love fashion equally but don't have as much money to spend may see your purchases as unnecessary (regardless of how little of their business it is). I admit I've been jealous of people who have the funds to afford expensive designer footwear on a regular basis, and a bit perplexed by people who 'splurge' (as it would be, in my terms) on a $300 scarf. People who have to work particularly hard for their money will be all the more appalled. But personally, I've learned not to judge people, regardless of where their money comes from, or what they choose to spend it on. Like you said, it's really none of my business. But I think economically speaking, some people feel slighted.

  • Courtney

    My apologies if this has already been said in the comments–I've been out of town and skipped to the end. Women who display power and independence are criticized because the person doing the criticizing feels they have neither. You display your power and independence through they way that you dress and the amount of money you spend on clothes (whatever that may be), so that is where they aim their criticism. If you blogged about traveling the world, that's where they would hit you. You are a powerful independent woman–and you know it and don't apologize for it. People who feel powerless and trapped often lash out at people like you instead of directing their energy to changing their situation.

    Please don't stop what you are doing–you are made of awesome.

  • Mrs. Lyons

    OH, I have been thinking about this since you posted a few days ago… I'll save my long rant on busy-bodies for another day. :) What I don't understand is people's problem with a shoe collection… I mean, they are SHOES. And shoes are USEFUL. We wear them (almost) everyday, the whole time we're awake! WTH are you going to do with a binder full of old, cancelled stamps (etc.)? I understand that people collect different things because it gives them joy (or for other reasons) but for me, at least, usefulness is very high on the list if something is going to reside in my house!

  • Audi

    I think many people make hateful or judgemental comments simply because they are ASSHOLES. There are a lot of miserable people in the world who see someone else enjoying life and immediately want to bring them down. Just leave them to their hateful, miserable lives and carry on, lovely lady. You can spend your money on any damn thing you please and you don't have to justify yourself to anyone, not even if you post every last thing you buy on the internet and not even if you include how much money you spent.

    The fact is that we all have our own yardstick when it comes to measuring how much is "a lot" to spend on clothes or shoes or anything. And those individual perceptions can change over time; what I now don't bat an eye at spending on a pair of shoes would have been unthinkable when I was 23 and making far less money. So when anyone takes that constantly changing, highly personal yardstick and tries to measure someone else with it, the result will always be unfair judgement and incorrect conclusions.

  • Anonymous

    Here are my thoughts:
    I have a blog. I put all my thoughts and feelings out there in the blogosphere for everyone to read.

    Fortunately, the majority of the comments I receive are incredibly supportive. But sometimes I read something that is a little more direct and honest than I wanted to hear.

    I choose to reflect on the 98% of the positive feedback. I choose to ignore the 2% negative comments.

    If you are getting a huge amount of support from the majority of your readers, why are you acknowledging the minority of the "haters".

    Really, you know better than that!

  • Sal

    Anonymous (7): That's great that you get such a large percentage of supportive comments. I do, too, and I acknowledge these amazing contributors to this blog space openly and frequently. If you visit this blog regularly and read the comments section, you likely know that already. You can see it in this very post, in fact.

    The negative comments that I received on this particular topic were some of the most judgmental, vicious, scolding, vindictive things I've ever been told in my life, and they were told to me by total strangers. On top of the blog comments, I also had a few people write e-mails to tell me how disappointed they were in me. This happened over multiple years, the shopping ban being now two years past. This, to me, reflects a pattern of behavior that is larger than a minority of angry commenters feeling upset with me in specific.

    So I wrote this post to open the conversation about women and money in general, as the post title indicates. And it has generated a varied and fascinating conversation, just as I meant it to do.

  • italophile

    In my opinion, disgust and resentment smack of jealousy. People reveal a lot about themselves in their nastiness.

    As for judgment, well. It's so much easier than honest self-evaluation, isn't it?

    Sal, I'm a long-time lurker. I never comment, but I can't tell you what your blog has done for my self-confidence and my sense of style. You have a gift. And you are one classy lady. For every snide comment, there are probably 50 of us lurkers out here whose lives you touch in ways you'll never know.

  • Sal

    italophile: You absolutely rule. Thanks for de-lurking today – and twice, even!

  • Lizzie

    I'm not sure that this is a gender-based issue. Men probably don't get criticized as much because their consumption is not so obvious due to more limited clothing and shoe choices. My husband has many more shoes in his closet than I, but some of them are so similar that you'd never guess it by looking at our feet day after day. I mean, who needs 4 pairs of tan suede boat shoes, and who would see the small differences in each pair?

    And when what is considered by some to be excessive spending on appearance is revealed, then men have been widely criticized, as in the case of the famous Clinton and Edwards haircuts.

    What is disturbing is the way that the anonymity of the internet allows people who would never have the nerve to criticize on a face-to-face basis to say whatever cruel and mean thing that pops into their heads. You see a woman on the subway everyday, and everyday she wears a different pair of shoes. Who would have the nerve to call her out for spending too much on shoes? I can't imagine, but here on the WWW you see this sort of thing every single day.

    Just try and read the comments people make on any news article, and it will disgust you. Some newspapers have had to disable their commenting feature because of the ugliness.

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