You Deserve Good Things

A few months ago, a dear friend and I were chatting about quality over quantity. We discovered that we’re both more likely to purchase six crappy-but-cheap items over one high-quality item. And while I believe that some women can utilize and enjoy large, varied wardrobes, I also acknowledge that how we spend money on ourselves can be very telling. What we feel we deserve is at the core of many purchases, whether we realize it or not. And talking with my girlfriend about the frustrations of rifling through a closet packed with chintzy junk-clothing, about how she was more apt to spend big on me than on herself, about how she will always hunt down a cheap substitute for the item that she REALLY wants, this became crystal clear. And I found myself saying to her, “You deserve good things.”

And I didn’t mean that she should start shelling out $1,000 per pair for her shoes, or that anything she’d purchased at H&M was unworthy, or that she was looking visibly shabby. On the contrary, this lady is strikingly beautiful and one of the most stylish people I know. Whenever we meet, she is inevitably wearing at least three things that I want to strip off her body and run away with. But hearing her talk about her shopping habits made me realize that she didn’t believe that spending money on herself was wise or fair or right. She didn’t think she deserved quality, beautiful, good things. She thought she deserved second-rate things. And it broke my heart.

And it made me think of all the women I’ve met who behaved the same way, believed the same things, held themselves as second-class citizens in their own lives. Some did it because they’d never had access to money growing up, and simply didn’t know how to invest in quality. Some did it because they hated their bodies and refused to shell out for amazing clothing until they got thinner or prettier or more toned or more something-else-that-might-never-happen. Some did it for reasons I couldn’t fathom, and all did it unconsciously.

We all manage our money differently. We all have different amounts of money, and divvy it up based on our personal spending priorities. And sometimes we’re flush and sometimes we’re broke, and a philosophy of always “deserving” the best can seem preposterous when times are tight. But it’s not really the spending that matters, it’s the mantra, because no matter your current financial situation, YOU DESERVE GOOD THINGS. I believe that good things, quality things, beautiful things – be they clothing, shoes, accessories, and jewelry or food, experiences, houses, and artwork – are not the exclusive domain of rich, powerful, phenomenally beautiful or unbelievably lucky people. Even when you can’t afford them, you still deserve them. Even if they’re not available, you still deserve them. You are, at your core, an amazing human being and you deserve the bounty of the universe.

Does this mean that expensive things are better than cheap things? As a lifelong thrifter, I can comfortably say “no” to that one. Does this mean that self-worth should be equated to high prices? Also no. Does this mean that people who have always had good things and never had to work to earn them don’t deserve them? Big piles of no. Does this mean that you should run out and spend your life savings on a pair of YSL platforms? No, it most certainly does not. Does it mean that you deserve the pair of YSL platforms that you’ve been coveting for two years, and that saving patiently for them and eventually buying them for yourself is a worthwhile endeavor? Quite possibly.

Material objects are part of life. The objects that we choose to use affect our comfort, self-image, and overall happiness. The process we use to select and obtain objects reflects our views about ourselves. When we choose objects that make us feel indifferent, we are slighting ourselves. When we choose objects that make us feel joy, we are honoring ourselves. And that holds true regardless of brand, cachet, and price.

We deserve good things. And we should let them into our lives as often as we can.

Image via weheartit.

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  • meghan

    I appreciate the spirit of this post. The idea that we should value ourselves and not fall in to that stereotypical female role of giving giving giving and leaving ourselves with scraps is so important, whether we’re talking about things specifically or just general life philosophy.

    That being said, there’s something messed up here and I’m having a hard time putting my finger on it, so forgive me if this is a little all over the place. I think the idea that we deserve good things like YSL shoes only works in so far as we disregard a sort of general consciousness about why we want things and where those things are made and who benefits from our “Omg you’re worth it!” philosophy.

    I agree that it’s ok to own nice things and spend more sometimes. We work hard for our money and sometimes things are important and meaningful and improve our lives as much as travel experiences or great dinners or any other comforting luxury that we spend our money on. I think the problem is somewhere in this word “deserve” which, for me, can’t help but mean more than just “sometimes it’s ok to spend money on yourself”. For me, the phrase is loaded with the ghosts of labour, wealth, and privilege living within the shiny things we think we deserve. The fact that someone got paid pennies to make your 100 dollar shoes complicates who deserves what. The fact that part of the reason you love that Anthro sweater is the aesthetic that an advertising company is selling you to make more money for the richest ten percent at the top complicates who deserves what. And I say all this as someone who likes shopping, who buys nice things when she can afford it, and who appreciates material objects as meaningful and important place holders in our lives. I just think it’s dangerous to think of these things as something we deserve on the micro level without seriously thinking about how this philosophy affects what we all deserve on a macro level. It’s ok to like nice things and it’s important to value yourself and feel good about the things in your life. Somehow, though, it feels wrong for me to consider this in terms of what I deserve because I can’t help thinking of it in terms of what someone else then doesn’t.

    • Sal

      All valid points and very well stated, Meghan. I hope I’ve made it clear, though, that I’m not talking exclusively about expensive things or experiences, or items and behaviors that go hand in hand with wealth and privilege. Deserving good things will mean different things to different people because we all have different needs and wants, and different ideas about what makes something “good.” Quality can be procured for very little, especially when we’re talking about used objects, and one of my main points is that when we cheat ourselves by choosing something that we KNOW is second-rate, we are doing ourselves a disservice.

      Also I don’t want this to seem like an exclusionary statement. I believe ALL people deserve good things, even when they cannot procure them. (Now or yet, hopefully.) So it’s not a question of, “You deserve this, but others don’t.” Not in my mind, anyway.

      • Jill

        I stumbled across this article and said Yes! This is me! I do consider myself a second class citizen in my own life and I grew up without money and I have a visceral reaction to spending money on really nice/beautiful things for myself, despite the fact that I work really hard and earn a good salary. I grew up with parents who were Depression Era children. Every. Single. Time we had to buy things, it seemed to hurt the family. And my Dad was a janitor, my Mom was a stay-at-home mom. Money was tight as they sent my 3 older siblings through college. I wore hand-me-downs and garage sale specials.

        I was feeling the love from this article and feeling like I deserved to pay attention to myself…

        And then I read Meghan’s comment. And I immediately said “Oh that’s right. Deserve is a bad word.” And I was going to go back to shopping consignment and wearing shoes that are older than my children. But wait. Why is it I don’t deserve to spend money on myself? Why am I letting someone else’s definition of the word “Deserve” color my actions?

        Meghan, I don’t know you and I don’t mean to attack you. But I kinda wanna own the word deserve. I mean you no harm, but let me deserve what I can eke out of a 40 hour/week paycheck after daycare and after school and the mortgage and daycare. I haven’t had a manicure in years, I haven’t had a date night in 4 months. I need to claim some space.

  • Sal, such an interesting issue! I have been pondering these same things a lot lately – and I think that one problem that arises from this is that the wardrobe expands beyond control. What if clothes simply are too cheap for normal, working woman?

    There’s also that annoying “instant gratification” demand in me – and partially I’m nurturing it because of the short cycles of fashion – what I covet today might not be available when I have saved and can finally afford. Soooo… …the solution is to grab something “nice enough” from the ever affordable high street chains…

    The thing that really alarms me now is that I feel slightly shamed when wearing my hard earned “better” stuff. I bet there’s that same nasty idea behind… …a doubt if I truly deserve this – uh, I really need to shake that…

  • An excellent point and so well made, Sal! This is such an important mantra to adopt and not just about the things in your life. It all comes down to believing that you deserve to be happy and fulfilled, and deserve to be able to feel good in your own skin. Whether this means feeling awesome in exactly the right shoes you’ve been looking for (be they from Payless or Prada) or really believing that you deserve good things from your friendships and relationships. It’s all part of the same conversation – respecting and valuing oneself as an important, worthy, unique being.

  • I agree that women (and men) hold themselves back sometimes because they feel they don’t deserve something, or feel guilty if they do something for themselves and not for others instead. I have done it. I hate that I feel guilty for spending $ on things I can afford comfortably, but I don’t feel like I SHOULD. It actually just came up for me in the last two months- I posted a little about it last week. It IS ok and even a positive thing to have a habit that we do invest money into without a return. We express ourselves, derive satisfaction, etc.


    There is a problem in this consumer society where people believe they deserve something without earning it. You don’t deserve things you cannot afford- buying expensive items with $ that isn’t yours (debt, unemployment, welfare, etc) is wrong. Debt in itself isn’t bad- but it should be on items that are neccesary for life (a car for instance, if you have a long commute) or should appriciate in value (house for instance). Unemployment & welfare are for survival until you can get back on your feet- food for your family, rent, electricity, etc. I know that I am in essense judging others, but like it or not choices like these affect EVERYONE eventually. We must be responsible for our own lives.

    There also is a problem with prioritizing what is important in life in some people. You should always make sure that you can take care of yourself and your future needs prior to spending exuberant amounts of $ on something that doesn’t put you far ahead. Investing 20k into clothes and shoes over a few years years when you have no retirement plan, no emergency savings, and large amounds of debt makes no sense.

    Having an excess of $ in the bank means nothing, however, when you have meet all of your needs and shoulds (making sure you are on track for saving for retirement for instance). This is when we should invest in ourselves and not worry about a return. And if a big, beautiful collection of shoes or dresses makes you happy, amen! If you like paintings and home decor- go for it! Scrapbooking? Enjoy! : )

    • Sal

      Agreed! I was hoping that the bit about not blowing your life savings on a pair of spendy designer shoes covered the debt factor, but it bears repeating. Good things can be procured for cheap, if you shop wisely, but the really expensive ones? They should be planned for and saved for, not splurged upon.

    • Unemployment & welfare are for survival until you can get back on your feet- food for your family, rent, electricity, etc. I know that I am in essense judging others, but like it or not choices like these affect EVERYONE eventually. We must be responsible for our own lives.

      Forgive me if I pick nits here, but this is the part of your response that I disagree with. This comes close to saying that people on unemployment or welfare don’t deserve nice things, or don’t deserve to spend their money on things that make them happy.

      Obviously either philosophy can be taken to harmful extremes. Believing that you deserve things to the exclusion of planning your finances can make those nice things worthless because you don’t have food in the cupboard. But saying that if you aren’t earning money you don’t deserve to buy luxuries relegates those who don’t have jobs to a really unfortunate position. Everyone deserves good things. Even those who can’t work. Even those who are homeless.

      “Luxury” is a sliding scale–if your only definition of “luxury” is something that was new this year, full price, and eminently disposable, then I guess not all of us deserve luxuries. But if a luxury is something that isn’t required for living that makes you happy… I think everyone deserves luxuries, because otherwise what are we living for? Give us bread, as the song goes, but give us roses, too.

      • Sal

        Very well said.

  • Loved this post and you are so right. I resemble you friend in that I will spend more money on somone else than I would myself. I must write this down, “I deserve good things” 🙂 Thanks!!!

  • Very well put Sally. Thank you for a beautiful post. Sometimes we do lose sight of our own worth. Thanks for the reminder.

    Have a wonderful day

  • This is a perspective I hadn’t thought of, despite many instances of hearing about and even knowing women (moms in particular) who skimp of things for themselves and splurge on others. I think you have a very insightful post here, and it made me examine my own bargain-hunting tendencies.

    After that examination, I think my tendency toward less-expensive items has more to do with practicality and the thrill of the hunt than needing to believe that I deserve nice things. I regularly choose quality (and even splurgin) when it comes to dining out, and I am as likely to bargain hunt for a gift as I am for myself. When it comes to my wardrobe, I like variety, and it would take me a very long time on my budget to build a closet with the number of options I like if I were investing only in high quality pieces. I also get a thrill from a good bargain and am more than willing to spend time to find a beautiful, high-end item for a steal.

    Still, I like your mantra and your message. I think if I use the deserving angle when I bargain hunt, I might be more likely to hold out for items I truly love (a practice I have been steadily working on) than buying placeholder items that aren’t quite the thing.

  • Amal

    This is SO true. I love this post. what is also true is that when you get the beautiful clothes/shoes/thing you deserve…wear them, use them. Don’t have a closetful of fabulous things that never see the light of day because you’re waiting for the right occasion. Make the occasion.

  • Al

    This post hits at the core of one the biggest changes to my mental outlook over the past year or so–I rarely spent well on myself. I could talk myself out of anything. Why should I get another pair of black shoes? I already have one! How extravagant and frivolous! But I’m letting myself now find the joy in decorating myself well, and it’s much more satisfying than allowing myself to beat me up mentally for wanting more. Thanks, Sally!

  • bonnie

    This post really hit home with me. I was just telling my daughter that I am going to be more selective about what I buy. I probably waste more money cramming my closet with cheap, poorly made stuff than if I actually treated myself to carefully chosen, well made clothes. I keep thinking back to my Mom whose motto was, ” This is too nice to use.” Any gifts she got that were of even slightly nice quality were stashed in a drawer because they were too nice to use. Sad that she didn’t feel she was worth nice things. I guess some of that has rubbed off on me!

  • Actually I think for a lot of women, it’s also a ‘spending limit’ thing – like – “If I spend more than $50 on a pair of shoes, I’m being frivolous” or “A good coat is too expensive since I won’t spend more than $100 at a time” – that sort of thinking. Part of that is that I think a lot of us lack product knowledge, in terms of what a good thing actually costs to make. Part of that might be the whole offshoring of manufacturing in this country so that we have had 30 years of perhaps unrealistic pricing at the stores but I also think that we just lack knowledge of what it actually costs to make something well. I remember my mom telling me when I was very young that ‘good wool coating all by itself costs $25-$30 a yard, so with everything else in the coat and paying people a decent wage, you should expect to pay at least $150-$200 for a good wool coat. and that was 40+ years ago.

    • anya

      You are so right! My mom’s a seamstress and I get the work that gets into a garment. And yeah, good quality coating should be expensive. I live in a developing country and I know how some premium designer denim is made in factories where workers don’t have every Sunday off and are paid 100 Euros a month.

  • Coincidentally, I had just read this post about women’s weirdness around food:

  • Bubu

    Terrific and thought-provoking post and comments. I too am somewhat conflicted on the “deserving” word – I’ve been trying to use that less in my life, because it leads to some not great decisions (in terms of spending and eating, etc)… instead understand that either I “need” or “want” and it’s ok to want what I don’t necessarily need, but should be honest that that is what’s going on, and can then make a more rational decision about whether I should get what I want (but don’t need). I definitely agree about choosing quality – I finally concluded I’d rather have half the number of shoes and spend over $100 a pair then a bunch of cheaper $50 and under that hurt my feet and don’t last… but if I can get that over $100 pair for less, then I really feel I’ve scored! So I’ve ended up at bargain hunting for high quality items, and that way I don’t feel I’m cheating myself, but if I can, I don’t mind “cheating the system” a little!

  • I was really intrigued by what Meghan said above about the word “deserve,” and the dangerous ways that “I deserve X” can sound like, “I deserve X and others don’t.” I was driving behind a guy in a BMW the other day with the license plate “IDSRVIT” and I admit it, I was pretty hacked off (the fact that he didn’t understand the concept of alternating feed didn’t help things)—I came to a rapid, stereotypic reading of what he was probably like as a person because of how he was describing his relationship to this obvious status symbol that he was driving around. I’m not comfortable with the fact that I had that reaction, but I’m fairly certain I wasn’t the only one on the highway who had it.

    That said, I was really moved by this post. I’ve had many similar conversations with friends/relatives/my mom (who, in addition to being a style muse, has some pretty impressive self-awareness on this particular issue), and I’m struck by the commonality of this refrain—not, I can’t have that because I can’t afford it, but, it’s “wrong” to spend money on myself in that way. Intriguingly, it isn’t always a viewpoint they hold about other things in life that are similarly “frivolous” (obviously I disagree with that wording) as fashion and style—there seems to be something about women (particularly wives/partners/moms) and spending money on clothes qua clothes that’s notably fraught, and I’m really curious about why.

    I don’t have a lot of (or any!) brilliant insights to add on this, but I think you said it best at the end of this post: material objects *are* a part of how we interact with the world, whether we like it or not, and there’s something really important about engaging honestly and meaningfully with our relationship to them.

  • Gingi

    No deep thoughts to share – I just wanted to say this post is absolutely GREAT!

  • CC

    Great post and so much great feedback! I personally have a very small budget for things like clothes, shoes, and skincare. So, while I simply can’t afford to splurge, I still buy the best I can. This often means haunting thrift stores and hoping something I love will go on sale. It also means that what I do have I love and take care of. For the first time in years, I recently bought a pair of shoes at full price. They were from Payless. 🙂 I absolutely adore them and will be wearing them all the time. They also are one of just a few pairs of shoes I plan to purchase this season so I felt they were worth the splurge. However, if I hadn’t had the cash in my wallet, I wouldn’t have bought them or deserved them.

    I guess my biggest problem with this post is the concept of deserving versus earning. I have been working with youth for a decade now and have seen an increasing attitude of entitlement. They seem to feel the world owes them something. This leads to kids who aren’t willing to work and have little desire to help others. The world owes them and everyone around them should serve their needs and desires. From what I’ve seen this attitude has increased over recent years and breeds young adults who don’t really contribute and truthfully haven’t earned anything. Do they deserve better? Absolutely. They deserve to be taught to earn their way and the value of contributing to society.

    As a mother of a toddler, I admit that my first impulse is to put my kid first and give him everything he wants. Because I love him. However, if he doesn’t learn the value of hard work and to appreciate what he has, he can’t become the kind of man he should be. I also admit that I do put his needs above my own. If he needs shoes or clothes, those needs get filled before mine. Primarily because his are truly needs and mine are just wants. Once his needs are filled, I can happily spend the remaining cash on what makes me happy. Admittedly this is still often a toy or game for him. 🙂 But the last thing I want is for him to grow up thinking the world owes him something.

    Anyway, please don’t take this wrong. I am not really disagreeing with you. Especially if your demographic is grown women. We do tend to think others deserve better than we do. This isn’t always a bad thing though. Having an unselfish attitude and putting others first is a good thing. In some ways it is why we deserve good things. We’ve earned them. Thank you so much for your thought provoking posts. I always enjoy reading them and everyone’s responses.

    • CC, your comment is so interesting because I’ve been contemplating the definition of “entitlement” lately, especially since it’s a word often used to described Gen Y twentysomethings (a demographic I belong to). My parents immigrated from China with practically nothing and worked incredibly hard to give my brother and me a good life and more opportunities, for which I’m extremely thankful. And although they did their best to meet our needs, there were some “wants” where they had to put their foot down and say no simply because there wasn’t money (like a tenth grade exchange trip to France that all my classmates were taking).

      Having parents who can say no to their kids and act as role models for what hard work can accomplish is a great thing. It taught me that 1) my parents couldn’t give me everything I wanted and 2) I could have what I want if I work hard for it like they did. I covet expensive things and I even own a few of them, but they were thoughtful purchases that I planned and saved for as Sal described them in her blog post, and they are meaningful to me because they’re earmarks of the hard work I’ve put in to get to where I am.

      Anyway (one long rambling later), you sound like you have a very grounded approach to life and parenting, so I’m sure your son won’t grow up exhibiting the sense of entitlement you’re so appalled by. 🙂

      • Katie Schulz

        We must have grown up in the same family. My parents were married at 17 and 18 with nothing but high school diplomas. I’ve seen them work hard, go to school, and raise a family without much outside help. We had everything we needed and much, but not all, of what we wanted. It was always made clear that you had to work for things and that there was only a limited amount of money. Luckily it was not phrased in a negative way, it was more like “we could have ____ (a new car, trip to the cape, a pool) but we would rather spend our money on ___ (vacation next year, your college tuition, a healthy retirement).
        I’m now 30 and I don’t feel entitled to things but I do feel like I work hard and deserve something nice every now and again, so long as I can afford it. I am also the type to buy one really nice thing rather than 10 cheep things. I have fewer cloths and shoes than any one I know, including my boyfriend, but each item is well made, fits me, and goes together to create a versatile wardrobe.

  • Bravo! This is a great post, Sal.

  • Sal

    As always, amazed by this open, honest, varied, and insightful dialogue. There are so many ways to interpret the concept of “deserving,” and so many factors that play in. I chose to focus here on the tie between deserving and self-worth, but it’s fascinating and enlightening to hear the other concerns, emotions, and reactions that the concept pings for all of you.

  • I totally have been trying to do the one “perfect” thing over several not great things… for example the vintage leather school satchel I’ve been wanting and hunting for for three years… in that time I could (and was tempted to!) buy live five “okay” bags… but instead I waited. And waited. And when I found the “perfect” one, I jumped. In the long run, I think finding and buying that one for $140 is way cheaper than if I’d bought several cheap ones thinking they’d be “good enough” and still not been happy. Plus, I think it’s good to be patient delay gratification sometimes!

  • Part of the reason I think women believe they don’t deserve nice things is because so much of what we are taught to value as a culture comes from a patriarchal standpoint. If you’ve shared living space with a guy, you know they usually don’t worry about whether or not they deserve something — if they have the money or the expectation of being able to pay off the debt, they simply buy whatever they want. For a long period of history, this meant a lot of women compensated by being frugal because whether or not the kids had shoes depended on Mom getting money from Dad before he could drink or fritter it away. Many families still work on the same assumption — Dad’s money is his, Mom’s money is everyone’s.

    On a more cheerful note, it’s worth discussing these expectations with your spouse because it took me 12 years to admit to my husband that I was structuring the budget with the assumption that I paid for all the household necessities. This caused huge amounts of stress because I felt like whatever I spent from myself came out of the kids/house budget. Whatever I gained meant a loss elsewhere. It was a revelation to hear that my husband considered haircuts and makeup to be necessities on a par with buying shampoo, and he was genuinely baffled as to why I was walking in shoes that hurt my feet.

    Another side of this (sorry for the novel) is that not everyone wants to splurge on the same things. I used to feel vaguely guilty when I was shopping with my friends and they would have fun splurging while I would refuse to even consider things above a certain price point. Now I’ve realized that I don’t want to spend a lot of money on stuff because I don’t WANT TO TAKE CARE OF IT. Whatever you own owns you back. I deserve to be able to throw my purse on the floor, swing it around, and accidentally shut the strap in the car door without having a panic attack. Therefore, I don’t deserve an expensive handbag….and I’m really, really fine with that.

  • As someone who feels guilty about spending money on myself, I appreciate the thoughtful post. There is no way I’m ever buying YSL platforms, but I’ll work on not feeling guilty on spending out for nice stuff. (At least when I actually buy something nice, I truly enjoy it. I don’t feel guilty AFTER the money is spent, I’m usually enjoying the item too much by then!)

  • Sal

    Folks, I’m having LOTS of probs with the site today – so if your comments get lost or it takes a while to moderate them, I’m really sorry. Freaking out a little, over here. Hopefully it’ll all get resolved soon.

  • SarahN

    This is such an interesting issue. I cringe when I think of how much money I’ve wasted buying disposable crap that ended up at Goodwill or in a landfill. Now, in my thirties, I feel that I’ve finally reached the stage where I truly embrace quality over quantity. I agree with other commenters that “deserve” can be a dangerous concept, but your caveat of wisely saving up for beautiful things is spot on. There’s an irony here, though: realizing that you do indeed deserve beautiful quality things actually requires a degree of self-denial. It requires saying “No” to many, many things before you find the one thing to say “Yes” to. In a consumer culture, where objects are cheap and credit easy, it’s so easy to justify buying inferior stuff. “It’s on sale!” “It’s only twenty bucks!” What’s hard is letting all the “quantity” pass you by so that you can pounce on the “quality” and buy it without regret, and without feeling that you don’t deserve it.

    • SarahN

      And I’m saving an ebay search for YSL Tribs as we speak…

  • Carrie

    I really appreciate the thought-provoking post and comments, as always! I am particularly intrigued by Audi’s phrase “whatever you own owns you back” and have a feeling I’ll be mentally unpacking that the rest of the day. I am in a season of stripping down my own material possessions because I began to feel “owned” by them, so that phrase resonated with me.

    For me, the hesitancy to spend anything more than bare-bones thrift store prices on things for myself (such as clothes and shoes) comes from a strict religious upbringing in a pastor’s family that 1) didn’t have much money to begin with, and 2) was always very conscious of those in more dire need than ourselves. So for us, this habit of not buying nice things for ourselves wasn’t tied to self-esteem issues (at least, I don’t think so!).

  • Liesa

    Sal – great post!! I love that you promote a healthy body image and concept of self-worth.
    I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the word ‘deserve’. I think that it can be easily misunderstood and misused. Life is not fair and we do not get what we deserve – sometimes that is a good thing and sometimes that is a bad thing.
    To start with, deserving something does not mean you get it. If it’s a pair of shoes you’ve been eyeing but cannot afford – deserving them does not mean you go into debt to get them or that you steal them. When you speed – deserving a ticket does not mean that you call 911 and get them to pull you over. =) Common sense still needs to be used when it comes to how we live and the discrepancy between what we deserve and what we get.
    Also, what someone else has or does not have in life is not indicative of what they deserve either. Like our friends/family who always put others ahead of themselves or who work really hard but cannot seem to catch a break. Or those people who are underpaid to make the things we buy that are over-priced. I think that we can be a real blessing to others when we can inject into their lives some of the nice things that they deserve. This doesn’t need to be something that costs us alot, we can make them a nice dinner, send them a heartfelt card or note.
    Comparing ourselves to others who have what we feel we deserve does not help either. This may be exaggerated when we feel they don’t deserve whatever it is. Focusing on scarcity (whether real or perceived) will not improve the quality of our own lives.
    I believe the point you’re making is that when we can make choices for good things for ourselves (in our budgets, in line with our style choices, etc.), but do NOT make them because we feel we don’t deserve them that there is a problem. That’s about as far as my advice on any of this goes, because when it comes to fixing that – I got nothin’. But, because I believe those of us who are there got here for different reasons, we will likely have our own path out of it as well.

  • I hesitate on spending a lot of money on fashion and beauty items, but that is because I always think of the other things that I could be using the money towards. Not that I don’t think that I deserve nice things or that I want to deny myself enjoyment. I just tend to place a lot of value for myself on things like travel, so I prefer to spend on those. No judgment, just trying to prioritize my limited income.

  • Three months ago we sold my very basic, no frills, aging car with the idea that I’d start driving my husband’s car and he’d get a new (used) one. We shopped around and settled on a car with a sunroof, CD changer, satellite radio, and other niceties. After we got it home, my husband informed me that this car would be mine. Had I known we were shopping for me, I’d have gotten another no-frills, boring car; now I have a car that’s very fun to drive and that makes me happy every time I get in it.

    Why was I willing to spend more on a car for him than for me? I don’t believe that I’m worth less than he is; I think I’m just cheap when it comes to stuff for myself. I’m not willing to part with hard-earned cash as easily when it’s something for me, but I’m happy to be generous with my family and friends.

  • Anne

    Sally, thanks so much for the beautiful affirmation. I have been trying to tell myself for years to, “Do less, better.”

    I think I will spin your words in this direction also: People in general deserve not just “good things”, but good intentions and good treatment. I tend to have tough standards, not just for myself, but for others. I am going to try to remember that those around me need good things too, namely more patience, more support and less judgment. As always, you bring much substance along with the style.

    • Katie Schulz

      Do less, better. Wow! I love it. Thanks, I’ll be mulling that one over for the next while.

  • What a thought provoking post! For me there’s a “you never know what’s going to happen”–or “You can’t take it with you” thing that resounds in my head every time I am trying to decide to shell out the big bucks for something I really like. My father passed away when I was 21 and he was an avid collector of ‘things’ and on the heavier side–he was always of the above mantras–why deny yourself the chocolate cake when you might get hit by a bus tomorrow or why not spend $100 on a pretty cut glass vase as you can’t take your money to the grave. It didn’t mean he was in debt or didn’t take care of necessities or didn’t give to charity–it just meant that he enjoyed his money on frivolous things……as do I…..just in the form of Italian shoes….

  • It’s not so much about “deserving” stuff as it is about deserving kindness and a modicum of comfort and pleasure in your life. And, you owe those things to yourself, as much as to other people. We’re not talking luxury, we’re talking decent standard of living (emotional as well as physical).

    My Gramma was one of those women who would put the nice nightgowns or slippers we gave her for Christmas in the cedar chest and then continue to wear the worn-out stuff from K-Mart–she would say the new ones were “too nice to use” or that she’d save them for when she “needed” them (which apparently, for her, was when she might have to go to hospital and therefore be seen wearing her nighties in public and possibly offending someone with her shabby regular attire). She didn’t return the nice things, didn’t give them away–just stored them where no one got any use or pleasure from them. Now, that, my friends, has nothing to do with frugality or selfless giving–it has everything in the world to do with not feeling she was entitled to enjoy the comfort and pleasure in her own life that were readily available to her, and those things had to be kept at hand as a reminder for her of that fact.

    And countless women do this every day…

  • Great post, and what an interesting and thoughtful array of comments. I liked Roisin’s comment about valuing yourself as an individual and that extending not just to purchases but to all aspects of life. I really agree that the same person who thinks she isn’t good enough for material objects that bring her joy also opens herself up to putting up with crappy treatment from friends, settling for less than she deserves at work, not putting an end to bad relationships, etc. We rarely think about spending money as a therapeutic exercise, but I wonder if altering the internal dialogue about purchases might spur other important changes in a person’s life. It seems to me to be a good place to start, and an easier thing to tackle than some of the others; overcoming the “I don’t deserve it” mentality and buying those YSL shoes might actually give someone the confidence and courage to make other changes that lead to greater happiness.

  • Marsha Calhoun

    The very word “deserve” carries baggage for me, ever since the advertising industry decided to try to manipulate me and every other woman (and perhaps man as well) by adding “You deserve it” at the end of so many ads for things that really have nothing at all to do with what I may or may not deserve.

    I am resentful because I believe such ads result from their perception that I think of myself secretly as a “poor, hardworking, underappreciated, self-sacrificing female.” I am nothing of the sort. I have a much stronger character than that. If I choose to do something for someone else instead of for myself, it is a conscious decision; if I choose to skip a luxury (as I define luxury) for the sake of spending my money another way, that’s my business. It’s not because I have some pathological view of myself as undeserving, and I resent the implication (Sal, please understand that I am not thinking that you make any such implication; you don’t, and neither do the others who have responded here.). Rather, I am a deliberate consumer, responsible for my choices.

    If I really want something, I have no problem evaluating its context in my life (and the lives of others) and then deciding whether or not it would give me the most satisfaction to buy it. But I do take this into consideration, with virtually every purchase. I don’t buy things because I feel sorry for myself – that’s a bad reason to spend, and I’m grumpy when people (i.e., marketers) approach me thinking that I secretly do (“I don’t get any respect or care from other people, so I’ll just buy this for myself – that’ll learn ’em”). If I had such psychological/emotional issues, it would be much better for me to do some deep soul-searching than to buy the nice new whatever, regardless of cost. “You deserve it” is a phrase that can keep us tied to the notion that we are somehow failing to appreciate ourselves (or be appreciated by others), and if this is the case, I think we shouldn’t try to purchase our way out of our pain.

    In terms of quality, it’s usually true that you get what you pay for, and since a big investment up front so often pays off in years of not having to replace it, I would encourage women (and myself) to be increasingly aware of how they spend their money, and to invest rather than just spend. (This requires some thinking about yourself, your style, your priorities, and what you really want, which I admit I have not done enough in years past.)

    Finally, when I consider a really big purchase, I do think about what else I could do with the money (beyond necessities) that might make the world a bit better – maybe support a charity I love, and make a huge difference in someone else’s life – and I weigh this against the satisfaction I might receive if I made the purchase. (I think this is another reason the marketers keep shouting that “you deserve it” – they don’t want you thinking about such things, or they might lose a sale.) The fact is, every expenditure is a choice, and it is up to each individual to make it with awareness, unafraid to consider the alternatives.

    And thanks for such a thought-provoking post, and to all the others who responded; great food for thought.

  • For me it’s more about instant gratification. I have to save up to buy the more expensive things (or just not pay some bills, which is not an option) and sometimes I will. But usually I want what I want when I want it, so I’ll find a cheaper substitute that I can have now.

  • Thankyouthankyouthankyou for this post, Sal. There’s another angle to the “I don’t deserve it” mentality that can plague women: those feelings about their OWN spending may get displaced on other women, coming out as bitter, judgemental, or envious statements. I used to be friends with a girl who had a huge spending hang-up, always opting for the cheapest thing she could, because she was raised by accountants who were neurotic with money. Somehow her spending hang-ups manifested themselves as a judgemental attitude toward MY spending choices.

  • I’m so glad that you mentioned that it’s the quality that’s important -not necessarily the price. Money’s been tight for me for awhile – but I can still find amazing quality pieces while thrifting for a fraction of the price.

    I stopped buying cheap crappy items a few years ago, when I realized how much they frustrated me. I never liked wearing or using them, they often fell apart, hurt, or irritated me, and I knew that this wasn’t good for me. I think it goes with a less is more philosophy. I have fewer items of clothing than I have had in the past, but each item has been carefully chosen, and each is something that I love.

  • There’s a Tiffany necklace I’ve been saving for for almost a year now. Do I want it because it’s expensive? No. Would I rather have just one necklace I adore over 5 cheaper ones? You betcha. I totally get this post! 🙂

  • So very true! I completely agree with you. Women often care for others so well we forget ourselves!

  • Amy

    I agree in principle, but I also agree with Marsha that “deserve” is too rife with baggage. I could eat a whole box of cookies by saying I deserve them because I had a bad day. “Deserve” became an excellent excuse in my life. It becomes too easy to be inactive, unhealthy, financially unstable, and to let stressors defeat me under the umbrella of deserve. Instead, I focus on earning. It puts this idea into better perspective and removes the tone of selfishness. When you earn good things through hard work, saving, meeting responsibilities, conscientious consumption, kindness to others, generosity, etc., life comes into greater balance.

  • This post is so interesting and well-written, Sal. And it’s been really interesting to hear all the commenters’ thoughts. I think you hit it on the head when you talk about self-worth sometimes affecting our spending habits. It does vary by person, however…I often make the excuse that I don’t want to spend the money simply because I don’t like it that much or I know it’ll only be temporary gratification. While I do encourage women to splurge on themselves often (within their means of course), I don’t always think it’s a larger signifier or that denying ourselves luxuries is a bad thing.

  • Just what I’m always saying…

  • Hear, hear, oh, wise one! This is so true. It’s not about the price, it’s about quality. I am not cheap. I am expensive. I am worth it. Always.

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  • i love your blog! so positive and inspiring!

  • I agree with this post in spirit. A few years ago, I went from having a closet full of cheap clothes to a closet full of really nice things. I felt like I work hard, make good money, and deserve nice things of nice quality…not OTT stuff, but still, nicer than all Old Navy and H&M. Eventually, my spending caught up with me (on a maternity leave) and I ended up with a taste for the kind of things I could no longer afford.

    I now am a frequent shopper of our local designer consigment store..and get the best of both worlds. Designer style and quailty, with an Old Navy (or The Gap!) price-tag!

  • Sue Anderson

    Hi I really enjoyed this post and was very interested in the responses. I have been really skint for years (working part time so I can care for my disabled son) and done most of my shopping in charity shops and the more ethical chain stores, spent lots of time agonising whether to buy or not to buy. I have now become an elected representative, have to look smart for official functions and get an allowance! I have been amazed at how this has changed my whole attitude. I drop into a local department store every few months and spend a couple of hours with the personal shopper and buy what fits and suits me. No worries, no guilt at all I just do it.

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  • Ana

    “… about how she was more apt to spend big on me than on herself, about how she will always hunt down a cheap substitute for the item that she REALLY wants…”

    I do this because I know, and I know that I know, that good things can be found on the cheap (while the others overcharge you for their advertizing/location/brand) and that I have a knack for finding them.

    Plus, I walked into a Forever 21-esque shop (Terranova), I walked into a Zara, I walked into a Rue Saint Honore boutique – they all served the same ill-fitting synthetic junk food of fashion.

    I spend more on my friends because I don’t know if they know that I know (ahem) the things mentioned above and some of them do go for names.

  • Lisa

    I enjoy fine shoes, clothing, but I also remember there are people starving somehwere and I am going to retire one day.

    There is nothing wrong with getting the best if you can get it on sale, and if you need it.

    I think it is cool to have a beautiful dress or shoes in your closet waiting for church, an outing, or special occassion. No need to stress over what to wear.



  • Lyen

    I loved this article. Just happened to pop onto it a few minutes ago. I was researching the concept of ‘deserving’ and here you are. That is me, buying many cheap items because one big expensive one scares me, that I am not deserving. Which brings me back to square one. How do you know you are deserving of nice things? What does that really mean? Who judges you and says okay, you are good enough to ‘deserve nice things’. Some pretty awful people have nice things, I don’t think they ‘deserve’ them, and many really nice people have the worst of the worst. This is something i have been trying to understand for many years in an effort to understand my low self-esteem. Perhaps all I ‘deserve’ are cheap things.