Savvy Chic by Anna Johnson came in the mail a few days ago after I devoured the whole thing on one of our Barnes & Nobles dates. It was definitely worth picking up, and I'd recommend it to anyone; just don't pay full price. Anna Johnson is a flamboyant, romantic spendthrift who has (mostly) mended her ways and put forth a manifesto on how to enjoy luxury without paying much, or anything for it. It was definitely a book I needed to read, since, as my mother has famously said, I have caviar taste on a hamburger budget. One could theorize that it was an inevitable backlash against years of missionary (and Dutch) thrift, but I prefer to think of my expensive yearnings as a love of beauty frequently butting up against the fact that quality and originality are rarely cheap.
With my job in jeopardy and our house undergoing an expensive, though involuntary remodel, I've never needed to reign in my spending more. Yet, I've never been more tempted. Some people are stress eaters. I'm a stress shopper. In the last six weeks, I've bought Savvy Chic, a new frying pan to match my set, Stila powder foundation, an Anthropologie sweater (a steal from eBay) and a camisole to match it, two clearance cocktail dresses and a blouse fromPepperberry, a pair of Crocs ballet flats (Too small, returned 'em), and I tried to buy some shoes at Naturalizer (had a coupon, nothing fit). I also bought six yards of Waverly outdoor fabric (30% off!)for curtain panels in my kitchen and seven tension rods on which to hang them. And that's not even counting a $385 binge at Ikea Atlanta two weeks ago that yielded a china cabinet, duvet cover, down pillows, towels, a candle and a flower pot. I'm exhausted and ashamed just looking at that inventory.
Granted, circumstances have been extenuating with the house torn up, but only five or six of the things I bought relate directly to the house. The blouse that hasn't arrived yet from England and Anthropologie sweater are meant to be worn to a job I may not have in a few weeks. Two cocktail dresses? Well, I need one that must do double duty for an August formal wedding and my company's December party...if I'm still employed. Both were on clearance and I couldn't decide. Will liked one better; my mom liked the other. I've stiffened my spine, though. When I try them on, the one that is less flattering is getting returned, along with a linen dress from Pepperberry that was too big, and I haven't returned yet because the kitchen flood happened. I wasn't out of powder foundation; it was just a great deal on an expensive item. I tell myself that I use Stila because it's the only brand I've found that exactly matches my skintone, and it would be a waste to try and discard drugstore brands when I've found something that works perfectly. That is true, but I wore drugstore brands in high school and college. Though the color matches weren't ideal, I didn't look ghoulish. No, I looked bad in high school and college for a whole host of reasons that had nothing to do with cheap makeup.
Now that I feel thoroughly broke, I need to think about things that make me feel rich.
1. Buying organic veggies at the farmer's market. Cost: $10/week if I don't buy a watermelon.
2. Richly scented soaps that come in pretty packaging. Cost: Doesn't matter to me. $3.99 at Marshall's is average, though I like to buy soaps from places we go, like Colonial WIlliamsburg. No lavender or anything powdery or sugary-sweet, please, if you're planning to give me a gift. I like crisp, clean scents, especially citrus, mint and bayberry.
3. Playing Messiah at a volume just short of "bleeds ears" and singing along. Cost: free. It reminds me of many road trips to and from college, and that magical night when I took Will (not yet my boyfriend) to a spring Messiah concert at Lookout Presbyterian. I still get shivery thinking about sitting in the back of that glorious cathedral and being borne away by the polyphony.
4. Good coffee. Good coffee is harder for me to find now that I'm allergic to caffeine. (It makes me itch horribly) A nice, rich decaf is a treasure. Cost: $5 for a medium Snickers latte at Wholly Cow, or $10-15 a pound. Ground coffee lasts a long time at my house because I only drink it on the weekends. I'd be perfectly happy to buy Folgers Gourmet Selects decaf, if only I could find it! I keep checking the grocery stores I frequent, but nobody stocks the decaf! Dunkin' decaf isn't bad, but it isn't special, either.
5. Dried mangoes from Saigon Oriental Market. Cost: $1.98/bag. They're imported from the Philipines. That satisfies my love for exotica. The fact that they're the most blissfully delicious thing ever doesn't hurt either. Sure, I eat the whole (small) bag in one sitting, but that's what makes it a treat, and it's a cheap treat at that.
6. A spotless bedroom. Cost: time and laundry. I've decorated our bedroom so that it looks like an expensive hotel room. I spent less than $300 on it, but it radiates luxury. It's extremely soothing to open the door and see a crisply made bed, scented candles and a gently running ceiling fan. As a matter of fact, that's making me sleepy, so if you'll *yawn* excuse me....