When it comes to the empty calories (so to speak) of spending, I try to think first of the things that always end in regret. Things that I can get rid of without really feeling like I’ve lost anything, because their purchase was always out of habit, laziness, or some kind of emotional search that should have been answered with self-reflection and personal growth instead of “charging some random item on my debit card.”
And, of course, there will be time to really get in-depth in all the psychological reasons behind buying stupid shit — and I’m sure there are many of them, and I will never be able to fully understand them all — but for now it’s important to at least call out the basic things that bring about an immediate sense of regret.
Unecessary taxis: This is probably the most upsetting thing of them all, because you actually get to stew inside the cab as you watch the ticker go up, watch the city go by, and think of all the easy, convenient ways you could have gotten home (and hell, maybe gotten some exercise while you’re at it) if you weren’t lazy and awful. Taxis can be good in certain specific situations, but if I’m just too tired to change metros or don’t want to walk more than a certain number of blocks, I will always hate myself every second of the ride (and cringe at the charge when I eventually look at my account).
Expensive cocktails: I suppose, once in a while, these are fine. But that once in a while should be pretty few and far between, because expensive cocktails are insane. In New York, it’s not unusual to find bars with 15+ dollar drinks, and to see a basic cocktail at a decent-to-nice bar be about 12 dollars. And this is absurd. Aside from the fact that you can easily spend 50 dollars on A COUPLE OF DRINKS, the endgame is that you get a little tipsy, consume 1,000 liquid calories before you even eat, and pee it out a few hours later. Getting a drink at a bar is fine, but spending 13 dollars on some stupid gimlet that’s usually not even that good is just an enormous waste.
Trendy clothes that don’t look good on me: Something comes into style, I try it on, I see that it does not at all flatter my body, I buy it anyway because I’m at Zara and it’s only 30 bucks and after all that’s the price of two nice cocktails, right?? And then I never wear the stupid harem pant jumper or whatever it is, and am filled with hate every time I see it in my closet.
Lackluster beauty treatments: Here’s the thing about nails or hair or makeup or whatever: it has to be good to be worth it. And frankly, too many times I’ve gone in for a shoddy manicure in a color I didn’t really like, or a haircut at a salon that was both overpriced and understaffed, and I’ve come out not only feeling ugly, but also hating myself for spending unnecessarily. Aesthetic treatments should only be purchased when you are sure that the result is going to be good, because if there’s one thing worse than a shitty haircut, it’s having to see that shitty haircut in the mirror every morning and know that you paid 100 dollars for it. I don’t mind paying good money for beauty treatments, but taking the time to do the research for the right place (and knowing exactly what you want when you go) is of the utmost importance.
Pushy salesgirl purchases: One quality of mine that leads to a lot of regret-filled spending is my extreme anxiety when it comes to saying no to pushy salesgirls. They can smell it on me, and harass me with false compliments until I feel morally obligated to buy some ugly cardigan just to get them to leave me alone, and to feel that I did not waste their time. I have almost always hated everything I’ve bought because I felt like I needed to “justify my presence” in a store, or to appease a retail vulture. And granted, this is more psychological than anything else, but it still results in a lot of terrible purchases.
Unnecessary Seamless: This one, like taxis, needs to be qualified, because I don’t always regret the food I order in. Sometimes it’s a wonderful, even necessary thing, and it provides me with great joy and satisfaction. But I would say at least half of the time I order food, it’s because I’m profoundly lazy and tired or hungover, and don’t feel like taking a second to cook, run to the grocery store, or even go outside and eat the food in the restaurant like a functioning human. Because ordering in is often no less expensive than going out, even if it doesn’t feel quite as much of a commitment. And when it goes from being a luxury to a norm, you just start to feel like this gluttonous aristocrat who demands food be brought to them on a silver platter.
These are just the basic things, of course. And I’m sure there’s more that I haven’t thought of. But these are the kind of purchases that not only do I know are idiotic as I’m making them, but immediately come back to haunt me when I cringe at my checking account and realize that 250 dollars went into just delivery food, a stupid cardigan, and a couple taxis over the past week. 250 dollars is a lot of fucking money — enough money for a weekend in an AirBnB somewhere sweet and new and fun — and wasting it on pointless bullshit is the first ugly habit that must go.