The Art And Heart Of Self Denial

The art and heart of self denial. Usually when we reach A Certain Age, we are able to indulge in a few of the material niceties of life. While far from wealthy, most of us no longer have to “sweat the rent”, pitch in with our girlfriends to get gas for the weekend, or wait for Quarter Beer Night to go out for a beverage. (Ack! Did I used to do that?? Yes.)

I am writing in generalities, of course, and I recognize that my readers span a wide breadth of economic means. For the purpose of this ramble however, I am thinking about those of us who have probably been working for several decades, have a decent abode and a vehicle in the carport. These are some of the trade-offs for youth that I have written about and that Kathy Bates so memorably declared to the young women in “Fried Green Tomatoes.” (“I’m older and I have more insurance.”).

So for those of us who have the basics covered: what do we deny ourselves, in the realm of style and fashion, that we could afford? And is this wisdom or excessive guilt? If given a chance to “splurge”, might you choose some updated shrubberies, new tires, or dorm-room decor for the kids? Or a wonderful-but-pricey suit/purse/pair of boots you have had your eyes on for months?

These are over my usual price point, but I might wear them every day.

I can only truly answer for myself, of course, and hope for your answers in the Comments below. I was raised in a rather restrictive environment, with a lot more “no” than “yes”. One of the worst things a person could be was “selfish”. If therapy school taught me anything (it did!), it’s that early lessons are deeply planted and modified with only the greatest effort.

So in my 60’s, I still struggle with “deserving” and splurging, and allowing myself to spend on myself, commensurate with my income/assets. After all, self-denial is a virtue, isn’t it? Look around: self-indulgence is a fairly ubiquitous pastime, and the world doesn’t need a whole lot more Kardashians. But I am thinking about balance, a little bit of self-indulgence laced with some hard work, building, sharing, and sacrifice.

Yes, I can always find “similar” for less. But is it okay to skip the comparison-shopping every rare once in a while? To just choose something because it is lovely, and it feels good? I’m still learning the answers, never too late for that.

I’m fully vaccinated. Here’s a safe air kiss.

“There comes a time in every woman’s life when the only thing that helps is a glass of champagne.”

-Bette Davis

What are your thoughts about self-restraint and self-indulgence? What are you denying yourself, if anything, because you’re not sure you “should”?  Or are you looking at this issue from the other side, trying to curb your spending on style?

Stay safe, wash and wash and wash (your hands), xo

Wear what you love, always. Here are some goodies to browse:

Please be aware that links to vendors may be affiliate links. I may benefit from your purchases through the links on the blog. Header photo by Anthony DELANOIX on Unsplash

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  1. Hi, Patti! I’m new here. I have been searching for ‘over 50-60’ fashion blogs, which brought me to your post! Congratulations on being fully vaccinated. I was finally fully vaccinated about 1.5 weeks ago and feel so blessed to have the vaccine. I agree that we have arrived at a time in our lives when we can splurge a bit.
    My parents grew up during the depression/WW II. My mother in particular learned frugality (as she was in an orphanage from age 5-18), as well as learning other valuable skills such as housekeeping, gardening, canning and preserving, sewing, and cooking to stretch what you have on hand. My wonderful mother never splurged on anything for herself in her entire life, though if anyone deserved it, it was her. Instead she used all of her love and many talents to care for others as a wife, mother, and nurse. My father was an engineer and could’ve afforded to give her a better life, but that’s another story.
    I followed in my sweet mom’s footsteps and went to college, became a nurse, wife, and mother who didn’t splurge on myself (except for books!), preferring to put all financial resources towards our children’s education and building my husband’s business. My entire life revolved around my husband, children, and mother, and I was happy. Then the unthinkable happened in 2015 when my mother suddenly passed away. By this time I had retired from nursing and we were empty nesters with successful adult children who completed advanced degrees. Our business had thrived and grown over the years, though we continued to live below our means. This is the year we decided it was okay to splurge on ourselves. We built a vacation home in the mountains. At first we felt guilty (because nobody needs two homes), but putting a new household together from scratch required a lot of planning, frequent road trips, and coordination with the builder, landscapers, etc… Having a positive focus went a long way in helping me through the raw grief I was experiencing. It also helped me realize that I was good at putting a vacation home together, which evolved into a new source of income through purchasing additional properties that we renovate and rent out as vacation properties.
    As time has passed I’ve learned that taking good care of myself is not selfish. I’ve learned that I deserve to exercise, eat healthy organic foods, take time to meditate, be with friends, and participate in hobbies. Aside from books I don’t splurge on myself every month, but if it’s a special occasion, birthday, Christmas, or anniversary I feel okay doing something more special for myself. The first time I purchased a Chanel handbag I felt guilty and undeserving once again, but I had worked hard, planned for it, and saved for it. My husband has also allowed himself the freedom to splurge on his hobby of restoring classic hot rods. We still stay within a set budget, and we are gradually learning to overcome the guilt we feel of having a few things beyond necessities. I wish I could have given that gift to my mom.

  2. I grew up in a home where we had enough to pay the bills, but not much for any extras. When I started earning my own money, I would spend pretty much all I made (I was living at home at that time) and it took me quite a while to learn the value of saving money. I don’t own a home or a car, and with no kids, I’ve been able to buy myself most things that I want (fortunately, I don’t have extravagant taste). Since COVID-19 started, I have realized how much money I spent on unnecessary things, and cut back on my spending (especially on clothes) a lot. That said, I will still buy the occasional piece from a local small business or, a vendor online whom I know, just to help keep them going.

    • Good morning Shelley, and thanks for coming by. I’ve been lucky enough to go shopping with you, and you have a wonderful eye. COVID has been an unforeseen budget-maker in our house too! I hope you’re feeling great, and please stay safe, xx.

  3. 75 yo here. Gave up working at age 48 had enough to live on but no extras. Plenty of charity shop buys so never felt deprived. Just recently I’ve started spending more money on myself and what I’m buying is expensive perfume. When I had my vaccination recently the nurse called her co-worker to have a sniff :). As my husband has no sense of smell I was delighted.

    • Hello Flora and thanks for coming over. Perfume is a lovely way to spend a little $$. Enjoy and stay well! xx

  4. I recently splurged on a haircut. It has been years. I have cut it myself (Anna Wintour bob–not exactly difficult). When my husband lost his job, it was one of the ways to pinch pennies. What a joy to have it done professionally!
    I need to replace my black bag and am looking at second hand options so that I can upgrade and get leather for the price of vinyl. But you are ahead of me on the joys of second-hand shopping.

    • Good morning, TOF. A professional hair cut sounds wonderful! I hope you find a gorgeous black bag – the good ones wear well and second hand can look like new. Enjoy your weekend, stay safe and well, xx.

  5. Hi I grew up in a house where no one ever splurged because they were still in that “depression era” mentality. We all got what we needed and were not deprived of anything essential but there was a limit on spending. I guess everyone is different but when I got my first job and had MY OWN MONEY, I splurged on certain items I always wanted and I guess I now look back and see that it was a little self indulgent and I could have saved some money but didn’t. Blame it on youth! I now really don’t want much but if I see something I think is of good quality and it’s a little pricey, I buy it because I have learned that quality vs quantity is the ideal. These days I am not really going anywhere much except for essential shopping (food, pharmacy) so I’m in casual clothing every day and haven’t really shopped much all year. But I agree that it’s ok to buy yourself something if you can afford it. Hope all is well and yes, I received my two covid shots too! Yay!

    • Hi Arlene and thanks for coming over. Yes, I think that a lot of our generation grew up with similar mindsets about money and possessions. I’m glad to hear you were a “little indulgent” at times : > Stay well and safe, xx.

  6. I was also raised in an environment where it was considered unappropriate to spend money in no-essential ítems. I have had to learn to say to myself that I deserve all the good things, including some cute accessories!.
    Nowadays I think that spending my money in a quality ítem is an investment. I prefer to purchase ‘the real thing’ that fulfills all my requirements, instead of something similar but not so good. Even if I still feel uncomfortable sometimes.
    I think that these shoes are fab and look so comfy and cool!

    • Hello Sra, good to see you! I like what you say about quality – those items will last and you can enjoy them every day. I hope you’re feeling well and looking fabulous as ever, xx.

  7. A black Gucci crossbody bag: my do-all/end-all obsession. On my birthday this year, I walked in to a high-end handbag consignment boutique – AND THERE SHE WAS! For half the price of retail! I decided to give that to myself for the next 10 birthdays

    • Hi Mo! You’ve got 10 birthdays covered, AND you have your dream bag. Good work! Enjoy your bag and wear it in the best of health, xx.

  8. In a similar vein – One of the ways I received a great deal of satisfaction was treating my well employed daughter to lunch. One day she said – Mom, I can afford my own lunch. I said – Yes, but my mother couldn’t do this for me. She worked hard all her life and never got to the point where she could treat her daughters to lunch. So I’m doing this for her and getting the enjoyment she so richly deserved and never got.

    • Ah, this is a wonderful story, Jean. The love for your daughter shines through! Thanks for coming over to share it, and stay well, xx.

  9. Thank you ever since your say yes past post I have become less restrictive and have enjoyed several reasonable splurges on beautiful fashion and Art books that I have enjoyed immensely . I think as we mature and have worked hard it is important to really enjoy life. I must add I am so glad I splurged on those Charles Jordan high heels when I was young as I would fall in them now.

    • Hello Joan and thanks for your insightful comment. How great to “splurge” on art books – and of course to enjoy life every day. Stay well and safe, xx.

  10. Great post ! Raised by a mother who lived through the Depression and living a very frugal life as the daughter of a coal miner I have always tried to save. Getting married while still in college I was always pinching pennies and never buying anything that was not on sale. Even with a good career and salary I was a saver.
    Now 66, and comfortable retired it took a long time for me to get comfortable with spending money – on a lovely retirement community, travel, and more recently – anything I want. I finally realized that treating myself is the product of all those years of work and saving. That being said, I still cannot throw out the Costco chicken carcass without making a few quarts of soup….because….it would be a waste to throw out those good bones.

    • Hello Ann. We are almost exactly the same age and likely got similar messages growing up: save and don’t be foolish with money. I’m getting more used to the fact that after I take care of our needs, and support good causes – well, the rest is ours to enjoy after a lot of work. Cheers, xx.

  11. I had a gift card and have a (different) pair of AS98 shoes. They were comfortable out of the box and get better with time. One of my top 5 shoes of all time FWIW.

    • Hi Deborah and thank for the review! If I can wear an item many times it is worth the “splurge”. Have a lovely day and stay well, xx.

  12. I support wise splurges even with a limited budget. Recently I have splurged, on a very shoestring budget but my rationale is this- buying well made quality items designed for the long haul is better than buying shoddy items. Case in point- while I’d love to own a Loewe puzzle bag it’s $6000 price point def is beyond my reality. But it inspired me to source and purchase a vintage Coach leather bag. It’s secondhand and has some stains on it but the construction is solid and the leather soft and beautiful. It’s $80 price was a bit expensive for me but it’s a style I’ll be using for the next decade- so a splurge this year but next year a steal!

    • Good morning Bella and thanks for coming by. I like what you said about how to own a luxury at a more modest price! A $6K bag is not in my life plan either : > Stay well and safe, xx.

      • Patti, I love your attitude! I still struggle with “do I really NEED this?” But I’m getting better at allowing myself a splurge once in a while.

  13. for a long time I did not travel. our family growing up took only modest vacations, staying in cabins and cooking most of our meals. after my divorce I was a single working mom of two as well as a student, so not then either. Since retirement I have allowed myself several trips to Europe. Of course, sadly, that isn’t possible now.

  14. I love those red booties too! I would deny myself them though. Like you said, frugality is built in from the early years.

    • Hi Lise! Yes, like you said it’s hard to break our own “rules”. Hope you are well and safe, xx.

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