Please welcome Vered, who will be posting here regularly on financial matters with a mom’s perspective. Let her know what you think of her first article by leaving a comment below!
With the movie ‘Sex and The City 2’ playing in theaters now, I can’t help but remember the episode where Carrie has to vacate her rented apartment. She figures it’s time to buy her own apartment, but realizes that she’s too broke. Essentially, over the years she has spent an entire down payment, or about $40,000, on her collection of shoes. Carrie worries that she might “literally be the woman who lived in her shoe,” which is supposed to be funny, only it’s not.
Carrie Bradshaw ends up being saved by her friend Charlotte, who gives her her engagement ring to use as down payment. Later, she marries a rich guy who gives her a huge closet. Good for her! But most young women can’t rely on getting financial help from a wealthy friend or on marrying a wealthy man as a way to avoid financial ruin.
A Sad Reality for Women
The reason I’m so upset with a fictitious character and her irresponsible financial behavior is that I suspect it is representative of a very real and disturbing reality, a reality where young women are pressured into spending their entire paycheck, month after month, on designer shoes, clothes and accessories. And it doesn’t end with that. Whenever I read about recent trends where women in their twenties are getting Botox injections to prevent wrinkles from ever forming, I have to wonder, how exactly do they afford these expensive treatments?
There’s huge pressure these days on young professional women to spend a lot of money on “looking the part,” and looking the part includes designer everything. But most women can’t afford this lifestyle. Many are still paying off college loans. They have just started their careers and are not making enough money to justify living a lifestyle that would be appropriate for a wealthy socialite.
A Lifestyle Financed By Credit
So how do they do it? They finance this extravagant lifestyle with credit, or at least that’s how they did it until the recession hit and credit dried up. There was this funny commercial a while back that showed a man with a big house and a new, luxury car. When asked about it, the man cheerfully said, “How do I do it? I’m in debt up to my eyeballs!” It was funny and sad at the same time and made me grateful that I am not in debt.
Since the Carrie Bradshaw lifestyle is obviously financed with credit – borrowing as much as you need to indulge your expensive habits, then paying the minimum payment on each credit card and carrying the (growing) balance from month to month, it is an unsustainable lifestyle that eventually leads to financial ruin. Credit card debt is the worst type of debt. It’s extremely expensive, and once you get tangled in it, it’s very difficult to free yourself.
Did the Recession Help?
Interestingly, for women who have previously fallen into the trap of leading a lifestyle that they can’t really afford, the recession might have been a good thing. With credit drying up, people were suddenly forced to go back to consuming what they could actually pay for. However, as much as I would love to think that the recession has taught us all an important lesson, I’m afraid that human nature dictates otherwise, and the conspicuous consumption in ‘Sex and the City 2’ is proof.
If you’re a young woman who is just starting out her career, my advice would be to avoid succumbing to the insane pressure to spend your entire paycheck on designer items. Owning 100 pairs of $400 shoes, a la Carrie Bradshaw, is a waste in every possible way. I know better than to advise you to make do with just two pairs of sensible shoes, but how about owning 10 pairs of $200 shoes and saving the rest towards a future down payment, or towards your retirement?
Editor’s Question: So, do you think that a woman’s desire to spend is mostly pressured by men and their unrelenting gaze, or do you think that it’s actually caused by the woman’s competitiveness? Do you think this spending behavior is women specific, or do you think that men are just the same, but just spend their money in different ways? Share your thoughts!