Nearly Everyone Feels Guilty About Spending Money

Photo credit: Spixey, CC BY 2.0.

Last Friday, we looked at why rich people hide price tags. Today, let’s pair Rachel Sherman’s NYT essay with Claire Zulkey’s longread at Racked: “Shopping When Your Partner Works and You Don’t.”

I think it’s only natural to look at someone whose life seems more comfortable than yours and assume it’s also easier. I’m old friends with a stay-at-home mom of three. She and her husband, who works for an insurance brokerage, live in a large house that they’re remodeling, have two cars, and employ a live-in au pair. I have more than I need but I sometimes covet the diamond jewelry her husband has given her, the gorgeous Chloe bag she once brought to lunch. I then envision that those things are her life: shopping and having nice things. But I know better, especially after taking the time to ask several stay-at-home parents about the state of personal shopping in their one-income family.

It goes without saying that all of these stay-at-home parents are rich, or at least upper-middle-class. One interviewee notes that her earrings are cubic zirconium and that she doesn’t go to coffee shops—the latte factor will never die—but another is happy to admit that she has expensive tastes:

Most SAHPs have an unspoken ceiling where they give their partners a heads up (instead of asking for permission). Caroline*, a former saleswoman and Playboy model who is the mom of one, will treat herself to the occasional Chanel or Hermes bag that costs up to $2,500, “but if it’s over $5,000, I’ll ask for it as a present.”

And yes, the article addresses the fact that parenting and housekeeping is work, even with a live-in au pair, and that people who do full-time household management should be compensated accordingly—even if this compensation simply means “not feeling guilty about spending a partner’s income because your labor helped to support your partner and your family.”

Also, as we discussed last week: nearly everyone feels guilty about spending money, or worries that they’re spending too much. No matter how much they have.

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