Can't Buy Me Love

Feb 17, 2005 |Heather Koerner

Are you feeling lonely? Consider these tips from money coach Sharon Durling. They may save your self-esteem and your wallet.

Valentine's Day, for all its positive PR, can be a tough holiday. There's nothing like Feb. 14 — and all the hoopla that goes with it — to make a girl painfully aware that she's single ... unattached ... flying solo.

And since most of us, aside from fictional Sex and the City fashionistas, don't particularly want to be solo, the day can be downright depressing.

Most of us have been there, sitting in our flannel pants and hair scrunchy while our roommate gets dolled up for her romantic evening out. Her roses sit on the kitchen table while the closest we get to flowers is our Bath and Body Works lotion.

It's not that we begrudge her having a great night. It just would have been oh so nice if God's plan for us had included one too. As soon as she's out the door we dive into some rocky road and start flipping through catalogues with phone and credit card close by. Or worse, we hit the mall with wild eyes and an insatiable appetite to feel pretty.

As comic Elayne Boosler once said, "When women are depressed, they either eat or go shopping. Men invade another country." Now I don't know if the number of countries being invaded spikes around mid-February. But I can tell you that many a fabulous lady has found herself several Jacksons lighter because she let the weight of Saint Valentine get the best of her.

So what's a girl to do?

Sharon Durling, money coach and author of A Girl and Her Money: How to Have a Great Relationship Without Falling in Love, has some ideas.

Durling, a former vice president of a multi-national financial services company and self-described "savvy gal" who understands the temptations females face, recently spoke with Boundless about women and money.

"We're women and we emote," Durling says. "We have feelings and they go with us — into our makeup, what we're wearing and into our pocketbook. But our emotions don't have to rule us — we can allow our smarts to take over."

Here's what she recommends:

First realize you are a target.

Didn't know you were walking around with concentric circles on your back? Well, you are. At least as far as Madison Avenue is concerned.

You are their top demographic. They want you — and the brand loyalties you are developing. If you're not shopping for a honey, they want you shopping for yourself — even if they have to fan the flame of your insecurities to get you spending.

"When you hear an ad, it's never about the thing. It's about the aura around the thing," Durling points out. "They keep selling things to appeal to girls' senses and emotions."

For example, Durling directs you to your latest women's magazine. Notice that all the adjectives in the ads — whether they're selling scarves or shoes, fragrance or fingernail files — are the same. They tell you how you're going to feel — pretty, fresh, skinny, sexy, confident — but nothing about the product itself.

And these tactics work because there's just a smidgeon of truth. "You do get a little emotional high when you come out of the store with a crisp shopping bag with the pretty pastel tissue paper and the satin ribbon," Sharon says. "You feel like you're treating yourself because nobody else is."

But the big lie is that the feeling will last. "You feel a little bit skinnier in your new outfit for about a day," Sharon says, "and then the second time you wear it you realize it was the same as everything else in your closet."

Instead of yielding to the pressure and going for the temporary rush — especially when you're in a fragile emotional state — it's better to face what you're really feeling.

"The problem was not about the cute, pink suede handbag that nobody else has. The problem was that you're feeling badly because you don't have a boyfriend." By identifying the problem, you're much less likely to act out — or shop 'til you drop.

Next, a little attitude adjustment.

Durling advises her clients to keep a gratitude journal. Nothing fancy. Just take a minute or two in the morning to jot down ten things you're grateful for.

"I've put down stuff like 'I went into the Chipotle and they gave me a free Diet Coke' or 'It felt good to help the little old lady today get across that patch of ice' or 'My hot shower worked a little better this morning' or words from the Bible that encouraged me," Durling says. "Just quick hits."

By writing those things down, she says, your mind starts to focus on what you already have — with or without roses on your table.

"We all know that money doesn't buy everything. The things that we really want — joy, love, respect — money can't even touch those. But we need to be reminded of that," Durling says.

With your new attitude of gratitude, you'll be less tempted to look over the fence (or across the dorm suite) at what others have, and less tempted to run out and buy it.

But Durling also understands that there are times when we just need to feel pretty; when we really need a little of what she calls "retail therapy." Her advice?

Implement a "Three-Day Waiting Period." That means, shop to your heart's content. Scrutinize, accessorize, try on, enjoy! But stop just short of the last step — buying. If you find something you absolutely have to have, give yourself permission to enjoy it and then give yourself three days to think about it.

"Three days later those emotions that were running me at the time are likely to have changed or moved around and I'm more likely to think, 'You know, it wasn't that cute.' Or 'I'd really just rather have the money in the bank,'" Sharon says.

The waiting period allows you to enjoy the experience and leave the store without feeling deprived. Then, if you choose to go back to buy, you can do so guilt-free because you've really given the purchase consideration (assuming of course you've got cash in hand and aren't putting it on a credit card).

Sharon also advises splurging like crazy — but smart crazy. "Better to treat yourself to a special bath oil or body cream than overpriced shoes or an outfit that will set you back a rent payment."

So buy that expensive lipstick rather than the drugstore brand, if that will slow down your urge to splurge. But consider enjoying other affordable luxuries as well: a warm bath by candlelight, experimenting with a new hairstyle, giving yourself a pedicure or organizing a gab-fest with your girlfriends.

Finally, Sharon advises all the "fabulous chickadees" out there to make sure their priorities are straight — Valentine's Day and every day.

Love yourself more than your money, she says. And Love God even more than that.

"When you go into debt, buying things you can't afford, you're respecting your money a lot more than you respect yourself. And money's not worth that," she says. "It's an object of exchange. That's all. It comes, it goes. You are so much more than that! Who you are — your spirit, your brains, your talents, your skills."

"And then," Sharon says, "there's the creator of the universe who loves us and created us. I mean, need I say any more?"

Copyright 2005 Heather D. Koerner. All rights reserved.  

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