My spending habits are surprisingly low for someone who lives in NYC, one of the most expensive cities in the world. The thing is, I just don’t like spending money. Treating myself to a “splurge” usually comes with more guilt and anxiety than joy, which is something I guess I should ask my therapist about…but then again, my bank account isn’t complaining.
And thanks to work I get access to a lot of movie and TV show screeners, meaning I get plenty of free entertainment. My beauty routine is cheap because I rarely wear more than some light foundation and mascara; I also have bangs, which are great because you can get away with a wash-and-go without much styling. When it comes to clothes, I’ll shop the occasional sale at & Other Stories—more on that later—but I keep a strict “one in, one out” closet policy, which means I’ll make a little money from a re-sell shop every season. For everything else, I ask for gift cards for my birthday and Christmas and spread those out over the year whenever I get the itch for something new.
So when I was asked to keep a log of impulse buys for a month for this series, I thought it’d be the most boring list ever. Lucky for this article, though, it hit right before Christmas. And this year, my husband and I were hosting our parents for the very first time. That meant buying more decorations to set the mood, a frenzy of cooking and cleaning, and a few last-minute gifts I purchased in a panic. The holidays were a hit, thank God, but I’m paying penance for it the rest of the year. Here’s why.
The kitchen cart I, a grown woman, bought because my mom told me to: $100.99
While I was home for Thanksgiving, my mom strongly suggested I find a kitchen cart to make Christmas dinner prep easier. I reluctantly agreed it was a good idea—counter space is limited in one-bedroom walk-up apartments—so I checked out Wayfair’s options. Normally, I’d spend a week weighing the pros and cons of each cart, but there was a big sale happening so I bought the first one I liked (the Haller Kitchen Cart by August Grove). I didn’t think too much about it until I got the notification that the package shipped—then my brain was all, Did I read enough reviews? What if the dimensions aren’t right? Do I need more drawer space? That was unnecessary. It’s so perfect I’m annoyed I didn’t get one sooner. Lesson learned: Listen to your mother.
The home cleaning services I paid for because I was too “busy” watching Real Housewives of New Jersey: $180
Once the cart arrived, my next big project in holiday prep was deep cleaning the apartment. One problem: I had a lot of end-of-year projects at work, so by the time I got home each night, I was too exhausted to do anything but turn on Bravo and pass out on the couch. Rather than keep putting it off, I sprung for a cleaner via a home service app. It cost $120, and I felt a lot guilt about it—just get off the couch, lazy!—but the woman did a great job and offered to come back for half the price ($60) if I booked her directly. (The app takes a huge cut.) I hired her to come back for a quick clean the day my parents arrived, and it was the best $60 I’ve ever spent.
The Roomba I couldn’t resist, because I’ve already spent so much on cleaning why turn back now?: $319.99
I was at Costco picking up food and other supplies when I spotted a sale on Roombas for $319.99. That’s a great deal—I’ve seen them cost in the $500 to $600 range—and, to be honest, I was motivated by my newly clean apartment. So, the robot vacuum came home with me. I’ve named her Roombie and treat her like a beloved pet.
The holiday decorations that were inspired by Hallmark Christmas movies: $87.84
Maybe it was all the Hallmark Christmas movies I’d been watching, but I felt like my apartment wasn’t festive enough. I stopped by Party City to see if they had any cheap holiday decorations and left with napkins, plates, and gifts bags for $34.43. I didn’t love their wrapping paper selection, though, so I went into the Five Below next door and got ribbons, paper, more gift bags, and a silly desktop golf game for my dad. That set me back $33.41. Then, on my way home, I passed by a Christmas tree stand and saw an adorable reindeer made out of tree bark. The guy at the stand was straight out of a Hallmark Christmas movie—where else do attractive Christmas tree farmers exist?—and he talked me into spending $20 on the deer, a Charlie Brown-style Christmas tree, and a small Santa made out of bark. I paid cash.
The ice skating tickets so expensive I gasped when I saw the cost: $450
A few days before our parents arrived, my husband and I sat down and came up with an itinerary. High on the list was ice skating at Rockefeller Plaza on Christmas Eve…but then I saw how expensive the VIP tickets were: $150 a piece. The tickets included guaranteed access to the ice (without that, it’s a long line with no guarantee you’ll get in), free snacks and drinks, and the skate and locker rental (that’s an additional cost with general admission). Expensive, yes, but this was a bucket list item for my parents and me. I hemmed and hawed and then closed my eyes and hit “purchase.” I didn’t buy much for my parents for Christmas this year—they’re trying to downsize—so I told myself (and them) this was their big gift. It wasn’t cheap, but seeing how excited my mom and dad were once we hit the ice made it worth it.
The end-of-year sales that were a Christmas gift to myself: $256.99
I nailed hosting the holidays, but after everyone left I felt like I deserved something for all the hard work (mentally and physically) I put into pulling it off. So, I did a little online retail therapy. One of my favorite gifts from my husband this year was a new Vanessa Mooney necklace, and I wanted a cuter jewelry stand to show it off. I found one on Target for $19.99 that I liked. Then I got an inbox alert that & Other Stories was having a sale. That’s my favorite store for reasonably priced trendy-but-adult items, so I went to the location near my office and stocked up on a new sweater, a blazer, socks, and not one but two metallic tops. Those cost me $237, but I think I’ve earned it.
Anna Moeslein is a senior editor at Glamour