One morning I was listening to the radio with my colleague Buford Balony when someone said, ‘The world’s tragedy is this…men love women, women love children and children love hamsters.’
‘Hummph,’ he said: ‘The real tragedy is that men love women, but women love handbags.’
He had a point. Millions of women do love handbags…and shopping generally…with a passion the average red-blooded male finds incomprehensible.
On the rare occasions, I’m sure Buford goes shopping. But he’d makes his purchase as quickly and cheaply as possible so he can get on with important things, such as watching the rugby.
Me? I shop when I’m happy. I shop when I’m sad. I shop when I feel fat and I shop when I feel thin, when I’ve had a bad day at work, or a good one.
My modest handbag collecting is harmless because I saved up for my one expensive specimen, and I’m solvent.
But I have friends who’ve shopped themselves into terrifying debt. There is one friend I have, a successful businesswoman…she is penniless by the end of every month, despite her generous salary, and ends up borrowing money from her partner to pay the bills.
She has shoe racks full of Louboutins, shelves stuffed with cashmere…but is crippled by her credit card repayments and has absolutely no financial security.
On the other side of the spend/save spectrum, I have girlfriends who are just as solvent as me, but would never dream of frittering away money on handbags — or anything else. They account for every penny and deny themselves even the smallest luxuries. They are incapable of enjoying the money they work so hard for.
My husband had made me wonder…are millions of women trapped in a dysfunctional relationship — not with a man, but with their money?
Experts say the way we spend, save and invest is often dictated by deep-seated psychological issues relating to self-worth, security and status. It is not a coincidence that we borrow terms from the consulting couch to talk about our spending, such as ‘retail therapy’ and ‘shopaholic’.
A study by Professor Karen Pine, author of Sheconomics, a book about women and money, confirms many use shopping as an emotional outlet.
Eight out of ten admit they spend when they are miserable, or hit the stores to compensate for something lacking in their life.
Financial experts say another female tribe uses money as a security blanket and lives under a self-imposed austerity regime.
It’s better than going broke, but they are still allowing negative emotions about money to gain the upper hand.
Professor Pine found women are more afraid of risk and less financially literate than men. ‘Women have a heavier emotional involvement with money than men, and have more worries, fears and anxieties,’ she says.
The good news is that if we understand the role female psychology plays, we can have a much richer relationship with our money.
‘It is not about being wealthy — a lot of well-off women are stuck with self-sabotaging attitudes,’ says Gina Miller, of SCM Financial Planning, who specialises in financial advice for women. ‘Whatever their income level, women can tap into their emotional intelligence and work out their real values, then think about how they can use their money to achieve them.’
The secret of developing a positive relationship with your money lies in working through the ‘Four Fs’ — fantasy, fear, focus and freedom
by Susan Floyd