Why My Massage and His New Office Chair Were Worth It
Why Spending Money Isn’t Being “Frivolous” When It Involves Taking Care Of Yourself
Last month, I went to Office Depot with my fiancé and we purchased a new office chair for him, to the tune of about $200 in total. Trying to be environmentally conscious, I opted for an email receipt, as usual, and because the reward card is in my mother’s name, I accidentally had it sent to her address. So I sent her a text asking her to forward it to me whenever she got the chance, and didn’t think anything more of it.
Until she sent me a very concerned reply.
“Is that a gift for Dylan’s birthday?” she asked via text several hours later. “I must say it really bothers me that you spent that amount of money when you are trying to buy a house… It just concerns me because you are going to need help with closing costs, you need appliances, lawn equipment, etc. and you are spending money on something frivolous.”
He already had an office chair, so I suppose that’s one way to look at it.
But that chair was falling to pieces. I don’t know how old it was, but the leather was peeling off in pieces that littered the carpet, and whatever padding had once been in the seat and back had long lost any support. My fiancé spends a lot of time in his desk chair, so not only was it time for a new one, but it seemed like a justifiable purchase. (It’s just beside the point that it was actually on sale, and at full price, we’d said no to it before and probably would have again.) There’s no way he won’t get $200 worth of use from it — actually, you know, he’s sitting in it right now.
But none of this crossed my mind at the time.
When she texted me, I was sitting in a darkened theater with a friend, watching the beginning of the new “live-action” adaptation of The Lion King. I started to wonder if that was “frivolous,” too. Then I started to think about everything I spend money on that I don’t really need — and even things like fabric softener, which might generally be considered a household necessity but isn’t crucial for my survival.
So probably fifteen minutes or more passed while I was trying to get out of my own head and enjoy the movie, which was a plan that my friend and I had made because we hadn’t hung out in a while. When I view it that way, it doesn’t seem frivolous to me.
His new office chair doesn’t seem frivolous to me now, and it didn’t at the time of purchase, until I let somebody else plant the seed of guilt for me.
I wish I would’ve caught this and stopped it there. That I would’ve put it out of my mind, finished the movie, gone home, and enjoyed the rest of my evening while he enjoyed his new chair. But what actually happened was, I let it eat away at me until I went home and told him, hoping he would be able to make me feel better. Instead, I only succeeded in rooting that guilt even deeper, because I spread it from myself to him, until he wanted to just take the chair apart and return it, and I had to fight for him to keep it.
It was not the easiest argument I’ve had to make, and I remember that I finally told him, “This is the last thing I’m going to say about it, but, I don’t think it was a waste because you needed one. And it’ll be more comfortable, and support your back, causing less pain — and when you look at it that way, it’s kind of like the massage I scheduled for next week. Even if it’s not something we need, it’s a form of taking care of ourselves. And there is nothing frivolous about that.”
It’s hard to make $200. That’s several days’ worth of work. Even when I work my 10-hour shift, I don’t come close to bringing home $200 for that time, even before taxes. I have frivolously spent money in the past: a brand-new designer bag just because I felt like it, a cute pair of shoes because I “couldn’t resist.”
A new bag or pair of shoes might be nice to have, but they’re not necessary. I have shoes; I have a bag, and I certainly don’t need a designer one to throw all my junk in and sling over my shoulder. They don’t benefit me any more than what I already have does. The Taco Bell I ate for dinner last week didn’t benefit me any more than the food I already had at home would’ve; actually, it was probably more harmful because I could’ve made something healthier to eat if I’d chosen to. Those are nothing more than indulgences.
A little indulgence is good. A massage can be considered an indulgence, and it was. But it helped me feel better, after all the stress of trying to buy a house and get a mortgage loan and pack and purge items all while still working and living. Maybe his new office chair was an indulgence. But the indulgences that do actually make our lives better, whether for just thirty minutes (my massage) or more long-term (his chair), are not frivolous. They’re worth the price we pay. Even if it’s $200.