I will be the first to admit that I have had my fair share of splurging when I should have been saving. I got my first job when I was 17 and even though I was making minimum wage working four days a week, I thought I was balling. At the time, I was obsessed with Bebe and Juicy Couture, and that’s what all of my paychecks went towards.
Those were the days. Then, I thought it would be cool to get a couple credit cards, you know, just to buy a little something when my paychecks weren’t fat enough. Fast forward to now, and I want to go back in time and pimp slap my 17-year-old self for being so frivolous with money.
Having said that, I can’t help but cringe when I see or hear black women discuss their spending habits. I know black women aren’t the only ones who “tear up the mall,” but being a black woman makes me more aware of my own. Society seems to glorify an image of the desirable black woman being the one with the most expensive weave, shoes, and handbags. Being the “baddest” chick in the room seems to have taken precedence over owning valuable assets. “Stuntin’ on hoes” is preferred over “stuntin'” on that retirement plan.
I remember working with a girl that complained numerous times about the fact that she didn’t have A/C in her car (and anyone who has experienced St. Louis summer humidity knows what a problem that is), yet she always showed up to work with a fresh weave, false eyelashes, pedicure, etc. She looked cute, but I often wondered why she chose the instant gratification of a new hairstyle over the long-term gratification of ensuring that her weave wouldn’t get “sweated out” while driving around in a hot-ass car. Another boasted about how her whole check was going to be spent at the mall, then told her sob story after payday that she only had $13 to her name until the next paycheck. At the time, I just couldn’t wrap my mind around it. Why were these young women more concerned about clothes and hair than taking care of everyday living expenses? Even for myself, why did I prioritize purchasing a $300 bag, while neglecting to put so much as a dime of my hard earned money into a savings account?
Although there is no definite answer to these questions, what I’ve come up with is that being financially cautious just isn’t “sexy.” No one can see that you’re putting $50 into an emergency fund every pay period, but they can see that brand new Louis Vuitton bag on your arm. There seems to be an unspoken obligation to provide “proof” that you have money, whether it’s name brand shoes or a fancy apartment with all the upgrades.
I probably sound like an old woman speculating on how these young’ns spend their money, but it’s only because I’m so passionate about establishing (and keeping) wealth in the black community. Finances seem to be one of the biggest issues that black women struggle with. Every time I look around, there are studies on how black women are the biggest consumers of clothing, makeup, and luxury items, but the consumerism is taking a hit on other financial areas of our lives, to the point that we have too much debt, little to no savings, and a negative net worth. I want to see us doing well, and having the ability to finance all the curve balls that life throws, is a part of doing well.